Arts and Entertainment

Theatre Orangeville premiering They’re Found in Trees by Norm Foster

October 6, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

It was a real treat for this writer to sit down last week with the cast, artistic director and play director, David Nairn and playwright Norm Foster himself to talk about his new play, They’re Found in Trees, premiering this month at Theatre Orangeville.

The show opens Oct. 12 and runs until Oct. 30.

Reid Janisse, Jacob James and Robin Schisler play the three roles of two bird watching buddies, William and Mitchell, and a lady, Paula, who is invited to join them but who knows nothing about their ornithological hobby and passion. 

“It’s a tremendous amount of fun,” began Mr. James.

They are all thrilled to be the first cast to premier They’re Found in Trees to Theatre Orangeville audiences. It is hoped audiences will appreciate they are the first to see it. However often this play is performed in future, this is the production that initially defines it.

Mr. Foster, as he told us, wrote this and seven other plays during the pandemic, while he “had nothing else to do.” In total to date, this most prolific and most produced playwright in Canada has penned 75 plays. 

“I just sit and write,” Mr. Forester said to us all quite simply. “I don’t think through the psychology or interpret what the characters say; I just write it and see where it goes.”

Mr. Foster is very careful about his research, though, and told us that he had studied the subject of bird watching carefully.

This is a good year for new Mr. Foster plays opening, in a number of Canadian town and in Los Angelas, where his new play A Clean Brush is opening at Theatre 40.

As the company are primarily about humour for this, they talked about humour being harder to write and to deliver than drama.

“There’s a musicality if you can hear the rhythm,” Ms. Schisler said.

David Nairn added, “All the actors have the same rhythm. As author, he’ll ‘pepper’ in a word that is different,” he continued, “a really good challenge for an actor. And it works and it makes us laugh.”

It stands to reason inviting a new member would be a disruption. Knowing nothing about being a birder and inspired to join only as a distraction from her recent divorce will change the satisfactory routine the buddies have established. How it all works out is for us to discover and we can count on Mr. Foster for the laughs and the thoughtfulness.

To introduce the cast, Reid Janisse has a long history with Second City for which he has been acting and writing for many years. In his youth he planned to be an engineer, with his love of acting, comedy and improv as a sideline. That plan shifted, settling him happily with acting and comedy after he fortuitously failed his grade 13 calculus exam.

With Second City, Mr. Janisse wrote and performed in the Canadian Comedy Award winning Barak to the Future and 0% Down; 100% Screwed.

Jacob James attended the National Theatre School of Canada, Birmingham Conservatory (Stratford Shakespeare Festival) and the Second City Conservatory and has been in 25 productions with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. As well, he has played in several musicals in productions with Drayton Entertainment.

Returning to Theatre Orangeville, Robin Schisler was last here for another wonderful Norm Foster play, Come Down from Up River. She has acted in several television series and this year Ms. Schisler was featured in the TV movie, Trapped with my Husband. 

There was no need for auditions this time, as director, David Nairn informed us, “With these credentials, it was clear these actors will give us great performances. We only met on Zoom.

“Of the two men [in the play], one is divorced and one is single – plus Paula with her divorce – we have three people in middle life [their 40’s] and wondering what to do next.”

Bird watchers, so it seems, have very constructed routines, which nothing should disturb; so, the idea of bringing someone else in those first meetings can prove difficult, especially if she is just looking for something to do as a means of taking her mind off her troubles.

Mr. Foster is not a birder, he told us. “I just wrote the play.”

“My mother is a birder,” said Mr. James, “and she read the play and said, ‘Oh my God- that’s exactly how my friends and I do this!’”

Typical of Foster plays is the characters are placed in situations that are very real is Mr. Nairn’s observation.

“There’s tons of sophisticated comedy in this play,” he said.

There are lots of good dramatic actors who cannot comedy “but these three are terrific,” Mr. Foster praised them.

He went on to talk about his own childhood background with comedy, watching all the old sitcoms, Lucy, Jackie Gleeson, commenting, “You really have to be in tune with the roots of humanity. It’s the truth that gets the laughs – then hearing the laugh.”

That is a real joy of playing in live theatre – getting that huge laugh. Rehearsal sees the actors delivering – learning to deliver – the funny lines without the audience reaction – suspended in the silence. Yet, they have to listen for the “crest” once they are before the live audience, training their ears, waiting for the perfect time for the second laugh to “catch the tag.”

Ms. Schisler summed it, “The connection has to be there regardless. With comedy, you have to keep the beat.”

Said Mr. Foster: “I’m aware of the rhythm all the time. It is all about the set up. You don’t tell jokes. You write funny lines.”

It has been a real boon for these actors, their director and the creative crew to have the author, Mr. Foster in the room with them, for his comments and insights.

Encouraging us all to come and see this fine, funny play Ms. Schisler suggested, “It’s about being together in the theatre again, having a wonderful time.”

Mr. James remarked, “This play is important. It’s a reminder to make sure we’re not letting life pass us by. You will walk away feeling a renewed sense to take advantage of the moment.”

“People connecting together in a place,” said Mr. Nairn. “We’re all together in these woods.”

The playwright said, “You’ll enjoy this. Three nice people and their stories.”

Theatre Orangeville requests attendees of the play wear masks inside the theatre.

They’re Found in Trees opens Oct. 12 and runs until Oct. 30. For more information and to buy tickets and your subscriptions go to or call the box office at 519-942-3423.

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