ANTIGONISH, N.S. - To ask North Grant native Laura Teasdale about being back at Festival Antigonish, after so many years away, is like getting a history lesson; one that comes with humourous anecdotes.
“Believe it or not, I was in the very first season when I was only 16,” she said, sitting on the patio of the Bauer Theatre July 6.
“And then I was in the second or third season, so this is actually my third time here, but with a big gap in the middle. Addy [Doucette], of course, was here and it was really great for me because I was able to work with fabulous people like Mary Colin Chisholm, Emmy Alcorn and John Dartt; they took me under their wing.
“I’ve always had a Nova Scotian work ethic, even though I’ve been away; I think everyone recognizes that and I think it’s because of them, because of their influences.”
A funny anecdote comes as Teasdale reflects on the Bauer Theatre.
“My first show was actually in the auditorium,” she said. “I love that theatre and I wish it could be used more but, I know, it’s a big place to maintain. When I first started working at the Bauer, the stage was only on one side with these, sort of, makeshift raisers on the other side. The very first season I was here, we did the shows there. And then I happened to be in the next season after they changed it, so I was in the first season of the new configuration.
“So everything is kind of new and different but then there is a spiral staircase backstage and it’s exactly the same; there is an old prop TV set downstairs and I’m pretty sure that was there 30 years ago.
“I remember me, Emmy, Mary Colin and Sally Clark, we’re dressed as berries so we have balloons all tied to our bodies, hundreds of balloons, and we’re in our tap shoes. We’re coming up that spiral staircase and it’s so tiny, we’re popping balloons as we go up. I’ll never forget that and it [staircase] looks exactly the same; so every time I go up there to do a show, I remember tap, tap, pop, pop.”
Teasdale is in three of Festival Antigonish’s four main stage plays; Lunenburg (July 3 to Aug. 25), Burnin’ Love (July 18 to Aug. 25) and her own creation Being Hank & Patsy (July 12 to Aug. 1).
“I’ve done repertory several times before, so I knew what was happening before coming in,” she said.
“I try to be very prepared, stay focused. The very first one I’ve tried to come in with it all learned, as much as I could. I think the most interesting thing is, as of yesterday, I have two plays in my head, one is like 90 pages long, the other 70, and they are all in there. Then, yesterday morning, I sat down and put half of the third one in my head. So I’m carrying, in my brain right now, three very different plays. It’s a really weird thing … kind of fun, but weird.”
And made weirder by the diversity of characters which is really four, Teasdale explained, since she plays herself as well as Patsy Cline in Being Hank & Patsy.
“In the first play, I’m brazen, brash, rude, just a really wild person,” she said, of her Lunenburg character.
“Then, in the second play, I have so much pressure on me; I’m kind of in a tragic situation, but it’s still quite funny. So I’m the person who is having quite a hard time in that play so I’m quite different, contained and small.
“And then, of course, in my show, I’m myself which is fun because I get to directly address the audience and say things like ‘hey, Aunt Ruth, how are you?’ But then I also have Patsy in that show and I’m warning everyone now, Patsy Cline has a foul mouth. So do not write letters … that’s all I’m saying,” Teasdale said with a chuckle, adding Cline was “famous for it.”
Teasdale’s time at Festival Antigonish this summer not only represents a return home, it’s an actual homecoming.
“I’ve spent the last 25 counting the days before coming home … it’s my touchstone,” she said.
“My brother passed away a couple of years ago and it really made our whole family realize, we’re not invincible; it’s real, we will lose each other and that was the thing that made me say, ‘OK, get your house in order.’ I did all my contracts I had to do in Quebec, paid my debts, so I could come here with a fresh slate.
“And then my family surprised me. My dad had a little cottage up at his lumber mill which used to be his office and, without my knowing, he and my sisters had fixed it up so I would have a house. So, since I came home in November, we – my dad and I, with a lot of help from my nieces, nephews and sisters, have been building on an addition.
“It’s ready today; today is the first day so I’m going to have some people over for a party. It’s little but it’s just perfect for me and it’s right behind my parents’ house so I’m close to them, if they need me.”
To see the local gal and her talented colleagues on the Festival Antigonish stage this season, check out the full schedule and ticket information at festivalantigonish.com or call 902-867-3333 or toll-free at 1-800-563-PLAY (7529).