David Nairn starring in Hilda’s Yard at Drayton

June 24, 2015   ·   0 Comments

As a break, a semi-sabbatical, David Nairn, Theatre Orangeville’s artistic director, is starring in a Norm Foster play, Hilda’s Yard, at the Drayton Festival Theatre. Opening night is next Friday, July 3.

Asked how he became involved with the production, Mr. Nairn replied, “I was the first person to read this play.”

It was about four years ago, as he tells it, that Norm Foster handed him two plays, Hilda’s Yard and On a First Name Basis, which he had recently finished writing.

“Just read them and tell me what you thin,” he recalls the playwright saying.

Naturally all too glad to do so, Mr. Nairn went through them and when he gave them back, replied: “I want to act in Hilda’s Yard and we’ll produce On a First Name here in Orangeville and you should act in it.”

Mr. Nairn has a sister and her family on Vancouver Island, where Mr Nairn and his sweetheart, Leisa Way, head annually for an early Christmas. Not surprisingly, they make a point of attending the Christmas show at the local theatre, usually having coffee or lunch with the Artistic Director, Mark DuMez, becoming friends, talking about theatre, talking shop.

Last year, they made the trip to Vancouver Island during the summer and met socially with Mr. DuMez, who mentioned, in the course of conversation, that he was coming to Ontario to direct Hilda’s Yard at Dayton Festival Theatre. He asked Mr. Nairn if he would consider playing the role of the father. And Mr. Nairn says he was pleased to accept.

Rehearsals are held in a large rehearsal hall in Cambridge. (The Drayton Festival Theatre is owned by Drayton Entertainment, which has six other theatres in the general area.)

“They have a beautiful facility there,” Mr. Nairn commented. “with a workshop and everything.”

With only one artistic director for Drayton Entertainment, the theatre organization runs “big book” plays and musicals, staging Chicago among the choices on its list this year, within the seven theatres.

Mr. Nairn pointed out: “No matter what size the organization is, we all have the same problems – not enough time, not enough money.”

Productions of Hilda’s Yard are currently running in three other Ontario theatres: in addition to the Drayton showing, it is also running in Port Stanley and just starting rehearsals, with Norm Foster starring, in Morrisburg.

Of course, Mr. Nairn does not have that many opportunities to tread the boards himself. He loves acting.

“It’s fantastic to go in other theatres but as an actor, with no responsibilities,” he remarked. As to the memorizing of the lines, “It’s keeping me humble and keeping me remembering the process of acting – you can’t fear forgetting the lines,” he said. “It’s all part of the fun being on stage, which I love. It’s where I started [in the theatre].”

He went to talk about the play itself. “This is a Norm Foster comedy – sometimes, comedy is deeper than drama.

“Hilda’s Yard is set in 1956 – it’s short back and sides for me. I’m playing the Dad – sort of ‘father knows best,’ but this one doesn’t. This play is about the first television set coming into the home and what a difference it makes to everyone.”

He added, “It’s fun to do a period piece.”

Hilda’s Yard is also about the surprise return home of the grown-up children, giving range to all the very funny interaction between the generations as well as the discoveries of emotional depths that make Mr Foster’s plays the most produced of all Canadian playwrights.

Mr Nairn explained that most of the performances at Drayton Festival Theatre are matinees: six matinees and two evening performances per week, with the opening night on the only Friday show. Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m.

“I guess that’s what their audiences are telling them,” was his comment.

“That’s my adventure,” he declared. “It’s going very well. We’re exactly where we should be at this point – there’s always the usual panic that a week from today there will be an audience in the theatre. It puts the wind up you which is, really, what you want.”

Hilda’s Yard, featuring Patti Allan, Brad Austin, Mairi Babb, Alan Kliffer, David Nairn and Emma Slipp, previews next Thursday, July 2. Opening night is Friday, July 3, and the show runs to July 18.

For details and tickets check out

It promises to be worth the 45-minute drive to Drayton.

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