Cast of The Rèiteach: left to right, Rankin MacEachern, Bridget Wilson, Kathryn McIntyre, and Trisha Boyd
April 7, 2021
-by April MacDonald
“The theatre was created to tell people the truth about life and the social situation.”
– Stella Adler
Brenda MacLennan-Dunphy’s play, The Rèiteach, will hit three stages this month; the shows are sold out and the people are hungry for the return of live theatre.
The Rèiteach is based on a true story of a rèiteach (a traditional Scottish way of arranging a marriage) which took place in the West Bay area.
It is a story often told by local historian, columnist and author, Dr. Jim St. Clair, and is also family folklore for many of the descendants of the characters in the story.
Presented by the West Side Performing Arts Cooperative, two shows per venue will be performed at the Glendale Hall, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on April 11th; at the Mabou Hall, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on April 18th; and at the Whycocomagh Waterfront Centre, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on April 25th.
With COVID restrictions in place, tickets were limited and now The Rèiteach is full.
“No more room at the party, I’m afraid. We’ve reached our COVID quota. We are so pleased that so many people are going to share this experience with us as we journey to three small halls to tell this wonderful story.
‘It is such a challenge and feels like we are flying without a net, which the big stage at Strathspey Performing Arts Center really is. A beautiful, expansive space for sure, but now we are challenged to build our alternate world in three different ways but there is a charm to that, and we are all feeling a new energy from these well loved, historical places,” from WSPAC’s social media page.
What’s a rèiteach?
MacLennan-Dunphy said it was taken from Cape Breton Magazine - Issue 5, Page 20, July 1st, 1973.
A réiteach is said to be an espousal, held before the banns of marriage are proclaimed and sometimes considered as important as the wedding itself.
It comes from the word for settling things, clearing out obstacles, trees and stumps, making the ground tillable.
It was a formal way of asking for a young woman’s hand, clearing the ground as to would there be a marriage, who would perform the ceremony and where, probably questions of dowry, where the couple would live – making certain that everyone involved was satisfied with the arrangements.
The bridegroom-to-be and an older friend, someone respected in the community, would come to the home of the girl he hoped to have for a bride. The father would usually know why they had come but nothing would be said outright.
Instead, they would pretend they had come to buy a cow or a horse or a boat – and everything they said would have a double meaning.
Eventually, they would get down to the real purpose of the visit and the older friend would speak well of the bridegroom-to-be.
The last réiteach on Cape Breton seems to have been that when Sandy Kenny Morrison of Wreck Cove who brought his cousin Alex J. Morrison to speak for him, asking for the hand of Rhoda MacDonald of Skir Dhu in 1923.”
Reaching out to the play’s author, Brenda MacLennan-Dunphy, she said that the cast is coming from Margarees and Judique and places in between.
“We have teens and seniors, so it’s nice to get a multi-generation experience too,” said MacLennan-Dunphy.
“There are many challenges moving from three small spaces and stages, but there’s also a charm and a magic by coming to the communities,” explained MacLennan-Dunphy. “It is definitely going to be a marathon event doing six shows over three weeks,” she added.
Introducing the cast, starting with Rankin MacEachern as Big Jim Johnson – MacEachern, now the beating heart of Hillsborough community thespians, is returning to the stage for his third Brenda Dunphy stage production. Brenda has tolerated his antics due to his charming smile, oversized charisma, and dazzling blue eyes. Rankin, by day, is a construction manager in Sydney, by night, he is a husband to Laura MacEachern, an upper Canadian, and father to Seamus and Levon. His humble heritage, a combination of Broad Cove and the Mabou Coal Mines, has led to some critics to rave, “His arrogance is well earned” and “Expectations were met.”
And the bride to be, Mary Smith – Bridget Wilson makes her acting debut as the responsible eldest daughter on stage, but has lots of experience scolding four younger sisters in real life. A big fan of Brenda’s plays from the beginning, Bridget read the part of Henrietta in the 2016 production of The Reiteach in Glendale and was an extra in the very first John Archie and Nellie. Raised amidst the green pastures of Skye Glen, Bridget has returned to milking cows and growing flowers on her family farm after many adventures travelling to farms across Canada and around the world collecting stories and ideas over the past 10 years. She is very excited to be back in Cape Breton and to have a role in its awesome and unique community as well as this play.
Playing Henrietta is Kathryn McIntyre, who was born and raised in Dartmouth and presently resides in Mabou. A lover of the arts, Kathryn has been involved in local productions in her home town both at Dartmouth High and St. Peter’s Church. A lover of choral singing, Kathryn performed and travelled with the well renowned Dartmouth All City Choir. A true Thespian at heart, Kathryn relishes the opportunity to be working and performing in Brenda Dunphy’s The Reiteach, happy to be practising what she has always loved to do in a town she now calls home. Spending her summers growing up in S.W. Margaree with her family, Kathryn is proud to be living in Cape Breton and expanding her circle of friends and extended family. When not immersed in the character of Henrietta, Kathryn can be found perusing her other passions; food (as the assistant manager at Brook Village Grocery). Spending time in the outdoors; playing golf, biking, swimming in the river or hanging out with her cat, Haggis.
Trisha Boyd will be playing Mary’s mother, Martha. Trisha still feels new to Cape Breton although she has called Glendale home for the last 16 years! Similar to her character Martha, she is trying to keep Scottish traditions and local history alive through her community involvement, especially through spearheading the Glendale Glebe Haunted House events. Just down the road from there, she and her husband raise their children Breton, Kharis and Catherine and Trisha runs a very busy hair salon. With dreams of acting in a Brenda Dunphy play once her children got a little older, her time has come to share her flare for the dramatic.
MacLennan-Dunphy’s right hand for this show is Adèle LeBlanc, who is the stage manager. Adèle is presently working as the program assistant for culinary skills at NSCC’s Strait Area Campus. Adèle’s theater resume has been steadily evolving since her early childhood days growing up on a family farm in Margaree. For many years, Adèle performed under the direction of Harrison Hill Players, while also acting in several high school productions and summer drama programs. Her alter ego, Mrs. Gillis has also appeared “uninvited” at several local concerts and fundraising events around Inverness County. After completing her university degree at MSVU and returning home to continue her hospitality career in Cape Breton, Adèle LeBlanc has been no stranger to this county’s theatre scene. She played Mary Teresa in The Weddin’ Dance (2013), Deb MacTavish in Finlay’s Folly (2013), Loretta MacLeod in Displacement (2014), Annelle in Steel Magnolias (2015), Ethel in John Archie & Nellie (2016), and Colleen in the dinner theatre production of Finnegan’s Farewell (2017). This is Adèle’s first time taking on the role of stage manager.
Break a leg to the cast and crew!
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