Consider the story of It’s Time to Sell the House, a new play at the Floradale Mennonite Church by Woolwich resident Barb Draper. Set in Elmira in the present day, it follows a family that is struggling with an ageing mother, who is ailing after hip replacement surgery. The family hopes to move the mother from her house, but she won’t cooperate. Drama unfolds as the family attempts to downsize her life, and struggle with their own interpersonal dynamics – especially the question of who is doing enough.
Now – does this sound like it might have a certain autobiographical resonance for the author?
“I suppose,” laughed Barb Draper. “I’ve had some experience. It hasn’t been really dramatic.”
However, she stressed that It’s Time to Sell the House is more of a universal story than a strictly personal one. “People who are in their fifties, maybe sixties, who are dealing with this issue – I listen to my friends tell stories, and when I was looking for a good subject, it just sort of came.”
She added, “My hope it is something that the people who see it will say, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly my experience.”
This is Draper’s third time writing a play for the Floradale Mennonite Church – the church produces one every three years, the last being Those Shoes of Peace in 2010. Draper has found the stage to be the area of literature she is most comfortable working in.
“I’ve always had an interest in drama. Before I was writing long plays, I was writing short scenes and skits and things like that. For whatever reason, I find it much easier to write it in a play format than a story-form.”
It’s Time to Sell the House reunites Draper creatively with Eleanor Buehler, who has staged plays for years with the church, including Those Shoes of Peace. The pair’s earlier collaborations have given them a comfortable working relationship, said Draper.
“It does get easier with more experience. Working with the director a couple of times, I’m always thinking about what works best. And from experience, one of the things I had to learn was to not include so many characters onstage at one time.”
She continued, “I made a much smaller cast – it’s nice to have a large cast and lots of involvement, but it becomes just more challenging to bring it all together.”
Floradale Mennonite Church is seemingly not a typical venue for the dramatic arts; what makes it conducive to a play of this nature?
“Because that’s my church, and it’s being put on by people from that church, so it’s a congregational work effort,” responded Draper.
Indeed, Draper feels a strong commitment to the community. Among her vocations, Draper is a local historian – she spent ten years researching and writing about faith in the area for her book The Mennonites of St. Jacobs and Elmira, published by Pandora Press in 2010.
More than anything, Draper hopes her new play strikes a personal chord with people of her church, as well as the average citizens of Woolwich.
“I’m looking for something that will be typical of this area, the people who live here, and the things that they’re struggling with,” said Draper.
It’s Time to Sell the House will play at Floradale Mennonite Church (22 Florapine Rd.) on April 12 and 13 at 8 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. matinee on April 14. The church will not be selling tickets in advance; payment will be by donation at the door.