Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

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Daisy

Co-produced by GCTC with Horseshoes and Hand Granades Theater

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Different times, Nov. 30-Dec. 17, at GCTC, 1233 Wellington St. W.

Tickets: Choose-your-price starts at $ 15, available at gctc.ca

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Andrew Moodie felt an unusual tension in the air as the curtain went up for the Great Canadian Theater Company’s co-production of Daisy. The opening night, you may remember, was March 12, 2020.

The Ottawa-born, Toronto-based actor, along with director Eric Coates and the rest of the cast and crew were ready for the Canadian premiere of a play that took Ottawa’s Sean Devine nearly a decade to research and write. It takes place during the 1964 US election campaign and tells the story of the TV commercial that is considered the first modern political attack ad (more on that in a moment).

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But instead of the usual festive tone on an opening night, there was a palpable unrest, triggered by the news of a new coronavirus spreading like wildfire. Every time someone coughed or sneezed, a wave of anxiety wafted through the house.

“There was a rumor at the beginning of the night that we could cancel a week’s shows,” Moodie recalls. “I thought, ‘No, that’s ridiculous. We’ll not cancel.’ But then it became clear at the end of the night that we were not only coming back for a week, we were not coming back for a month. So I grabbed my stuff from the locker room, brought it home to my mom’s place, and waited.

“Then there was the day it sank in: ‘I do not know when we will return.’ “It was a really sinking feeling. I felt terrible for the world. If we do not come back, no one will come back. Society is shutting down.”

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Surely it was the start of a global health crisis that brought orders to stay home and extensive restrictions on assemblies. For nearly two years, the Daisy set gathered dust on stage in the darkened Wellington Street Theater.

Finally, it will be back in action next week as GCTC resumes the race, with previews on November 30 and December 1 and opening night on December 2. It continues until December 17 with a check of vaccination evidence, distanced seating, mask requirements and other COVID protocols in place.

Moodie, who plays a fictional White House official, the only black character in the production, is grateful to have been recalled and promises it will be “much better” than the original staging of the show, even though most of the cast is the same and Coates is back in the director’s chair (and plays a key role).

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“There was a lot of growth,” Moodie explained in a recent interview after a day of exercises. “The lines and character work that we did over a year ago have had time in our subconscious to get deeper and richer. It really is a wonderful feeling. ”

The themes of the play have also gained relevance as political parties on both sides of the border continue to “weapons” advertisements to influence public opinion. Devine’s screenplay is based on true events that dramatize New York City’s advertising agency team that made a television commercial for Lyndon Johnson’s presidential campaign. In it, a little girl picks petals of a daisy, while a threatening voice counts down to a nuclear explosion. It ran only once and LBJ won with a ground circuit.

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“This play argues that advertisements in political campaigns should be used to tell truths,” Moodie says. “If the truth you tell about your opponent is unfavorable, it’s not your problem. It’s the truth. But if you’re lying, as some former president has been used to doing, and people are starting to believe you, it’s a slide against dictatorship, and that could lead to deadly consequences. It led to deadly consequences. “

In a year that also saw a social inventory of racism following the assassination of George Floyd, Moodie, 54, found himself busier than ever, despite the forced absence from the scene. He starred in several films and television projects, taught and wrote a number, including a screenplay for his first feature film.

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The screenplay is based on his play, Toronto The Good, which was nominated for a Dora Award in 2009 for Best New Play. It was written long before the Floyd assassination and is about a white police officer from Toronto who shoots a black person and the black defense lawyer who has to defend the police officer.

“It’s inspired by real events, but it’s not about the events of last year, although it certainly deals with issues of race and police and Canadian society. We like to point the finger at America, but it reminds us that we have our own problems, ”he says.

Growing up in Ottawa, Moodie had meetings with police that made him fear for his life. Once when he was in his teens, a white female police officer followed him as he cycled home to the family home in Westboro. In the driveway, the officer demanded to see his ID.

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“I said, ‘it’s in’ and turned to take it, and she put her hand on her gun and said, ‘Stop right there.’ “I realized that if I had taken one more step, she would have shot me. She did not believe I lived there.”

Another time, he and a white girlfriend were hanging out in the middle of Confederation Park as two police officers trudged across the grass to confront them. They said someone had stolen a television and wanted to know where he had been in the last five minutes.

“My boyfriend just lay down in them,” he recalls. “She said, ‘You just do this because he’s black. Do you watch TV on him? He is wearing shorts and a T-shirt «. She stood up for me and still to this day I really appreciate it. ”

As for the hope that the accounts for the past year will result in increased representation in film, television and theater, Moodie says he has had some good opportunities, but it will take time. He points to the impact of the #MeToo movement – four years later, things are starting to change.

“I’ve been performing for over 30 years,” he says, “and in 30 years I’ve been directed by seven female directors. Five of them have been within the last two years. After the #MeToo movement, the film industry realized that women can instruct.

“The same thing is happening with people of color now. I have been offered some good opportunities, but I feel horrible that it took the murder of a man to get those opportunities.”

lsaxberg@postmedia.com

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