For Guelph playwright Deanna Kruger, the secret to creating strong characters lies in a writer’s insight into human nature.
The title characters in her latest play, Janet and Louise, come to life in a world premiere at the Here for Now Theatre Festival in Stratford, On.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with these two women, Janet and Louise. I worked on this play during lockdown so it’s really magical to see it come to life,” Kruger said.
“These characters have flaws, but they also have incredible beauty. There is a lot of heart in this play.”
Janet is determined to get over her mysterious illness, and keep her custodial job, so she’s agreed to take doctor-prescribed art lessons. Louise’s art studio is struggling to survive, and her prickly personality does not help.
When Janet arrives thinking she might quit, Louise knows she can’t afford to lose another student.
When Janet finds a man’s tooth inside a jar, the play takes many turns, from funny to heartbreaking. The play asks what happens when two strangers confront what they have tried so desperately to keep hidden?
“The plot does take many turns. Janet and Louise is about the mistakes we make, and secrets we want to keep. It’s also about the importance of being heard,” Kruger says.
Featuring an all-women creative team which Kruger says brings about a beautiful energy attached to the play, Janet and Louise is directed by Jeannette Lambermont-Morey. Janet and Louise are played by Brigit Wilson and Peggy Coffey.
Here for Now Theatre artistic director is Fiona Mongillo and Siobhan O’Malley is the associate artistic director.
“There is so much teamwork involved. And the actors are just riveting. The talent on the stage is incredible,” Kruger says.
Performances take place in an open-air canopy at Stratford's Bruce Hotel with small and socially distanced audiences. The festival runs until the end of September.
“There is such attention to detail in helping keep everyone safe and the venue is just beautiful. What an opportunity to see some top local talent and to see new Canadian plays. It’s so exciting,” Kruger said.
“People are looking for a new experience, especially after being in lockdown for so long.”
Here for Now is an independent professional theatre company based in Stratford. It aims to challenge and inspire audiences by producing new or underproduced plays. Here for Now focuses on the stories of women and seeks to amplify unheard voices.
“The festival is about showcasing Canadian work. Right now, besides my play, audiences can also see Post Alice by Cambridge playwright Taylor Marie Graham, again with an all-female team. As playwrights, we support each other, and that has been such a highlight for me,” Kruger says.
Kruger’s theatre journey began in high school. She attended John F. Ross Secondary School.
“It was my drama teacher, Tom Slater, he was such a mentor,” Kruger said.
“Then I went on to complete my undergraduate and master’s degree at the University of Guelph.”
It was award winning Canadian playwright Judith Thompson that made an everlasting impact on Kruger.
“Judith was such a big influence, and she has made such a big impact not only for me but also for so many other playwrights,” Kruger says.
After graduation, Kruger participated in the Nightwood Theatre’s ‘Write from the Hip Script Development Program’, in Toronto.
“This was such a pivotal moment for me as a writer and a very important milestone,” she said.
Kruger received playwright-in-residence support from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. Her awards include second prize in the 2018 Playwrights Guild of Canada’s RBC Emerging Playwright Award.
Currently, Kruger is working on two new scripts.
“I’m so excited to delve right into them and to tell new stories,” Kruger says.
But Kruger’s passion also lies in inspiring other local playwrights.
“I really want to help Guelph theatre thrive. There is so much talent here,” Kruger says.
Last spring, Kruger ran a teen playwriting workshop which was funded by the Guelph Arts Council 2020 Youth Opportunities Award and offered in partnership with the Guelph Public Library.
“Guelph has lots of talented young playwrights. They have a bright future ahead. They gave me so much inspiration. We inspired each other. They all did so well. I feel lucky to have had the support from the council and the library,” Kruger said.
“I’m so excited about local theatre. I’ve learned so much from my experiences as a playwright so far, and that’s my goal, to keep on learning.”
The world premiere of Janet and Louise runs until August 15 and includes matinee and evening performances.
For more information about Here for Now Theatre Company and to purchase tickets, visit www.herefornowtheatre.com.