Compassion and charity at play

There is magic brewing at Caravan Farm Theatre. Everyone is as busy as Santa’s elves, preparing for this year’s winter show.

  • Nov. 25, 2015 3:00 p.m.

Dress-up: Caravan costume designer Catherine Hahn and artistic director Courtenay Dobbie share a laugh over one of the costumes for Bedstefader (or how grandfather finally came in out of the cold)

There is magic brewing at Caravan Farm Theatre.

Everyone is as busy as Santa’s elves, preparing for this year’s winter show.

Bedstefader (or how grandfather finally came in out of the cold) is a family story inspired by an old Danish folk tale.

Inspiration came from an article artistic director Courtenay Dobbie read in a magazine. She came across a Danish word that sounds like hooga but is spelled hygge.

“It is a Danish practice and or spirituality they practise in wintertime,” says Dobbie. “It doesn’t have a direct English word, but it’s about well-being and happiness in the long dark, cold of winter.”

To practise hygge or have it in their lives, Danish citizens keep their indoor environment very cosy. They may light candles or curl up fireside with a good book.

They have many celebrations with family and friends, dine together, visit and enjoy parties.

“I thought the concept is really beautiful and that a lot of Canadians do that too, just because of where we live,” Dobbie says. “But we don’t have any formal word that describes it or that has the same meaning.”

Since seeing miniature horses at the IPE (Interior Provincial Exhibition) in Armstrong in 2010, Dobbie has been looking to incorporate them into one of Caravan’s production.

“I was excited by them and their energy and when I thought about the Danish winter show, I realized it would be a nice combination,” she says, noting four miniature horses will be pulling a sleigh.

Dobbie took her ideas to Sean Dixon, a Toronto playwright who wrote Caravan’s 2012 summer play, Notorious Right Robert and his Robber Bride.

“I phoned him and said ‘I have this concept; I want horses in the show and want it to be about a family. Can you work with these three ideas?’”

He could and the story that emerged is about two little girls, Magdalena and her little sister Ida. Winter is approaching and they are waiting for their mother to come home for Christmas.

“She is a medicine woman off doing good in the world,” explains Dobbie, pointing out, if this wasn’t a fable, her work could be compared to Doctors Without Borders.

“But their father reminds them their mother won’t be able to come home until all the people in the world come in from the cold.”

The sisters, meanwhile, come across a homeless man and decide they need to help him so their mother will come home.

“He’s mean, he likes his life the way it is and doesn’t want to come in,” Dobbie says. “They find out the homeless man is their grandfather and there is a nice magic reveal. And there is another one, but it’s a surprise.”

The overall themes Dobbie wanted to explore at this time of year are charity –  giving to people who have less, and providing comfort, warmth and food to people who may not have that in their lives.

That’s what the young sisters do for the homeless man – provide  a beautiful meal and a place to lie his head on a cold winter night.

Dobbie describes the cast as fantastic actors from all over Canada: Mother Falka is Toronto’s Rebecca Auerbach, Grandfather is played by another Toronto actor, Jack Nicholsen, and Father is Vancouver actor Sean Sonier. Big sister Magdalena is played by Toronto actor Georgina Beaty and Vancouver’s Evelyn Chew plays Ida.

Set design is by Marshall McMahen, costume design is by Catherine Hahn, lighting is provided by Stephan Bircher and props design is by Scott Crocker.

Dobbie directs the production and has written the music for the show.

“It’s a fantastic crew of 40 once the teamsters and horses are included with their eight teams of heavy horses.”

The winter sleigh ride show runs from Dec. 8 to Jan. 3. There are no shows on Thursdays or Christmas Day.

Bedstefader (or How Grandfather finally came in out of the cold) is staged outdoors at five locations across the large farm property.

The shows begins promptly at 4, 6 and 8 p.m. most days and lasts about one hour. So dress warmly. Seating is on hay bales and blankets and cushions are recommended.

To purchase tickets, call Ticket Seller at 1-866-311-1011 or visit


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