For Laura Teasdale, the seeds for a career on stage – and beyond – were planted while growing up in Antigonish County.
“My mother’s people (Wallace family) are all fiddlers, so there was always music in the family, and we always played together – us kids,” the North Grant native, whose father Charlie ran a well-known sawmill for decades, said.
“I was lucky that, when I started to want to go into theatre and music, they didn’t freak out, because it seemed fairly natural for them – somebody in the family is going to be a musician.
“It never occurred to them to tell me it was a mistake or anything like that,” she added.
Teasdale also benefitted from having Theatre Antigonish in her backyard.
“I was really lucky – Addy Doucette was the artistic director then and she gave me a lot of opportunities,” she said.
“It was really good for me because I was in all those shows and working with older people.”
Teasdale reflected on sharing the stage with “amazing people” and “really fabulous actors,” such as the Alcorn family, including Emmy, along with Mary-Colin Chisholm.
She was also in the first Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre show.
Teasdale said she was “really, really supported.”
“They really put me on a good path,” she added.
Her university path included music and theatre, starting at Acadia, before completing those studies in Montreal, where she spent “many, many years.”
“The last 10 years I have been out in the eastern townships of Quebec,” Teasdale noted, adding that location “just reminds me more of home.”
Teasdale also writes, a passion she also combined with another love.
“I am big on history – I am always at the local museum,” Teasdale said, noting that includes the Antigonish Heritage Museum.
“I like to sit and just read the family bibles and the old archives and stuff.”
On one of those occasions, she discovered the history of what was called a “distributing home” for British immigrants in Knowlton, the Quebec town where she lives.
“Even though it is a tiny town, about an eighth the size of Antigonish, 6,000 kids came through that little orphanage there,” Teasdale said, stressing the number on a second occasion.
“I couldn’t believe that I never knew about this. I love history and I didn’t know that 100,000 kids were deported to Canada from Britain.
“I was just amazed and started reading everything I could get my hands on,” she added.
Teasdale discovered many were relocated to Nova Scotia.
“We don’t talk about it, so I wanted to find out why it is such a well-kept secret, so that’s what, kind of, led me – just pure interest.
“And then, when I was reading their personal stories, I said ‘this is a play,’” she added.
It became Home Child, a production she brought home to Antigonish County earlier this year.
“My goal was to get people talking and to honour those kids, to honour their memory,” Teasdale said.
One of her biggest focuses was taking the play to the farms “where they grew up.”
“I wanted to be able to take it anywhere,” she noted.
Teasdale planned to stage 10 shows; they ended up doing 30.
“It took a while for people to realize I really meant that I will bring the show to your backyard. I will do this in your living room – wherever you want it,” Teasdale said.
“As soon as people realized that was serious, they started calling, so we ended up making a whole summer of it, and employed two actors [Bishop’s University students Natalie Demon and Nicholas Retson].”
Teasdale explained the immigrant children were shipped to Canada with “just a little trunk.”
“For the play, that’s all they had – this one box; all the sets, all the props, all the costumes – everything – had to come in and out of that box,” she said.
“It took a lot of thinking of how to make that work and still be exciting for an audience; that’s just two actors and a box.”
Teasdale was pleased with the results.
“People embraced it and people got it, and they thought it was interesting,” Teasdale said.
“It is a lot to put on just two actors, but they totally did it and I was so proud of them.”
“To be totally honest, I have wanted to move home,” Teasdale said, when asked about her career to-do list.
“I want to be with my family for a while. We had some rough year with deaths and illnesses.
“I just decided, this year, to take the year off and I am going to try to spend as much of that in Nova Scotia as I can, so that’s really exciting to me,” she added.
When she returns, Teasdale will bring a production she has staged for a while with a friend of hers.
“We both got hired, at different times in our lives, to – sort of – imitate them [Hank Williams and Patsy Cline],” she said.
“We recently wrote a show about our experience – how we became Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, and how everyone around here, in the eastern townships, calls us ‘Hank and Patsy’ – all the time.
“We are, kind of, making fun of ourselves,” she added.
They also sing the legendary artists’ beloved songs.
In talking further about her plan to ‘come home,’ Teasdale also reflected on an “amazing experience,” she had with author Noah Richler, the son of Mordecai.
“We were at a literary festival together and he sat down next to me and he said, ‘why the hell don’t you go home?’ You spend all this time writing about all the history of this town that’s not even your town. And he said, ‘you should go home and write about your people.’
“So that’s been on my mind a lot,” Teasdale added.