Mary’s Wedding no war of the roses

By James Keller

Weddings and wars may not seem like the right atmosphere for healing, but for former University of Calgary student Stephen Massi-cotte, writing about them helps him gain understanding and closure.

"It helps you to understand your own relationships… and it helps you understand that other person," says Massicotte, whose play Mary’s Wedding runs Feb. 18 and 19 at the Martha Cohen Theatre. "The play was really a mirror of one of my strongest relationships."

Mary’s Wedding, a platform piece at Alberta Theatre Projects’ annual playRites festival, examines the relationship between a young couple, Mary and Charlie, before, during and after the First World War. However, Massicotte says this isn’t a play about war.

"[The play is] more about the love story… and the kind of things you go through when you break up with someone," he begins.

This is where Massicotte really brings himself into the play’s themes.

"You really draw on your own relationships," he says, hoping his own lost love will be able to see this play. "The play has definitely been a process of healing myself over that relationship and hopefully in a way helping her find a little healing, too."

Although the plot is seemingly a classic love story, it began as something much different. When the play was first conceptualized, Massicotte planned to create a story about war and how it related to Canadians. The transition from one facet to the next was a gradual and necessary one.

"I wanted to have this World War I story and I used the love story to gain access to the characters," explains Massicotte. "Now it’s really becoming [more] about the characters and less about the battles." Massicotte’s original idea was to make an impression in the audience’s minds, to rebuild their lost relationship with the past.

"My original intent was to write a Canadian war story… so modern Canadians could see it and learn about their history," says Massicotte, noting that some of Canada’s "lesser known facts" have come out after the war. "I think Canadians as a culture don’t have a strong grasp of their own history, and I think that’s an important thing to have."

We are taken through this journey in a non-sequential order, jumping back between the past, present and future. Mary’s wedding presumably takes place the day after the play ends, but the focus of the play is her recollection of this important piece of her life.

"It works like a dream," says Massicotte of the play’s structure. "The memory keeps jumping around to different times and places."

This was done mainly to heighten the experience for the audience.

"Hopefully, the structure is one where the audience is let off the hook for a little bit and then put back on the tension," says Massi-cotte, noting the shifts in time and setting work to keep the audience interested. "You know there’s going to be a war story involved and we know how long the war took… so you [think] ‘Oh my God, this is going to be a long play to get through.’"

Along with the script itself, this festival is part of a growing experience. Platform pieces are staged readings of new plays to determine the mainstage shows for next year’s festival. Massicotte is hopeful not only to be selected for playRites 2002, but also to see where else the script will go from here.

"I like the way a play grows on its own," says Massicotte. "A lot of times the play is becoming better than the play you were trying to write in the first place."

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