Hope can be found in a hopeless place

Powerhouse Theatre’s season opens with the family comedy Having Hope at Home,

The word hope has a few meanings.

For some, it can be a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. For others, it’s a feeling of trust.

In its verb form,  hope is when you want something to happen or for it to be the case.

For Jo Jones, hope has given her something to concentrate on since the death of her husband, David, from an accident in May.

Jones is once again taking over the reins to direct a play at Powerhouse Theatre, which has been her secondary home for more than half her lifetime.

Titled Having Hope at Home, penned by Canadian playwright David S. Craig, Powerhouse’s  season opener is a family-based comedy and is Jones’ swan song as a director for the community theatre.

“I made a commitment to direct this play two weeks before David died and wanted to see it carried through,” said Jones, a retired librarian, who early in her career served as a flight attendant for Pan Am Airways. “This play is a milestone for me, with my 80th birthday this year.”

As lifetime members of Powerhouse, the Jones, who both came to Canada from their native Britain, have been a power couple at the community theatre for the past 44 years. They have volunteered their talents and energy in numerous positions. Each has acted and directed in countless productions, with David also serving on the design team and supervising on Powerhouse’s renovation and expansion, twice.

The Jones often bounced ideas off one another when it came to their theatrical pursuits.

“The theatre is a big job and the buck stops at the director who has to give final approval on everything,” said Jones. “With David, he was a wonderful problem sharer… David did a whole lot. Apart from our children and theatre, our interests diverged, but we would always come together to discuss our interests.”

David also had an affinity for comedic plays, said Jones, so it is apt that Having Hope at Home is in that vein.

The play premiered at the Blyth Festival in southwestern Ontario in 2003, and received excellent feedback, she said.

“I saw it advertised by another group in B.C. and was intrigued by the title, I thought it was about a hopeful situation,” said Jones. “By line six on page one I was laughing my head off.”

Instead of finding a hopeful situation, Jones found herself in the midst of a dysfunctional family.

“Within the first 90 seconds that dysfunction raises its ugly head,” she said. “Because of their miscommunication, they are unable to share heartfelt feelings. The difference lies in the education values between the parents.”

The story follows young common-law couple, Michel Charbonneau (Cliff Lattery) and Carolyn Bingham (Felisha Anderson), who are about to welcome a baby into the world. Both live at the old farmhouse of Russell Bingham (Doug Fairweather), Carolyn’s grandfather.

The couple’s decision to have their baby at the home, with the help of midwife Dawn Shaw (Janet Anderson), causes consternation with Carolyn’s parents, Bill (John Lomas), an obstetrician, and Jane (Sharon Wickstrom).

“The parents live three hours away from their daughter and she’s a young girl who wants to make her own decisions,” said Jones. “Carolyn’s father and mother are distant from their daughter in their failure to understand her.”

In the end, the audience may or may not find out whether a baby can solve such familial problems as unresolved anger and misunderstandings.

“Progress is made in the duration of the play, but the arrival of the baby also brings challenges,” hints Jones.

All this may not seem that funny, but it’s in those awkward moments and miscommunications where the humour comes in, she added.

“Some people think comedy is easy to do. My hackles rise a little bit when I hear that. There is an art to comedy with the timing,” said Jones. “The cast is also riding the wave of the audience’s reaction, knowing when to come in when there is laughing and clapping. At the moment we are doing things without an audience.”

However, the Powerhouse cast is up to the task and each member is getting to the “guts” of his/her character, said Jones.

“They have learned all their lines, which is gratifying, and now it’s about the fine brush strokes, seeing how we can do things to sharpen the play. They all bring their own abilities.”

Also integral to the production is the crew. Set designer Eugene Leveque has created the interior of a farmhouse complete with a kitchen, where a full dinner will be served, with props arranged by Jean Given and Sarah McLean overseeing set decor.

“It has nine locations; there’s the farmhouse/kitchen and the bedroom upstairs and the entrance to the basement and bathroom and the rest of the house. It’s set in mid-winter so they have actually closed off the rest of the house. It’s a challenge for the set designer and the lighting,” said Jones.

Also providing immeasurable help is technical director Sherry Moir and administrative producer Debra Bob.

“My great need is teamwork, and for 40 years Powerhouse has fulfilled that need,” said Jones.

Having Hope at Home opens at the Powerhouse Theatre Nov. 25 with performances (except Mondays) to Dec. 5. Evening performance start at 7:30 p.m. with matinées at 2 p.m. Nov. 29 and Dec. 5. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.