The Family Visit: One-act playwright and actress Hazeldine steps out

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, March 7 2017

Lesley Hazeldine wrote and stars in a one-act comedy play titled The Family Visit, which runs as part of the Gabriola Players Festival of One-Act Plays at the Rollo Centre from March 10 to 12, 2017. “We have three one-act plays, and ours is the last one. I was an advertising copywriter,” Hazeldine says, “in Vancouver. I wrote TV and radio spots that were 30 seconds long. It’s a real luxury to have the time with a one-act play to develop a character.”

Hazeldine retired in 2000 and came to Gabriola in 2004. In writing the play, she was inspired to draw on her experiences as a mother and grandmother. “This generation is doing things far differently than we did. I had all my children in my mid 20s and all my children are having their children in their mid to late 30s. It’s a different psychology raising kids now. The kids are the sun, the moon and the stars and a family’s whole life revolves around keeping the children safe. My kids have gone to the other extreme with protecting and worrying about their kids. I wasn’t raised like that. We were seen and not heard and told to be quiet. I was strict. I love my kids but it wasn’t like I built my life around them. All this generation of parents thinks about is keeping junior in a rubber room. I think it’s funny.”

Hazeldine joined the Gabriola Players five years ago and has never been in a one-act play before. “Mine is 45 minutes long and that’s a lot of time to get things across.” After a recent visit with her kids, Hazeldine says she got out a pen and paper and started to write. She says two of her three sons will come to see her play and she’s sure there will be some eye rolling. 

“I have three sons and three grandsons. I love them but I get so many instructions for the weekend. I enjoy my grandchildren when I’m alone with them. I don’t think it’s healthy to treat children like china dolls. They can become nervous and unsure if they’re being hovered over all the time.”

With acting on her bucket list, and a role in one of the pantomimes, Hazeldine says working with the Gabriola Players has been great fun. “It’s a great group of people giving their all to create good theatre. I wrote the play last year, nervously, because I didn’t think it was worthy of production.”

Director Jenn Feenan read the first draft of Hazeldine’s script and gave her terrific input. Feenan liked it so much she told Hazeldine she wanted to direct it. The original draft took Hazeldine a few days to write and then about six months to come up with the finished version. 

“One thing that’s so remarkable is that the characters developed and have taken on a life of their own. It’s so much bigger and better. I feel so honoured that they’re excited and it’s far more than I expected.” 

There are five characters in the play and Hazeldine says ever since she was small she used to write bad poems. “I loved to write poems. It got me writing and then when I was a secretary at an ad firm I thought I’d love to be a writer and started showing around some of my ideas. Advertising became a discipline. It’s good exercise to go and write for eight hours a day.”

Hazeldine says her clients included McDonald’s and the Salvation Army and she says her career was varied but there was lots of pressure. “After writing I was burnt out from it. I did some articles for magazines on our sailing adventures, but I hadn’t done anything creative. I was inspired to come up with the play because I like the venue of a one-act play. The other thing I learned in the advertising business is how to edit my work. With 30 seconds it makes you a sharper writer. I like editing. I loved the work and then fixing it.”

Hazeldine took a playwriting workshop through the Isle of the Arts Festival and says she was instructed to never to do three things and she had done all of them. “I had to just let the dialogue tell the story. I enjoy the rewriting process. It’s a collaborative effort and the cast is fantastic. I like comedy, Lucille Ball, fluffy type things. My idol is Lucille Ball.”

With different styles of parenting playing such a strong role in the play, Hazeldine says she can laugh about it, but it does worry her and she wants children to be able to spread their wings. “I don’t mean to be critical but it’s all drawn on my experiences and I’m quite sure my children will watch it and go ‘that’s the other son.’”

Hazeldine is passionate about local theatre. “I think it’s important to support local theatre because we need it in any community. Everyone puts so much work into the performance and it’s all for the audience. I’d be really happy to hear some laughter. I hope people come and enjoy the humour.” Tickets are available online through the Gabriola Players website and North Road Sports.