BY KALISHA MENDONSA
A moving play titled Jake’s Gift, written about the perils of loss and war, is coming to Lacombe ahead of Remembrance Day.
The community is invited to the Lacombe Royal Canadian Legion on Nov. 6th to witness the performance of Julia Mackey – as both a 10-year old girl and a 60-year old man – as she shares Jake’s Gift.
Mackey, playwright and performer and her partner Dirk Van Stralen, director and stage manager, have come together to produce the play that is now celebrating its 10th year of production.
“Dirk and I were doing a workshop where we were creating characters. I started to write the story about this man named Jake and his brothers and their connection to the Second World War. Even though the workshop was done, I didn’t feel done with Jake’s story. I loved the character and wanted to build on that,” Mackey explained.
“I remember watching the news one night and Peter Mansbridge announced there would be the 60th anniversary celebration at Normandy and that’s where I realized I would find the rest of the story.”
Mackey spent six days in Normandy in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. She said she interviewed as many people as she could and from those interviews and experiences, Jake’s Gift was born.
“Jake’s Gift is a culmination of the interviews I did and being in the ceremonies and walking along beaches – it all came together,” she said. “I think my passion stems from early days learning about World War II, but what solidified the idea was being in Normandy and walking into the graveyards of thousands of Canadian soldiers. It was a very sobering experience and since then I’ve been working to create my thank you to all of our veterans.”
Jake’s Gift is a moving performance of the story of a Canadian WWII veteran who returns to Normandy, France to search for the grave of his brother who never came home. While visiting, Jake meets an inquisitive young girl, Isabelle, who helps Jake navigate through murky and painful memories of war and loss.
“I want people to feel like they’ve been on the beaches and have been in the graveyards themselves. We want people to walk away thinking about the idea of remembrance and what their part is in that as an individual. I want people to think about how their families were impacted,” Mackey said.
She said she crafted the experience from dozens of interviews with Canadian, American and British WWII veterans, and hopes the experience of Jake’s Gift is as impactful to others as it is to her.
The performance will run one night only at the Legion, with tickets available for $20. The show is not recommended for children under 10. Tickets can be purchased at the Lacombe Legion Lounge or by calling Arnie MacAskill at 403-782-7183.