Big Oaks Mayor Catherine Wilson (Laurisa DeFehr) visits the café owned by Tom (Rory White

Big Oaks Mayor Catherine Wilson (Laurisa DeFehr) visits the café owned by Tom (Rory White

Fostering a love of small towns

Asparagus Community Theatre sprouts in Armstrong with Norm Foster’s Ned Durango Goes Wild Oak.

It’s no secret that community theatres tend to love the plays of scribe Norm Foster.

His work has a way of reaching out and relating to those living in both rural and small-town Canada, which is ironic as Foster grew up in the busy suburb of Newmarket just outside of Toronto.

However, with an average of 150 of his plays produced on an annual basis, Foster is one of the most produced playwrights in the country.

So it’s no wonder that Armstrong’s Asparagus Community Theatre is one of the many community (volunteer-run) theatres across Canada that regularly produces his plays.

Asparagus is about to stage one of Foster’s recent works, Ned Durango Comes to Big Oak, and director Dai Scott says as soon as she read the script, she was wrapped up in a warm, familiar feeling.

“His work is so much fun for a director to cast. People want to produce his plays,” she said. “His work is not only fun to do, but it still makes you think. When talking about relationships, we get a lot of comments on how there are many layers to them.”

Scott should know. Not only has she directed Foster’s  Maggie’s Getting Married, coincidently the first play she ever directed for Asparagus, she also helmed Ethan Claymore.

And she really related to the Ned Durango script because of its premise.

“I thought ‘Oh my God, this could be Armstrong,’” said Scott about Big Oak. “It’s about a town struggling financially when the female mayor decides to do something about it.”

The action is also centered around the town’s preparation for its annual festival, and in a  very Canadian way, it is named after a vegetable (or fruit, depending on where you live.) However, instead of a Peach Festival, or paying ode to the asparagus, which grows abundantly in Armstrong, Big Oak’s Tomato Festival is coming up and a potential developer plans to visit the town on the same  May long weekend as the event.

The mayor, Catherine Wilson (played by Asparagus member Laurisa DeFehr), comes up with a plan along with some of the town’s citizens to impress the developer.

“She’s cracking the whip and likes to be in control. She makes sure things are going her way,” said Scott.

Enter Ned Durango (Asparagus vet Kim Sinclair), an old TV cowboy legend whom the town hires to marshal their parade in hopes of drawing a large crowd and to impress the developer.

“Let’s just say that plans get made and plans get destroyed,” said Scott.“Everybody involved has a personal reason for doing what they are doing. There’s lots of side stories along with the main plot.”

With a simple set design to resemble a retro-’80s style, most of the action takes place at the town’s café owned by Tom (Rory White in his first non-musical role at Asparagus).

“It could be set in any time, although it does take place in one of the eastern provinces as Maine is mentioned,” said Scott.

One of the side stories revolves around sidekick, Orson Hubble (Mark Trussell, new to Asparagus), who is meeting his daughter, Kay ( Shaleen Toney), for the first time.

“We’ve had such fun at rehearsals,” said Scott. “When you read the play you can’t help but laugh and cheer up. Even when we’ve been doing the scenes with the actors seven-to eight-times, the repetition doesn’t kill the laughs.”

Ned Durango Comes to Big Oak opens at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre Wednesday, March 6 and runs to the 16th (No shows Mondays or Tuesdays.) All show times are 8 p.m. with an additional matinee on Saturday, March 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets  are $15 for adults and $12.50 for students/seniors.  There is no child’s rate for this show as it is geared more towards adults.

Tickets are available for sale at The Guy Next Door, 3450A Okanagan St. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or call 250-546-0950 or email to make a reservation.

More information is available on Asparagus’ Facebook site or visit the company’s new website at