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Theatre Orangeville sets the stage for ‘By the Light of a Story’ world premiere

February 29, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Kristen Da Silva is back to Theatre Orangeville premiering her new play, “By the Light of a Story,” opening March 7 and running to March 24. To learn more about the upcoming show, the Citizen sat down with the playwright, cast, and director David Nairn.

In brief, the story follows a young widow, Madeline, whose late husband was an author of fantasy books. With his death, Madeline began her grieving while her husband’s pen stopped writing. We meet her three years later when her sister-in-law, Tammy is trying to bring her back into the world and her husband’s publisher is trying to push a ghostwriter on her to finish the series of books her husband was writing.

A sad theme perhaps, yet the cast was clear, “This is a very funny play.”

Welcome to Daniela Vlaskalic, as Madeline, playing here at Theatre Orangeville for the first time. Ms. Vlaskalic is herself a playwright as well as an actor with a long list of film and television credits. Of the several of her plays she has seen produced is her multi-award winning production, “The Drowning Girls.”

“This is a beautiful new show,” she said of By the Light of a Story. “A world premiere.”

Mr. Nairn commented, “We have been making small changes which is an important part of the process. Things one misses. I can’t conceive of doing a new work without the playwright in the room.”

Lovely to see Jane Spence is back on deck for this Premiere, as the sister-in-law, Tammy. She said it’s an honour to be working on the new play.

Ms. Spence has acted in several plays at Theatre Orangeville. She has directed a number of professionally produced plays locally and at theatres elsewhere. Currently, she is the artistic associate at Lighthouse Festival Theatre.

We were reminded that the first cast acting in the initial production of a play sets the standard and, in many ways, defines the play, as David Nairn has often remarked. Attention to the minutiae of the dialogue and the continuity of the plot are important at this stage of a play’s final draft.

“Doing a new play is the most collaborative,” Ms. Vlaskalic said. “I kept thinking, how did she write this amazing play. We’re just tracking the journey, thinking of it from the actor’s perspective.”

“This is a very funny play, with the dream cast – and romantic!” exclaimed Mark Crawford in the role of Noah, the ghostwriter. Noah is coming into a difficult scene, with the publisher at his back to get on with the writing and make it as good as the deceased. Face to face, he is confronted by a still grieving widow. She is not so sure of his abilities and is pretty sure she doesn’t want him doing the work.

Mark Crawford is well known to Theatre Orangeville audiences for the number of his plays that have been produced here on the main stage, the most recent of which was “The New Canadian Curling Club.” There have been five other productions of his work, including his one-man show, “Chase the Ace,” which he performed “under the tent” at the Mount Alverno Luxury Resort. 

We inquired of the actors/playwrights in this show if there was any inclination for the playwright side of their thinking to be involved in their parts of the story and the answer was interesting.

“Obviously,” from Mr. Crawford. “I just put my actor hat on. This play is so well written, it’s up to me as an actor to come up to the level of the play. In this case, even as we work on it more, you see all she has laid out for the actor.”

And Ms. Vlaskalic agreed that her focus is entirely on her role as Madeline.

“There’s something about this play that’ll make you laugh, make you cry on the same page. Anyone who has suffered grief should see this play,” said Mr. Nairn.

Agreeing, Ms. Spence told us, “I have lost loved ones and the people that join you on that journey are important.”

Whether or not Madeline wants to move on with her life, she can’t and the play poses the question, while we all suffer the loss of some of our loved ones – friends, family – in our lives, how do we move through it?

“It’s a collective journey,” Mr. Nairn affirmed.

Where can we go from there? Buy tickets and go see the play.

For details and to purchase tickets, go to or call the lovely people at the Box Office at 519-942-3423.

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