Peter Blacklock and Ali Balloun rehearse a scene from Trying, Shuswap Theatre’s upcoming production set to open Feb. 22. (Jodi Brak/Salmon Arm Observer)

Legal odd couple resolve personality conflicts in Trying

Shuswap Theatre’s latest production opens Friday, Feb. 22, runs to March 9

What do you get when you put a crusty old judge and plainspoken Prairie woman together?

Find out later this month when Shuswap Theatre presents Trying, a play based on the real story of U.S. Judge Francis Biddle and Canadian playwright Joanna McClelland Glass who worked for the elderly judge.

In 1967, McClelland Glass became secretary to the elderly judge in Washington DC.

The once brilliant Biddle had been the attorney general during the Second World War and the chief American judge at the Nuremburg Trials.

Based upon her experience she wrote Trying, which is now in rehearsal at Shuswap Theatre.

“This is a play I have wanted to direct ever since I saw it in Kamloops Theatre at the BC Provincial Festival about four years ago,” said director and long-time Shuswap Theatre Society member.

“It won the festival.”

McClelland Glass was born and raised in Saskatoon but moved to Washington with her husband when she was 25. She got a job working for the elderly judge who was unwell.

“He’s in his 81st year, in very poor health, and he knows he is in his last year, so he’s trying to basically get his papers in order,” MacMillan recounted of Biddle’s attempts to keep secretaries.

“He’s so irritable and short-tempered he’s unable to hang onto them. One of them turned the heaters up instead of down when she left and started a fire.”

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Enter (the fictional) Sarah Schorr, a 25-year-old, plain-spoken girl from Saskatchewan, who arrives at his office, raising the question, “Has Biddle finally found someone with the spine to survive this cantankerous curmudgeon?”

The play is a condensed version of what happened, says MacMillan.

“What I love about it, is it is so beautifully written; it’s a beautiful portrayal of this transforming relationship,” he said, noting Trying is a deliberate title in which both people are trying hard, but each finds the other very trying.

“The characters are nuanced and the character development is believable. I find it moving just to read the script and it will be that much more moving on stage.”

Describing it as a warmhearted drama with lots of gentle humour, and humour in the use the use of language, MacMillan says the play is so far, the least stressful he has ever directed.

“It’s similar to Mary Poppins; a dream cast. Everybody knows what they’re doing and does it well and the cast members are experienced and very capable and willing,” he said. “Everyone is a joy to work with.”

The part of Sarah Schorr is played by Ali Balloun, a talented actor who is quickly becoming well-known to Shuswap audiences.

After starring in high school productions, she jumped into community theatre with both feet playing Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Last spring she beautifully portrayed the young Patsy in Perfect Pie.

Also well-known, the role of the judge is played by Peter Blacklock, an accomplished playwright and songwriter, who has written the musicals Emily and Renovation–The Musical for Shuswap Theatre.

He has also written and directed all of the recent summer plays for Haney Heritage Village. His last acting appearance was in another play directed by MacMillan – Pack of Lies.

Trying opens Friday, Feb. 22, and plays through March 9. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 1:30 p.m., and Pay What You Can Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. (cash only at the door).

Tickets are available online at shuswaptheatre.com, or at Intwined Fibre Arts, 161 Hudson Ave NE, in Salmon Arm.

For more information go to shuswaptheatre.com or email Kim MacMillan at inquiry@shuswaptheatre.com or call 250-832-4094.


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