Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Stag and Doe by Mark Crawford

With a talented cast and a hilarious yet sardonic examination of pre-nuptial affairs, director Liza Balkan takes us on a merry romp written by Mark Crawford, his version of a small town, rural Stag and Doe in which "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Bonnie (Katie Lawson) and Brad (Craig Pike) are setting up for their fundraiser at the 4H Hall, and on the same day, Mandy (Ferelith Young) and Rob (Andrew Fleming) are being wed, but a storm blows the wedding tent far away into a farmer's manure pile, so the 4H Hall becomes a prized venue (Bill Chesney's set, perfect for the behind-the-wedding-scene's action.) over which the two couples threaten various legal initiatives to gain exclusive access for the evening. Meanwhile, Dee (Lisa Norton), Bonnie's maid-of-honour and best friend (formerly left at the altar by Rob) and Jay (Iain Stewart), the caterer/cook arrive to discover that Jay's staff is in jail for reckless driving and substance abuse. It's a recipe for disaster and hilarious comedy and a brief look at the outlandish finances behind weddings that ultimately force Lawson and Pike to re-examine their value systems.

Crawford inserts all in his amusing story - Jell-O shots, Bridezilla and complications that make it a solid entertainment vehicle that rambles all over the matrimonial landscape. From the beginning, there is a squabble about the purchase of booze (Brad's credit card is maxed) and the $6,000 dress that Bonnie impulsively purchased without consulting Brad. Lawson explains to Pike that she wants to be Kate to his William and a stunned Pike replies, "Who is William?" Later, when she says that she likes his shirt, he shouts back, "Twenty bucks!" to mock her purchase.

Young nails the role of Mandy, a pampered rich girl taking advantage of daddy, determined to access the hall at all costs, shouting down anyone who gets in her way. When matters inevitably are fouled up - no cake, no staff, etc., she resorts to steadily downing one drink after another, and becomes inebriated, at one point kicking Fleming in the groin to get their married life off to a good start.

After detente and an agreement to share the hall, the Stag and Doe principals are forced to staff the competing wedding ceremony in the hall where Norton (Dee) and Stewart (Jay) find romance in the kitchen and Pike (Brad) coerces Stewart to purchase raffle tickets on a huge bottle of booze that has acquired a tradition of leading to marriage. When the raffle number is called, Norton looks at Stewart's number and shouts out, "We have a winner!" which aptly sums up the play.

This is actor, and now playwright, Mark Crawford's first play, and if you are looking to reminisce a tad about your own wedding and want a fun night out, Crawford's Stag and Doe is a winner.


From the program
Director's Notes by Liza Balkan

One night, a few weeks before we started rehearsals, I found myself glued to YouTube videos of first dances at weddings. Weddings large and small, simple and ornate, young couples and old. Each totally different from the other. Each totally fascinating and touching in their own way. And then ... I noticed a link for Father Daughter dances ... And that was it. I found myself weeping and laughing alongside these dozens of people - and their hundreds of guests! In between smiling, tearing up and reaching for yet another Kleenex (or another handful of chips) I thought: Why am I crying, I don't even KNOW these people! What is it about weddings?!?!

I imagine we ALL have an answer to that question.

What do you remember: Laughter? Tears? Joy? Love? Tension? Maybe an argument or three? Celebration? Surprises? Ahh, Stag and Does. Ahh, weddings ...

Mark Crawford has said that he was inspired to write this marvelous play by his own brother's Stag and Doe in Glencoe, Ontario back in 2004. He wrote it while working at the Blyth Festival and the show premiered there last year. It is now being produced across the country - and for a good reason. This man can write! Crawford clearly understands the complexity and humour around putting together these nuptial events! He also knows and loves rural Southern Ontario and its folk.

And speaking as someone who has cater-waiter(ed) her fair share of weddings and parties over the years, I can safely say that Mark also knows his way around the back room; aka the community hall kitchen!

It's a treat to work with such terrific writing and with this tremendous cast, crew, designers and staff here at Showboat!

OK. Think about a wedding party. OK. Now stop thinking about it and sit back and enjoy the show!!

Playwright's Notes by Mark Crawford
In the summer of 2004, my brother Reed married his wonderful wife Jane. A few weeks before they said "I do", we all gathered in the Glencoe Agricultural Hall (affectionately nicknamed The Cow Palace) for their Stag and Doe. As I helped stock the bar and work the door-unbeknownst to me at the time-the seed was planted for this play. Stag and Doe is not based on real events, but it is deeply rooted in the real world.

Stag and Does (or Buck and Does or Jack and Jills) are a rural Ontario phenomenon. On one hand, they're a shining example of communities coming together to support their own; the pre-nuptial equivalent of a barn-raising. On the other hand, they've become part of an often prohibitively expensive and stress-inducing wedding industry; yet another hoop to jump through before getting hitched.

Because Stag and Does are so popular in this part of the world, I wonder: what do they say about us? Sure, we love a good party. And yes, we believe in helping young couples start a life together and off-setting the cost of their big day. But beyond that, does this ritual suggest that we, as communities, are uniquely invested in the relationships of our members? Do we, as a culture, place an extra special value on weddings? On marriage? Or even on love itself?

Luckily, Reed and Jane's Stag and Doe was less eventful than the one on stage! Eleven years and two little girls later, they're going strong on the family farm. I thank them for that night in The Cow Palace; I thank Derek, Liza, and the entire Showboat team for this production; and most of all, I thank you for coming. I hope you have a rip-roaring time at this Stag and Doe ... and I hope it touches your big old romantic rural Ontario heart.

Dunfield Theatre

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