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Laugh all the way there with Halfway There

Melissa Oei (left), who plays Janine in Miracle Theatre's production of Halfway There, and Linda Carlson, who plays Mary Ellen, rehearse a scene. The play runs until March 24 at Artspace, above Books and Co. Bill Phillips photo
Melissa Oei (left), who plays Janine in Miracle Theatre’s production of Halfway There, and Linda Carson, who plays Mary Ellen, rehearse a scene. The play runs until March 24 at Artspace, above Books and Co. Bill Phillips photo

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

Halfway There means going all the way home for Linda Carson.

She is enjoying her role as Mary Ellen in Miracle Theatre’s production of the Norm Foster play Halfway There not only because it’s a great role in a great play, but it also means Carlson gets to come home for an extended visit.

She was born Prince George and her mother and two sisters still live here.

“I was so pleased when (director) Ted (Price) phoned me to see if was interested in doing Halfway There,” she says. “I jumped at the chance. I love working with Ted Price and (producer) Anne Laughlin.”

Her history with Price and Laughlin goes way back to when Laughlin and Price started Theatre Northwest about 30 years ago. Carson had already made the move to the Lower Mainland by then, but when she heard a professional theatre was starting up in Prince George, she was one of the first in line to audition.

“My first show with them was a Norm Foster play, the Melville Boys,” she says. “My kids were about four and five and I came up and stayed with my mom.”

More recently, she was part of the cast for Where the Wild Things Are, just a couple of years back, which is a touring show for children that she helped create.

The acting bug bit Carson long before that when Josie Smith, a professional artist from London, England moved to Prince George and started Wonderland Players.

“We would go her basement, right from when I was about 10 years old until I graduated,” she says. “We would take acting classes and we did Trinity College School of Speech and Drama Arts, through her. There’s a whole bunch of us who became professional actors because we trained with Josie Smith.”

Carlson’s husband, Kim Selody, is also from Prince George and is currently the artistic director for Presentation House Theatre in North Vancouver.

Halfway There takes place in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia and focuses on four women who congregate after hours as Junior’s Diner. All is well until Dr. Sean Merrit moves to town who, egad, is from Toronto.

“It’s a play about friendship, about love, and it’s very funny,” she says. “It was amazing, the house was full of laughter throughout the whole play.”

The play is written by Norm Foster, one of Canada’s foremost playwrights, who has penned more than 70 plays.

“One of the things he strives for in his comedies is to not just be funny, but hit some of the more humane, even tearful moments,” she says. “One minute it can be funny, and the next minute it can be a bit poignant. He brings both sides of life and his characters are usually pretty realistic so the audience can see themselves in the characters.”

She says the play is a “ride through the evening,” as all the characters end up in a different place than where they were at the beginning of the play.

“So, it’s a great actor’s workout,” she says.

It’s also a great workout for the audience.

“An audience can expect to laugh,” she says. “It’s also for an audience for any age … They can expect to laugh, they can expect to feel touched at certain points, and they can expect to enjoy the theme of friendship and the theme of relationships and love. They can expect, at the end of night, to have gone on a journey to a very funny laughing place.”

The performances are at Artspace, which is a very intimate setting, which can be challenging for the actors, but is also very enjoyable.

“The audience is right in the coffee shop with us,” she says.

She says the audiences in Prince George are great as well.

“I find the audiences super generous and ready to suspend their belief to come with us into the journey of the play,” she says. “They come to the theatre and they’re ready to experience it.”

Proceeds from Miracle Theatre’s production of Halfway There will go towards creating a Children of Prince George Fund through the Community Foundation. It will be an endowment fund where the money earned from the investments will go to support local children. Miracle Theatre has set a fundraising goal of $55,335.58. That sum would bring Miracle Theatre to a new grand total of exactly $200,000 in fundraising for Prince George over its last four productions.

Halfway There has been extended for a week and will now run until March 24, but don’t wait to get your tickets. Tickets are available at Books & Company or by phoning 250-563-6637.

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