Burke brings acclaimed Gods Middle Name to Ships Company stage

Andrew Wagstaff
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HALIFAX Scott Burke remembers vividly Jennifer Overtons reaction when he approached her with the idea of turning her book, Snapshots of Autism, into a play.

She was very funny on the phone when I first called her, he remembered. She said theres no play here. I said yes there is, there absolutely is, so lets go get the money and you spend the time doing the adaptation of it. So we did.

That was in 2003, when Burke was still artistic producer of Ships Company Theatre. He was successful in gaining partial funding for the project, but then came a leadership transition that saw him move on to take over as artistic director at Theatre New Brunswick in Fredericton.

The play that would become Gods Middle Name was never pursued further at Ships Company, and sat on a shelf until Burke returned to Canada from another job in Europe a couple years later. The idea had been in his mind ever since he read the moving book, which was based on Overtons real-life experiences with her own son.

It was one of those books that were just long enough that if you start reading it you want to sit down and finish it, he said. It had great anecdotes that described this arc of a mother dealing with an autistic son, and it was clear to me that we should make a play of it.

To produce the play Burke, Overton and some others formed their own company, In Good Company, and showed Gods Middle Name for the first time at the Eastern Front waterfront festival in May of 2006. Much to his satisfaction, the three performances met with an enthusiastic response and the show was a success.

Plans immediately kicked into gear to tour the show, as the accolades continued to pour in. It was lauded at last years Merritt Awards, picking up the hardware for Best Play and Best Production.

A remount show went off in Halifax, with Christian Murray (Lauchie, Liza & Rory) replacing Rejean Cournoyer in the male lead role, and it was also invited to the Magnetic North Festival in Ottawa, where it played in June of this year. It is now in the midst of a six-week tour of Nova Scotia, and plans are in the works for a national tour starting next year.

Made to tour, the production features the high quality work of some of Atlantic Canadas best designers, including Denyse Karn, who designed the set, projection and costumes, Bruce MacLennan, who designed the lighting, and Michael Doherty, who handled the sound and original music.

The show will run at Ships Company from Sept. 11 to 14, with half of the shows reserved for school groups and the final three open to the public. Burke will be here on Sept. 14.

Its been quite awhile since Ive been to Parrsboro, so Im looking forward to it, he said. It will be very nice to see some old friends and friendly faces, and it will be very nice to spend a little time in that beautiful theatre.

He still has a signed copy of Overtons book, where on the inside cover she inscribed, I still dont think theres a play in here.

Organizations: Ships Company Theatre, Theatre New Brunswick, Good Company Lauchie, Liza & Rory

Geographic location: Fredericton, Canada, Europe Ottawa Nova Scotia Atlantic Canadas Parrsboro

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