'WHAT'S COOKING' is a blog series wherein the team behind Kitchen Party Theatre Festival gives you a closer peek at some of our secret ingredients, so to speak. What exactly does a recipe for artistic process call for? Who inspires our company members? What have they learned in the industry so far? What do they find interesting about the various characters they play? In our final instalment of the series, Jacquelyn Redmond (Festival Fiddler) serves us a Friday Feature on the sound of Newfoundland.
How does one infuse Newfoundland spirit in a show with songs and tunes that have been played a thousand times over without it feeling overdone, or being a forgettable experience? Renate and myself took the challenge and ran with it and, well, let me tell you, after you’ve seen our shows, they will be nothing but memorable.
I will admit, at first glance, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of ‘The Codfather,’ and I didn’t know what to expect in regards to my role, as the resident fiddle player. Bernardine kept saying, “everyone knows Gordon," but as someone who grew up in the mid 1990’s & early 2000’s in around St. John’s, I didn’t think I knew him at all. I knew the name, but I had no point of reference to who he was or what he did, and in this case, why was he so dang memorable that he was getting a whole tribute show! Colour me confused! But after listening to Bernardine talk about Gordon, and watching the cast become all the different facets of Gordon and the people he portrayed, I have nothing but respect and admiration for this man. Gordon is a Canadian Icon, sure, but he is a Newfoundlander, first and foremost.
His determination, as seen through his journey off the island and into Canada - you’ll for sure knot yourself in good laughter in Amelia’s portrayal of Gordon here - the desire to bring a production back to Newfoundland, and willingness to include as many Newfoundlanders in the production (a strong call to what Bernardine and Nicole have created with the KPTF) and lastly, the people’s willingness to assist when necessary are traits we, as modern Newfoundlanders, all advocate for and celebrate. Everywhere you turn, there are people saying “Buy locally, produce locally, stay home to work!” It’s an easy thing to say, much harder to do.
But Gordon did it, the first advocate of “artisan movie” I spose. Gordon became an example to both residents, government and Mainlanders that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had more to offer than just harnessing oil, fish and seal. Creative art has always been at the helm of the ‘culture’ of Newfoundland and Labrador, but rarely was it portrayed as a viable job to the public. Think of the Grenfell mission, one of the first to introduce the concept of selling your handicrafted goods - such as hooked rugs - for income. Music and dance as a nightly adventure, always in the forefront and yet not advocated to young people in lieu of life as a fisherman, logger or a maid. Bringing The Rowdyman to NL most likely introduced many residents in central NL to the working side of the Film and TV world, as it was still a very new commodity, only 20-30 years old. From there, a whole generation of young creative minds influenced, sparked at the possibility of being able to create something the whole nation could see. I like to think we’ve come at least a partial circle from there, as we, the KPTF, are now introducing a whole new generation to a piece of Newfoundland history, resilience and worth, in the musical Girls From Away.
I think my favourite line from The Codfather is: “They’ll say Will’s coming, and he’s clean!” Gwen’s adaptation of Will Cole’s mother from The Rowdyman is truly hilarious. But, in the beauty of hiring all onstage cast from NL, the dialect is authentic and Gwen does embody a busy but compassionate NL woman. Truly, her onstage demeanor for this character lends itself to many of my own relatives. When producing things specific to Newfoundland and Labrador, one can manufacture many things. Buoys, reproductions of photos showing floating houses, even the weathered seamen in the boats, and especially the accent. But you can’t manufacture the joy of Newfoundlanders getting to show their work, or the true boisterous energy of a group of Newfoundlanders together, such as you’d find at a kitchen party, or even the serene calm we find when you can hear the waves, taste the salt, and see the boats in the bay. Their rhythmic, motions of fisherman jigging for cod in the summer hypnotizing you as you sit on the beach.
In both Girls from Away and The Codfather, there’s no trouble to identify the resonance of the voices, as they aren’t new voices, or old. They are the voices that keep wanting to be heard and have yet to be realized. Bernardine, Nicole, Tim, and Kiersten have created the building blocks for those voices to be heard anew, and the entire company of the Kitchen Party Theatre Festival has risen to the challenge.
JACQUELYN REDMOND (she/her)
Festival Fiddler (Girls From Away, The Codfather)
Jacquelyn Redmond is a violinist and fiddler from Portugal Cove. Jacquelyn holds a Master of Music in Violin Performance/Pedagogy from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is headed to Waterloo, ON in September to study with the Penderecki Quartet. Ms. Redmond has strong roots in traditional newfoundland folk music and has maintained a balance between her western classical training and her folk music identity. From a young age, she was a part of the Suzuki Talent Education Program (S.T.E.P.) Fiddlers, collaborating with with her cousin, Daniel Payne, and participated in the Young Folk At The Hall (YFATH). Throughout both her university degrees, Jacquelyn continued to collaborate with local folk musicians, and was a regular mentor for the YFATH program. In 2018, Jacquelyn was a cast member of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival as an actress and fiddler, collaborating with local musicians including Stephanie Payne and Allison Crowe. Ms. Redmond was a featured artist in both Neddy Norris Night and Newfoundland Vinyl.
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