A play about dementia presented by the Chilliwack Players Guild is coming to the Chilliwack Cultural Centre after having won four awards at a recent theatre festival.
The guild’s production of Marjorie Prime is at the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre on May 31 and June 1.
“Part of the joy of this play is discovering what’s going on for the audience. Things aren’t quite as they seem at first,” said director Graham Archer.
Marjorie Prime takes place during the age of artificial intelligence where 85-year-old Marjorie, grappling with fading memories, has a new companion to feed the stories of her life back to her. As they delve into her collective family history, levels of complexity emerge, leading to profound questions about the limits of technology and whether memory might be a purely human invention.
The play, written by Jordan Harrison, explores which memories people want to keep and which they want to let go. It looks at how each person has their own and often different memories of the same event.
It was one of seven plays at Theatre B.C.’s Fraser Valley Zone festival which ran May 8 to 14 in Langley. The Chilliwack team picked up four awards including Best Lighting Design, Backstage Co-operation, Runner Up Production and Best Youth or Novice Actor award.
That last award was given to Margaret Reveley who plays the title roll of Marjorie.
“It was amazing. It was terrifying. It was really cool,” she said about being in a production for the first time. “To me it was a huge opportunity at my age to be coming into theatre.”
Reveley is joined onstage by Liam Archer who plays Marjorie’s husband Walter, Laura Hames as daughter Tess, and Raymond Hatton who plays son-in-law Jon.
She said there aren’t a lot of roles for women her age with no experience and that she’s thankful to the players’ guild for casting her.
“I was eternally grateful to them for giving me this chance. They’re putting a lot of faith in me,” Reveley said. “It did help for me that I was very invested in this story. The minute I read the script, I was blown away by it.”
The play was chosen specifically so they could bring it to the Fraser Valley Zone festival. Productions at the festival have a smaller cast of about two to five people, plus the set is smaller to make it easier to transport the play. Each theatre group only has four hours to set up their stage, move lights around and program them into a computer for lighting cues.
It was the Chilliwack Players Guild’s organization and teamwork during that four-hour window at the festival that earned them the Backstage Co-operation award.
In addition to the play being a smaller production, they also like to chose a play that’s a little “meatier” for the festival, Archer added.
“Something that’s more of a drama as opposed to comedy, and something that has some good characterizations in it that the actors can really sink their teeth into.”
There’s no main character in the play, it’s more like an “ensemble” where all four cast members are on stage for about the same amount of time, he said.
The guild did two productions of Marjorie Prime in Langley before the Fraser Valley Zone festival performance on May 9. By the time they finish up at home in Chilliwack, they will have done five performances on three different stages.
“I think the play explores what it means to be human,” Archer said. “What is it that makes us human? Is it our memories, the fact that we live and remember things and relate to other people with those memories or is it something else? There is the possibility that artificial intelligence could create memories and embellish things.”
Marjorie Prime is a one-act play and is about 80 minutes long with no intermission.
“Obviously Jordan Harrison put a lot of thought into this play… there’s all kinds of connections,” Archer said. “It’s one of those plays where you want the audience going away talking about it.”
The Chilliwack Players Guild presents Marjorie Prime on Tuesday, May 31 and Wednesday, June 1 at the Rotary Hall Theatre in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. each night.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors/students and can be purchased at the Centre Box Office, online at www.chilliwackculturalcentre.ca, or by calling 604-391-SHOW(7469).