SURREY — Seven years, 25 different titles and multiple characters later, Lucia Frangione finally has her latest play on stage.
The birth of “In A Blue Moon” wasn’t exactly an easy one for the Vancouver-based actor and playwright, who has seen the script come to life this week in an Arts Club on Tour production, currently in Surrey.
The family drama focuses on a young girl, her widowed mother and the uncle she doesn’t really know. Together, as the tender love story unfolds, the three go about “finding home in unexpected places” while living in a house near Kamloops.
The play’s 11-show run at Surrey Arts Centre began Wednesday (Jan. 13) and closes Saturday, Jan. 23.
“I’m very excited to see it and see how the audience responds,” Frangione said prior to the world premiere of the play, on Jan. 8 in North Vancouver.
“I do get nervous (as one of her plays is brought to the stage), and it’s a feeling of excitement and gratefulness and also of utter helplessness,” she added with a laugh.
The production, directed by Daryl Cloran, stars the real-life mother-daughter duo of Anita Wittenberg (Ava) and Emma Tow (Frankie). Also in the cast is Brett Christopher as Will, the resident brother of Ava’s dead husband, whose passion for photography fills the show with images.
Emma, 16, first came to Frangione’s attention when she visited her good friend Wittenberg at their home in Kamloops. The meeting led to a key change in the script, which originally had the girl as a six-year-old character.
“While visiting there,” Frangione recalled, “(Emma) was practicing her piano and then her guitar, then her ballet steps, her violin, her singing. She was incredible, so talented, and that’s when I realized, this is my Frankie, my pivotal character.… So I made that character 14 and she looks back on her life as a six-year-old, and suddenly I have this beautiful character on stage. Lucky for me, my muse (Emma) was cast in the show.”
(PICTURED: Emma Tow)
Following the death of her husband after a prolonged illness, Ava and her daughter can no longer afford to live in Vancouver, so they look for a fresh start in B.C.’s Interior region. The two move into a family cabin and immediately clash with the brother-in-law (and uncle) who’s been living there rent-free.
Frangione spent seven years writing and rewriting the script, which originally had a full score, yoga-inspired dance movements and a more “poetic” feel.
“It just had too much stuff in it so I had to distill my ideas down, and it was hard to choose, but now I think I’ve made it nice and clean and lean,” she boasted.
“I chose to go with photography, so I cut all the music, which was hard to do because the music was lovely. But I felt that was what told the story best, photography. Ava’s whole idea – she’s a holistic practitioner – is that we store images in the body, sort of like we’re walking photo albums, and we can edit out the bad pictures and make more room for the good pictures, the good memories, the good feelings we have, as sort of a journey toward good health.”
The original script also called for two actors to play 30 different characters, including townsfolk, relatives and the girl.
As for titles, close to 25 of those were considered before the final one was chosen. The garbaged titles include “Sanctuary” and “Haven,” which had already been used for TV series, and also “Frankie Armitage,” which Bill Millerd, the longtime artistic director for Arts Club Theatre Company, deemed too boring, Frangione noted with a laugh.
(PICTURED: Lucia Frangione)
“So now we’re all happy with the title ‘In a Blue Moon.,” she explained. “(The title) works because it hints at a little bit of romance, something wished for, or rare, and perhaps some grief, a blue feeling, and the play has all these things.”
As part of the run at Surrey Arts Centre, Frangione will host a three-day “Writing for the Stage” workshop from Jan. 22 to 24. Details are posted at Surrey.ca/theatre, along with ticket and other show info. The box office phone number is 604-501-5566.
Below, click to see a video of Lucia Frangione talking about her play, “In a Blue Moon”: