Local playwright Megan Gail Coles’ Our Eliza, directed by Lois Brown, opened the Perchance Theatre in Cupids’ 2017 summer series last week. The play will be performed weekly through out July and August along with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (directed by Andy Jones) and Richard III (directed by Danielle Irvine).
Coles is the author of several plays including The Battery, Bound, FallingTrees, Grace and Squawk. Her debut short story collection Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome won the BMO Winterset Award, the ReLit Award, the Margaret & John Savage First Book Award, and the Writers Trust 5×5 Award.
Coles began working on Our Eliza in her first year at the National Theatre School of Canada. The play premiered in 2013 at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s and toured the country shortly afterwards, receiving rave reviews.
Elissa Barnard described the play in the Halifax-based paper, Herald Lifestyles saying, “This is the kind of play that deserves a standing ovation but left people quiet and steeped in thought before they could lift themselves out of their seats.”
Our Eliza uses a father-daughter relationship to explore the impact of the cod moratorium on rural Newfoundland. Coles says our narratives about the history and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador often focus on the men who extracted resources from the land and the sea. She wanted to write a play that recognized the invaluable work of rural Newfoundland women.
“I feel like they deserve a play about them, acknowledging their contributions to our province, without them we would have no towns or communities,” Coles explained.
Coles is thrilled the play is being performed at the Perchance Theatre in the small community of Cupids because the location fits with the play’s subject matter. When we spoke, she had just attended the opening performance on a sunny afternoon in the semi-outdoor theatre.
“There were really nice atmospheric additions to experience, given that we were actually in rural Newfoundland and you could see the trees and hear the birds and wind,” Coles said.
“At the end of the play, a bunch of quads drove up the road while they were performing and I thought it was going to be distracting and rather disastrous but it was actually kind of neat; it felt like it belonged in the world of the play.”
Coles wrote this play for rural Newfoundlanders, she hopes they will see themselves reflected in it. Although it’s a play that deals with the traumatic impact of economic collapse, it’s also full of the humour. Coles wanted to capture the sense of humour that Newfoundlanders maintain, even through hard times.
“I really want rural Newfoundlanders to see that I understand the gravity of the things that have happened to them,” Coles said, “and I would also like the tourists who come to Newfoundland for a certain kind of experience to see how we really are, the real heart inside our people.”