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Caledon Town Hall Players performing South of Hope for late member

September 8, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Tom [T. Gregory] Argall, a member with Caledon Town Hall Players (CTHP) for 15 years passed away in April of a heart arrest at 55 years of age.

Kim Blacklock, media person for the community theatre group and director of the play, said, “Tom has directed, produced, and been a playwright; we did four of his plays. He wrote several novels and has written 10 plays. I directed three of his plays, one of which was Accidental Hitman Blues.”

In honour of Tom Argall and as a fundraiser for the Heart and Stoke Foundation, CTHP is producing Mr. Argall’s play, South of Hope for three shows, one weekend only: Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10.

Ms. Blacklock said, “The one we’re doing now is as a fundraiser, South of Hope. This is kind of a dramedy. To me, it’s his best play.”

This particular play was chosen by the CTHP Board; after his death, the board discussed whether to do something, as a fundraiser for Heart and Stroke. Ms. Blacklock had directed it before in another theatre and they asked her to do so again.

“And that is an honour,” she commented. “South of Hope is basically about having dreams and having things stop them and finding those dreams again in a different way.”

For the basics, South of Hope is about a psychologist running her first group session, Attending is a young man who has become paralyzed but who is a hockey player, a young man who has lost his arm and a lady photographer who has lost her sight in a botched robbery. They join her for her first post physical trauma group therapy.”

Explaining the format, we were told, “There is more than one meeting in the play. It covers the story for a five-week period in the first and some of the second acts and, then, a year and a half later they get together again.”

There is a love interest, Ms. Blacklock reassured us, without further details – come and see the show. It is a story of people who all of the sudden had these things happen to them and who have to change their lives, carrying the tag line: when life steals your dream, you just have to dream harder.

It has been wonderful for Ms. Blacklock to watch the characters develop. As a playwright, Tom Argall was “scary realistic” and was known for his thoroughness of research.

Having already directed this play, Ms. Blacklock had approached her second time “pretty well the same as last time,” elaborating, “It’s always a challenge to cast this play, to find the right people and it was harder over Covid; there have problems with production.”

The difference is that as a fundraiser, there is no mandate as far as numbers are concerned. Since tickets are not to be issued for the play but donations for the Heart and Stroke Foundation are welcome at the door or “people can donate in Tom’s name.” 

The Covid protocols could vary by giving everybody the options [as to masks].

“We are taking precautions, as far as that goes.”

Part of the problem for finding cast and crew volunteers is that there are fewer companies than when Kim Blacklock joined CTHP 33 years ago.

“I think about all the people that have been through this theatre and how the thing now, is how long are they going to keep going,” she said.

Stage fright kept Ms. Blacklock off the stage at high school but in the long run, it was her father-in-law who convinced her to come and audition and that was great for her.

“I do enjoy directing,” she remarked.

This time, the cast have all developed their characters as they see them, quite similarly to the way the other cast saw them.

“Hopefully,” she said, “everyone enjoys it.”

Tom Argall was married to his wife, Marg for 40 years. They have “done a whole bunch of plays for us.”

Mr. Argall had just become a grandfather again and met the baby only a week before he died. Tom and Marg Argall have a son and Mr. Argall was a father to Marg’s daughter by her first marriage. The whole family are thrilled and honoured that his play is being produced in this way as a tribute. Marg Argall has been completely supportive about the production.

“The one thing you have to do with community theatre is love it,” Ms. Blacklock philosophized. “It’s a huge commitment, two, three nights a week for rehearsals. Most of us have day jobs and I have people who don’t understand. They wonder why and I have a set to build – ushers – kitchen – tickets – stage manager – set painters…

“When I was a kid,” she said, “it was important to volunteer. We hope others will come and usher or take part in a production. For students doing their volunteer hours, it’s wonderful to see their enthusiasm.”

As to why you should come, Ms. Blacklock told the Citizen, “The big thing is it’s an amazing show and it’s a chance for us to give back to somebody who gave us a whole lot. It’s our way as a community theatre group and as a charity to give back to the Heart and Stroke Foundation who take care of most of us.”

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