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Former Sarnian bringing musical stage show to town

Published on

Cathy Dobson

A Canadian performer whose first stage experience was with Sarnia community theatre is bringing an original production that celebrates Canada to her hometown.

Susan Shillingford says Northern Tapesty – A Lost World weaves together vignettes from well-known personalities like Farley Mowat, Lucy Maud Montgomery and Emily Carr and melds them with photos, paintings, sculpture and music.

Eleven songs written and performed by Shillingford’s husband, Geoff Noble, link each segment of the show, culminating in Noble’s title song.

“It’s a forceful statement of hope and praise for Canada,” Geoff Noble said.

“But perhaps the most important element is the fact that Susan as an actress plays over 20 different characters and I play 13,” he said.

Each is drawn from the distinctly Canadian writings featured in the show.

The couple admit it’s not easy adequately describing their 90-minute multi-media production.

“But people certainly seem to love the music, drama and visuals,” Shillingford said.

They have received several standing ovations since launching the show on Vancouver Island where they live.

More than 100 artists and photographers have granted permission to project their works during Northern Tapestry.

“The impact is palpable, the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts,” said Shillingford.

Northern Tapestry is crossing the country between May 18 and June 18, stopping for a single performance in Sarnia on Friday, June 2.

“People will see so many places they recognize,” said Shillingford. “But they’ll see them through the eyes of the artists.”

She was 12 years old when she was first drawn to the stage.  That was in the 1960s when Shillingford – having just moved to Sarnia – auditioned for The Miracle Worker with Sarnia Little Theatre.

She landed the role of the young Helen Keller opposite the late Val Hadley who played Helen’s teacher in the production. Both actresses won awards for their performances.

Shillingford credits Sarnia Little Theatre, now Theatre Sarnia, with nurturing a lifelong passion. She moved from Sarnia in 1968, trained as an actor, and spent her entire professional life acting, directing and writing.  Noble is also an actor, a musician and has taught theatre.

She hasn’t been to Sarnia for about a decade but was convinced to bring Northern Tapestry here by an old classmate from Northern Collegiate.

“She came to visit last summer and suggested we bring the show to Sarnia,” Shillingford explained. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and enjoying what I understand is a really busy weekend in Sarnia (ArtWalk).”



WHAT: Northern Tapestry – A Lost World, a celebration in honour of Canada’s 150th

WHERE: Sarnia Library Theatre

WHEN:  Friday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m.

TICKETS:  $20 adult, $10 youth, at Cheeky Monkey, 130 Christina St. or at the doo

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