Why We Remember: Jake’s Gift Is a Heartfelt Tribute to Veterans

One woman. Two characters. Thousands of soldiers who never made it home. But for playwright/performer Julia Mackey, the shores of Juno Beach were never meant to be their final resting place.

Presented at Lunchbox Theatre, Mackey’s one-woman show Jake’s Gift delivers a moving dramatic experience.

Directed by Dirk Van Stralen, Jake’s Gift tells the story of Jake, a Canadian WWII veteran who (reluctantly) returns to Normandy, France for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. The trip brings back painful memories for Jake who lost his older brother Chester during the war – a difficult loss he has been unable to deal with in the years since. Jake develops an unlikely friendship with a 10-year-old local named Isabelle. Isabelle’s innocent fascination with D-Day, though first met with resistance, pushes Jake to confront his past and, in doing so, come to terms with his brother’s death.

The weight of the war and its personal impact is marked all over Jake’s body – from his difficulty walking to his shaking arm and curled fingers. Continue reading

WORLD PREMIERE: Theatre Calgary’s Liberation Days Is a Sentimental Look at the Past

The war is over. Celebrations erupt across Europe. This victory, though, has come at a great cost. And for the Netherlands, the fight is far from over.

David van Belle’s new play Liberation Days is more than a lesson in history, it is a meditation on perseverance in the face of extraordinary struggle. Although, despite its strong performances and stunning set design, Theatre Calgary’s latest production fails to leave a lasting impact.

The bulk of the play centers around the romantic relationship that develops between Canadian soldier Alex King (Byron Allen) and Emma de Bruijn (Lindsey Angell), a young Dutch woman. The language barrier is not the only thing that stands between them. Emma’s mother Aaltje (Valerie Planche) strongly disapproves of her daughter’s relationship with the Canadian. And if that were not enough, there is also the problem of Emma’s fiancee Jan van Egmond (Jonathan Seinen) – a Dutch soldier presumed to be dead by his community.

Meanwhile, the Canadian forces struggle to gain the trust of the locals they have been assigned to help with rebuilding. The clash between the two cultures plays out between Cpt. Miles Cavendish (Garett Ross) and the village’s religious leader Dominee Herman van Egmond (Duval Lang).

The play is narrated by Marijke Bos (Kelsey Gilker) – the village outcast who dared fall in love with a German soldier during occupation. Continue reading