Manning and Great Lakes local theatre director Catherine Dunn has met the Academy Award winning American scriptwriter Ernest Thompson, He is now honouring his personal request to direct his play ‘On Golden Pond’ at the Manning Entertainment Centre in October and November.
On Golden Pond’ is playing at the Manning Entertainment Centre (MEC) from Friday 28 Oct to Sat 5 Nov 2011. Why did you choose to do this much loved Ernest Thompson play?
It’s an American classic – a much loved story appreciated by a wide range of ages. It’s been surprising how many people have expressed their memories of OGP and the special moments that appealed to them. It’s really well written; it’s funny; it’s entertaining.
I met Ernest Thompson in 2009 and after a chat and a get to know, he asked me to “do one of my plays in Australia”. Without hesitation, I said, “Of course I will”. I was very lucky when I approached the Taree Arts Council that they were willing to share this dream with me.
Ernest Thompson won an Academy Award for his film adaptation of ‘On Golden Pond’. Tell me about the experience of meeting him?
It was unexpected. I was in the right place at the right time. I was visiting a wine bar theatre in Plymouth Massachusetts, called Hollywood on Vine. Ernest Thompson was in a show at the time, and he brought his Oscar along.
Ernest Thompson wrote the play when he was 27, won the Oscar at 32, he’s now 61, and all these years later he’s still actively involved in screen and stage and his story still endures. It was a thrill to meet him.
I understand that you got to hold Ernest Thompson’s Academy Award, and you have a photo to tell the tale?
Yes. It had always been a dream of mine to hold an Academy Award and even in this context that was enough … by the way; it’s really heavy. He was very generous with his time, talking to people freely after the show and posing for photos.
For those who are not familiar with the play or movie, tell us a little bit about ‘On Golden Pond’.
It’s a cross generational story about relationships. It’s about a professor, Norman and his wife Ethel, who visit their holiday home on the lake for the 48th year, just as Norman turns 80. After all this time, maybe things are coming to an end – and age is catching up with them. There are relationship issues that need to be resolved, health issues, as well as Norman coming to terms with ageing – he’s not comfortable with the idea of hanging up the fishing rod; there’s still life in the old boy yet.
‘On Golden Pond’ has many themes – it’s a drama/comedy about family dysfunction, ageing, love, regret and tension. How important were these themes in telling the story of ‘On Golden Pond’?
The many themes are important in telling the story but at the same time, we wanted the play to be light. There are witty lines and funny timings interwoven into an emotive storyline. Underneath it all there is the sense of love the whole family has for one another. Overall, it’s a positive and uplifting play.
You’ve been rehearsing for a major part of the year; tell us about the process and cast?
The working of the play has been going on for the better part of a year. We meet twice a week, going over the interpretation of the play, understanding the themes, emotions and relationships, as well as polishing acting, lines, and blocking scenes.
All of the cast are highly experienced, including a young 14-year-old, who is a natural talent. The cast work well as an ensemble. I’m lucky to have sourced a high calibre of actors for the production.
‘On Golden Pond’ is set in Maine, USA in the late ‘70s. How did you ensure authenticity of your set and costumes to reflect a house by the lake?
We’ve researched the era and life in Maine in 1978 – the trends of the late ‘70s, costumes and how Norman and Ethel would have furnished their home by the lake over 48 years. We researched the landscape and environment of Maine and the subplot idea that pollution is killing the lake. The set has been beautifully constructed to reflect life on the lake.
You’ve spent a lot of time in theatre, both front and back of stage. Tell us a little bit about your background and your link with the area?
I was born in Taree. I studied drama in Sydney, Armidale and London.
I teach drama at Great Lakes College. Ten years ago I was awarded a scholarship as the Australian Shakespearean Teacher of the Year to study Shakespearean performance at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. I’ve acted in many Taree Arts Council productions, the last being in Blythe Spirit a few years ago, as well as other productions outside the area.
I’ve written a play performed in Taree, and I’ve had my own private drama school here. I have very strong connections with this area.
Who will enjoy this production, and why should locals be encouraged to see ‘On Golden Pond’ over its limited season at the MEC?
Locals are very educated as far as theatre goes; they expect a high standard production and I’m committed to showing them one. On Golden Pond will entertain you and make you laugh. It’s a story all ages can relate to.