It’s home to organic vegetable growers, horse and cattle ranchers, vegans and hunters, Liberals, Conservatives, NDPers, Greens and those apolitical.
Like many small towns in B.C., Armstrong is a fertile ground for different walks of life.
This is what Mark Trussell noticed when he moved back to his childhood home four years ago. And now he has written and is directing a play, albeit a fictional one, showing that dichotomy in the all-local production, Fertile Ground.
Produced by Asparagus Community Theatre, the comedy opens at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre Thursday.
Trussell’s homage to Armstrong comes after spending years living overseas, working for a publishing company.
“I grew up in the North Okanagan and lived abroad for 20 years. I didn’t like living in big cities anymore, so I returned to Armstrong when the publishing company said I could work from home,” he said.
“When you’ve lived away and move back, you notice things you haven’t noticed before. You see right-wing conservatives that view the theatre as evil and then the left-wing hippies, and they all get along. There is the vegan on the one side and the hunter on the other.”
This is the first full-length play for Trussell, who has written shorter skits, one of which was produced at an elementary school. He is also an actor and starred in Asparagus’ 2013 production of Ned Durango Comes to Big Oak and had multiple parts in last year’s Gold Dust.
Billed as a comedy of errors and misunderstandings, Fertile Ground is about what happens when those different cultures collide. The play follows a young couple from Vancouver, who travel home to Armstrong for a weekend.
David and Deanna are back in town to visit with David’s parents, Adam and Leona, who are hippies who have lived a rural, communal lifestyle since the ‘60s, explains Trussell.
“They are very passionate people,” he added. “Adam is basically a pothead who is very political and likes political arguments. His wife, Leona, is a Wiccan… She’s a feminist, a midwife, and hates hospitals and public schools.”
Meanwhile, their son, David, has moved to Vancouver to escape the hippy life.
“He’s methodical and moved to the coast to escape life on the commune. He wanted a normal life and he’s on edge… He’s uptight and at same time, he loves his parents,” said Trussell.
Set in present day at Adam and Leona’s home – one of those heritage houses in rural Armstrong with the fancy cookie cutter woodwork – things get turned upside down when Deanna’s wealthy right-wing parents arrive for a visit.
Mom (Pam) is a narcissist who feels everyone is beneath her, and is an alcoholic and pill popper to boot, while dad (Jim) is a former RCMP officer, and has become apathetic to the world around him, said Trussell.
Meanwhile, Deanna has some “mommy” issues of her own.
“One thing we explore with her is the mother-daughter relationship. Her mother is about perfection all the time,” said Trussell. “Deanna’s parents are also unhappily married – there’s a mutual respect there, but no love.”
All goes sideways, literally, when David suspects his parents of committing murder.
Yep, you read that right.
“I needed a story, so I went back to the first production I ever did in the North Okanagan and that was Arsenic and Old Lace, where the son believes his parents are serial killers,” said Trussell. “The murder is thrown in there and the protagonist thinks one thing is happening, but no one else is in on the joke. The story is very secondary – it’s a comedy and it’s very much about the daily lives of these people.”
Another character who enters the craziness is Daisy, who Trussell says plays a pivotal role in the play.
“(Daisy) is based on a woman who used to wander around Armstrong. I imagined this character from her,” said Trussell. “With the hippies, their house is an open door, so anyone who is lonely can just drop by for a cookie or brownie.”
The cast and crew include both returning and new members to Asparagus including Buck Crich as Adam, Mary Anne Domarchuk as Leona, Phelan Gotto as David, Kaila Sinclair as Deanna, Lois Archer-Duell as Pam, Paul Kirkwood-Hackett as Jim, and Aileen Brand as Daisy.
“The characters in the play are based on real people – from the dozens of things I have seen and heard. Even though they are not based on any one particular person, people here should still enjoy seeing a reflection on themselves. It was great fun to write,” said Trussell.
Fertile Ground runs at Centennial Theatre June 4 to 6 and June 10 to 13. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and curtain rises at 8 p.m. Tickets are at the Guy Next Door in Armstrong. Phone 250-546-0950 to make a reservation.