Sunday, August 19, 2012 | Categories: Features
Photo courtesy: 4th Line Theatre
Every summer, the town of Millbrook in eastern Ontario plays host to an unusual form of community theatre. At 4th Line Theatre, the plays are performed outdoors on the Winslow farm, amidst several old barns. Sometimes the action shifts out into a nearby field.
4th Line's current production, St. Francis of Millbrook, tackles a touchy subject ... what it's like to grow up gay in rural Canada - in small towns where everyone knows your business ... and has an opinion about it.
It is written by Sky Gilbert, playwright, novelist, actor, academic and drag performer extraordinaire. He's the co-founder and former artistic director of Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Canada's oldest queer theatre company.
St. Francis tells the story of Luke, the star of the local hockey team. Luke loves life on the farm with his family, but he also loves Madonna. And his belly-button ring. He's struggling with his sexuality, which leads him on a collision course with his hard-drinking, hockey-loving man's man of a father.
The setting for the play is inspired. It's a story about growing up on a farm ... that's told o a farm. The actors have to watch out for swallows zooming in and out of their nests in the barns. Farm animals are often written into the plays ... the leads in St. Francis share billing with a horse and a flock of homing pigeons. There's no artificial lighting, so the plays start promptly at 6 ... as the light slants across the farm and the sun gradually sets. It's a beautiful spot.
Sky Gilbert is joined on our panel by his friend Shane MacKinnon. It was Shane's experiences growing up in rural Ontario that served as inspiration for the play. And Robert Winslow is the artistic director of 4th Line Theatre ... and owner of Winslow Farm.