From the page to the stage



Spotlights illuminate the centre of the room as the audience watches the life of an important woman flash by.

Through the Great Depression, the Second World War and the civil rights movements of the 1960s, Theatre Erindale brought to life the story of Doris Anderson from the pages of her autobiography, Rebel Daughter.

Sheridan Theatre and Drama Studies students performed the official premiere of Rebel Daughter on Friday.

Anderson, died in 2007 at age 85, was an author, journalist and women’s rights activist. Seeing her story portrayed on stage was an emotional experience for her son, Steve Anderson.

“It was a very talented cast and a powerful tribute to my mother,” said Anderson. “My mother loved the theatre so it was overwhelming in some ways.”

Theatre Erindale consists of Sheridan students enrolled in Theatre and Drama Studies, a joint program with the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus, where the Erindale Theatre Studio is located.

The group who brought Rebel Daughter to the stage consisted of students making their “ensemble debut,” said Patrick Young, the program coordinator.

For the students who performed Friday night, their first play was also their first, and certainly not last, success.

“It was such a good opening experience,” said Samuel Turner, 21, a third-year student in Drama and Theatre Studies and one of 23 actors in Rebel Daughter.

Turner played seven characters, enjoying the role of John Claire, editor of Maclean’s magazine the most.

Samuel Turner (far left) and cast portraying friends of Anderson lost in WWII.

“Each person writes a select portion of (the play) and I wrote the scenes around John Claire,” Turner said in an interview after the show.

“He’s always this gruff guy who always kept (Anderson) down but she kept fighting against him. That’s what really stood out to me.”

Multiple actresses portrayed Anderson at different time periods.

Late in the play, Anderson has reached the peak of her career and is known for her women’s rights advocacy. That powerful female character left a strong impression on Angelica Appelman, 20. The third-year Drama and Theatre Studies student played Anderson in her twenties, among six other roles.

“I am so inspired by her. She has brought us to where we are today. We have the rights to do all the things that men can do,” said Appelman.

“It’s kind of awesome that she’s paved the way for feminism for everybody.”

Centre stage, an actress depicts Anderson late in her years, with a slide showing a Chatelaine cover page honouring her in the background.

Directing the play and assisting the students with their first production was Heinar Piller, who has directed and produced more than 150 shows of various sizes and acted in many others.

Never having worked with Sheridan before, Piller was not disappointed in local talent despite what seemed to be a difficult challenge given the subject material.

“It’s been a long and steep road because you start out with no script,” said Piller. “I think the students did extremely well.”

Students wrote the entire play themselves, as part of the assignment.

The Uppity Women series of plays continues for the 2013-2014 season and Theatre Erindale will be staging more productions throughout the year.

The next play, Beck Festival, will run at the Multimedia Studio Theatre (MiST), at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus, from Dec. 12 to 14.