- Leaving Home
"Leaving Home" is a Drama in two acts by Canadian playwright
David French, it premiered at the Tarragon Theatre, May 16, 1972, directed by Bill Glassco, set by Dan Yarhi and Stephen Katz, costumes by Vicky Manthorpe, featuring Maureen Fitzgerald, Frank Moore , Mel Tuck, Sean Sullivan , Lynne Griffin, Liza Creighton and Les Carlson.
"The work is the first presented of what has come to be known as the Mercer Plays (Of the Fields, Lately , Salt-Water Moon , 1949, Soldier's Heart) and was responsible not only for introducing a unique Canadian voice to the world, but also for proving that Canadian playwrights could write plays on Canadian subjects and people would flock to see them." [http://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=Leaving%20Home Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia ] ] .
* Jacob Mercer,the Newfoundlander who finally brought his family to settle in Ontario. Portrayed as a flawed but loving father, he is a compendium of patriarchal values, and is the only character in all of the Mercer family cycle (neither Mary nor Ben are in French's - Soldier's Heart- which while being most recently written is ironically the oldest in the family's chronology). Jacob is in his fifties but looks older. A man who is used to heading his family in a patriarchal fashion, he is devastated by the new way of life and the decisions of his sons to leave home. Secretly he longs for old friends and times when he was needed.
* Mary Mercer, at fifty, Mary is a devoted mother and wife who has her hands full with her three men. She is the mediator of the family and also the confidante of the boys.
* Bill Mercer, is seventeen. He would rather stay home than marry his girlfriend, Kathy, but he must because she is pregnant. He is a little more worldly than his brother Ben.
*Ben Mercer, At eighteen, Ben is the eldest son. He is closest to Mary, but his is not a 'Mama's Boy'. His relationship with his father has always been strained. Mary Ross & Ron Cameron, Behind the Scenes: A Canadian Scene Book (Simon & Pierre, 1990)] .
The play focuses on the Mercer family, and is part of French's series of plays that revolve around that family, including Salt Water Moon, 1949, Of The Fields, Lately, and Soldier's Heart. In Leaving Home, the Mercer family is in the throws of preparations for their youngest sons (Bill) wedding to a young lady (Kathy) he has gotten pregnant. As they sit down to dinner the night of the wedding rehearsal, things erupt when Ben, the elder son, reveals he is moving out as well. Minnie, Kathy's mother, arrives and throws a wrench into the proceedings, bringing up the relationship she once shared with Jacob. When it's revealed that Kathy has had a miscarriage, the teens are left to choose whether or not they will continue with their wedding plans.
Interpretations and Observations
The piece is set in the 1950s and as critic Herbert Whittaker of
the Globe and Mailsaid at the play's premiere, " [it] smacks of autobiography." The play introduces two families, one Catholicand one Protestant, before a wedding rehearsal. The troubles between the two clans serve as a catalyst for exposing the troubles within the Mercer family itself; between the mother and father and particularly between one son and his father. All hell breaks loose with the family finally falling to pieces as the father refuses to attend the wedding rehearsal and the son announces he is leaving.
In an article on the creation of the work French wrote, "Each time a problem was solved, the solution in turn would create a host of other problems that had to be solved. It is a slow and stumbling way to work, but it does offer at least one consolation and a rather important one: each character in the play will be there for a definite dramatic purpose...It was the most cathartic experience of my life. The more I began to understand the relationships in the family the more moved I became. There were times I couldn't see the typewriter for tears, and times I would almost topple my chair howling with laughter at the funny things the people said and did."
This play was given life by Bill Glassco at Toronto's Tarragon Theatre. French describes the experience: "I asked him to read my play. He did. He called me and he sat there with the script in his lap. 'I like your script,' he grinned, 'but I don't think you've realized its full potential.'" French then grabbed his script and tore out on the street, calling Glassco every profanity imaginable. "Imagine my nerve. Thankfully, he chased me down the road and made me come back. The rest is history." Leaving Home was a triumph in 1972. It was such a personal play, yet it spoke to any young person fighting for his identity in a home where there was trouble. "It's very autobiographical," French confesses. "I mean, I'm Ben in the play and yes it was cathartic writing my own story. But not everything in that play is true, of course." Gary Smith, Bring it Home: Why are Canadian Playwrights Ignored?, The Hamilton Spectator, May26, 2007. ] .
French concedes he wrote the play because he loved his dad and that love needed some form of public expression. "I'm really all the characters in my plays, male and female but with my dad it was something serious. As an adolescent, we had a troubled relationship and that was my fault as much as his."
French felt that in some ways, writing Leaving Home did his dad an injustice. "Well, it was just one picture of him. That's all. You have to put all the pictures together."
First written as a television play, French offered the work to Glassco after seeing his production of David Freeman 's Creeps.
* [http://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=Leaving%20Home The Encyclopedia of Canadian Theatre] hosted by
Athabasca Universityand edited by the Canadian Association for Theatre Research.;Productions
* [http://www.atlanticcallcentres.ca/printArticle/209406 Coming back to Home after 35 years] Soulpepper's 2007 production.
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