Lunchbox’s latest play showcases slew of new talent

Remembrance Day is about honouring those who have come before and Lunchbox Theatre’s latest production That Men May Fly will certainly do that in a lighter song-filled way. But it will also honour new talent with cast and playwright making their Lunchbox debuts along with Jacqueline Russell the RBC emerging director at Lunchbox who is assistant directing under artistic director Glenda Stirling.

“One of the exciting things about working at Lunchbox for myself as an emerging artist is the company has such a great commitment to developing new voices and play development” says Russell.

“New” doesn’t mean completely inexperienced of course. But for Russell the actors (Mathew Hulshof Justine Westby and Eric Wigston) and the playwright Winn Bray a Lunchbox production is a valuable step in their theatrical careers. “I’ve reached that place and I think a lot of people do where you want to make that leap to bigger theatres and larger realms of working and this program certainly is a great way to be able to do that” says Russell. “It’s a chance to apprentice and learn but also gain some of the hard skills you need to make that leap.”

Russell herself is learning a lot from the way Stirling guides the actors and says that “they just simply rise to the occasion because their enthusiasm coupled with their talent leaves nothing wanting.”

That Men May Fly tells the story of a Canadian and a British bomber pilot and their flight mechanic at No. 7 Special Flying Training School which operated in Fort Macleod during the Second World War. “It’s very light it’s comedic it’s definitely got some touching moments but I wouldn’t describe it as a dark play at all” says Russell. “What I love about it is that it looks at the sacrifice of war from the perspective of not only the soldiers who went to fight but also the women who stayed behind.”

The draw for many theatre-goers will be the music embedded in the story. The 50-minute play is interspersed with classic 1940s songs such as “I’ll be Seeing You” and “In the Mood” with music director Tom Doyle accompanying the performers live onstage. “There’s a lot of memory and association attached to the songs…. It’s like when you smell a good smell or hear a song that takes you to that place: immediately you’re in that world” says Russell who is happy to report that she always leaves rehearsal humming the songs in her head.

Despite the familiarity of the songs as well as the authentic war-era costume and set design Lunchbox is still working with a new play. “Working on a Shakespeare play or a canon play is a different thing because you’re telling a story people already know and this is a new story — and that’s exciting because people aren’t going to have any expectations when you walk into the theatre so you get to blow them away” says Russell.

A new play about an old story That Men May Fly will surely tug at your heartstrings. “I walk away each day with some gratitude in my heart for the life I get to live because of some of the sacrifices that were made by grandparents and uncles and fathers and husbands and mothers and sisters and so I hope that people will leave with that sense of gratitude as well” says Russell.

All military personnel and veterans have free admission to the show. Don’t forget to donate to the Poppy Fund while you’re there.