Theatre Panache presents the Quebec premiere of Mrs. Dexter and her Daily written by Joanna McClelland Glass from Nov. 14 to 17 at the Hudson Village Theatre in which John Abbott College professor Christiane Davet makes a dashing performance as Mrs. Dexter.
Mrs. Dexter is a woman thrown into unexpected circumstances in the autumn of her life. Recently divorced, she’s having trouble accepting that her husband has run off with her best friend and next door neighbor. Her daily help, Peggy Randall, is busy getting the house ready to go on the market while instigating a few life changes of her own.
Mrs. Dexter, who can’t seem to get out of her nightie and looks forward to her daily cocktail(s) with increasing enthusiasm, must drastically scale down the life she has known for over thirty years to fit into her new one-room apartment. While she’s moving down in the world it appears that Peggy is moving up, though Mrs. Dexter has her doubts. Both women are at the threshold of big changes late in life and each is trying her best to meet those challenges with grace and strength.
"Strangely enough, it is very comical. There are points where it's extremely comical. And even Mrs. Bexter who is suffering because of this betrayal. She's not at all modelling. She is a very strong sassy character who swears and is quite irreverent. She is magnificent. It's just a wonderful character that is sad, funny and irreverent. Every emotion is in there," said Davet.
The clever two-hander unfolds in two acts, each character dominating an act to reveal her side of the same story. Heather Markgraf Lowe plays the practical and eternally optimistic Peggy while Davet is the devastated Mrs. Dexter, determined to keep her game face on though her resolve is weakening with each passing day. Adaptability and acceptance, betrayal and loyalty are strong themes in this poignant yet highly amusing production.
It is a a touching story bound to resonate with audiences as it deftly addresses fundamental issues with both humanity and humour. “It is a wonderful vehicle for both of us,” said Markgraf, “challenging, interesting and beautifully written.”
The six presentations are from Nov. 14 to 17 at the Hudson Village Theatre (28 Wharf Rd.). Show times are Thursday Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
For more information on the play, you can call the box office at 450-458-5281 or find information online at www.theatrepanache.ca.
A long career in drama
Davet has been involved in theatre for forty years. She studied drama and theatre in college. In between plays, she has worked quite a lot in places in the developing world as part of the 'Drama for change' program which aims at educating through radio shows.
She wrote a three-part series for Africa which was very successful about 15 years ago.
"A lot of people are illiterate but there are a lot of ways that you can get messages through to the people like HIV/AIDS prevention or family planning or necessities for equality between men and women is through creating drama. You've got messages in there about all these things. And you have characters, it's like soap opera, just like a regular soap opera where you have good characters and bad characters," she said.
"The radio series was on marketing produce for small farmers. That was about how farmers can cut out the middleman who takes all their profit and get themselves directly to market and sell their own produce. And how they can calculate their profit and learn a little bit about accounting or bookkeeping or things like that."
She has also gone to Africa to give workshops on how to write and worked with national television and radio stations to teach the production crews how to work with writers and actors.
She created a ten-part series for Russia about all the changes and the Perestroika, the changes in the way the country evolved, the changes in which the rural people lived and managed their farms. The series called 'Around the kitchen table' dramatized all these issues.
Davet believes radio dramas are very effective in inducing change.
"We use a lot of radio because it's a very involving medium. So they like radio and sometimes, especially in Africa, in some remote villages, they only have one radio so the whole village comes out twice a week when the show is broadcast and sit around the radio. So you can have 100 people there listening to this show. It's a very effective way of getting people to turn up for family planning clinics or for meetings or to boil water when they're feeding their children if the water is contaminated," she said.
After that, she worked for Voice of America in Washington and developed a CD-ROM that was to teach journalists in the developing world. It was a CD-ROM that was interactive combining live action with animation.
"We needed a tool to teach journalists in the developing world how to be effective and we did it dramatically with a CD-ROM that combined a lot of stories and information and techniques of how to improve their journalistic skills," she said.
Between acting and teaching, Davet now finds the time to write and edit a literary magazine called sunday@6. It's a magazine that was conceived to give local people, Montreal and off-island people, the West Island, Vaudreuil area, a chance to publish their work.