Washington State playwright on Gabriola for ICONIC productions

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, October 25 2016

Rebecca Redshaw, a Washington State playwright, is coming to Gabriola for the third time on November 3, 4 and 5, 2016, to see two of her shows that will be performed by Gabriola’s ICONIC Theatre Company.

Redshaw has been a playwright for 25 years. ICONIC Theatre Company will perform Hazel Speaks and Hennessey Street. The former is about an environmental activist named Hazel Wolf, who lived to be 102 years old. “It was a revelation for me to learn about Hazel. The League of Women Voters commissioned me to write a piece about a strong woman in politics. I researched her and found her to be an incredible inspiration. She never dodged a challenge; she spoke for what she believed in, fairness. She started as a legal secretary and fought for seniors to get social security. She was an avid fan of the Audubon Society, fighting for nature and ecology.”

On the National Audubon Society website, it says that the Society was founded in 1886 by George Bird Grinnell in memory of naturalist and artist John James Audubon. Audubon documented America’s 1065 birds for his book Birds of America. “Audubon was the first person to document and draw birds,” says Redshaw. “[Hazel] was an avid bird watcher.  Later in life she raised awareness in society and made it a national concern to save wildlife and the earth,” says Redshaw. “Hazel Wolf spoke before Congress advocating for protection, and she was an activist before it was popular to be an activist.”

Redshaw says Gabriola Players had previously performed Dear Jennifer. Another of her plays, Four Women, was also later performed. When asked about the themes for the plays, Redshaw says that the theme for Hennessey Street is about how we live our lives and what we’re missing. “Sometimes it seems nostalgic,” she says, “missing the wonderful things our grandparents had but it’s very pertinent to today’s time.” 

Hennessey Street is about a universal street or neighbourhood in a city. I wrote it more than 15 years. It’s about my observations in life. I think people don’t take the time to get to know one another in their neighbourhoods like our grandparents did. [This play] captures what we’re missing by not having a neighbourhood.”

Redshaw says she’s always amazed at the audience’s response to the play. It crosses all ages, and she remembers a young person who was a high school senior coming up to her after one performance. 

“He said he had to meet the actor because he thought it was his story. It’s a play that’s not just for women. Clearly men can relate to friendships they’re missing because of how life goes.”

Originally from Pennsylvania, Redshaw has lived in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years. She says Hazel Wolf was born in Canada. Redshaw doesn’t have a theatrical educational background. She wrote a book called Dear Jennifer 25 years ago, it was her first novel and she transcribed it for the stage. Educated with a Masters in Music, Redshaw studied short story writing with Rowland Barber at UCLA. Barber was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and was Redshaw’s mentor. 

About Hazel Speaks, Redshaw says that Hazel got up and did things. “She lived to be 102 years old and she was going until the end. Hearing about that kind of individual is inspirational at every level. I find as a writer, I learn more by listening to others and watching other people. I hope people come to the plays and enjoy them and relate to them but also stay around and talk and I’d love to do the question and answer dialogue after the play because it’s sometimes as important as the play itself.” Redshaw says if her work triggers conversation and points of interest she’s done her job. 

“One thing I would add is theatre is just so important, we get comfy in front of our big TVs and it’s wonderful to see people live. I love to see my work done. I live one hour north of Seattle and I love the northwest. I kayak and I keep saying I’m going to bring my boat. But in November, I’m not going to do it then. [Gabriola’s] a very welcoming community. I like reconnecting with people I’ve known before and it’s a beautiful, lovely spot.”

Redshaw’s plays have been performed more than 50 times across the United States and in British Columbia.