Rick Seutter (Alphonso) and Joan Badke (Liza) rehearse a scene from Asparagus Community Theatre’s Chickens

Rick Seutter (Alphonso) and Joan Badke (Liza) rehearse a scene from Asparagus Community Theatre’s Chickens

Play takes a ‘cluck’ at life of farmers and their feathered friends

The life of a farmer is nothing to cluck at. Often up at the crack of dawn to feed and/or milk their animals, collect the eggs, and tend to their crops, it can be a dirty, low-paying, thankless job. 

Except, when you get back to the breakfast table and the reality sinks in: Food equals life. Therefore, farming is integral to life.

Julie Dorsey knows about life on the farm, having lived on one most of her life. And now she is about to get inside the heads of both farmers, and the certain feathered friends they tend, in the play Chickens, opening at Armstrong’s Centennial Theatre Wednesday.

“This show is broader than its rural connection. The chickens are portrayed by humans, and take on human personality traits,” said Dorsey, who has been involved with Asparagus Community Theatre for more than 12 years, more recently as music director, and is sitting in the director’s chair for the first time. 

“Mind you, I thought this play would be a good fit for Armstrong.”

Written by award-winning playwright and actress Lucia Frangione (Cariboo Magi, Espresso), Chickens, at first, appears as a simple musical-comedy about life on the farm. However, under the surface are more serious issues of life: finances, family relationships, and guilt from the past colouring the present. 

“I had a friend tell me about the play, and when I received the script, it sat beside my bed for a long time,” said Dorsey, who eventually went to see a live production of it at Gallery 7 in Abbotsford. 

“I had no preconceived ideas about it, and once I saw it, I could not get it out of my head: the music, and real stories about life on the farm didn’t leave me.”

After securing the rights to stage the play, Dorsey set out to cast her farmers, and chickens, just before Christmas. 

The actors and crew have since been working the past two months on their own version of Animal Farm, without the Orwellian-style rebellion.

“My initial thought was how to translate chicken to the audience, and how far to take it when the chickens have these human personalities,” said Dorsey. “They are not just clucking, there’s lots of lines to memorize.”

The story follows farmer Pal (Doug Fairweather) and his wife, Liza (Joan Badke), who disagree about how to save their family farm. Meanwhile, in the chicken coop, two roosters, Alphonso and Nibs (Rick Seutter and Rory White), and two hens, Stewer and Butter (Mandy Penner and Charissa Seutter), parallel the couple’s life and get down and dirty with the pressures of egg fertilization, the country poultry fair, and the question of flying. 

Real-life brothers, Allen and George Bensmiller,  keep the pace moving with toe-tapping music. 

“I’ve been deep in the process of bringing the farm to life. It’s all been a learning experience, and I’ve learned a lot more about chickens,” said Dorsey, who does want to not disclose the ending to this poultry affair: life or the KFC bucket.

“You’ll just have to come and see the show to find out.”

Chickens opens Wednesday and runs to March 5  and March 9  to 12. (The March 9 show is now sold out.) All start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12.50 for seniors/students, available at The Guy Next Door. Call 250-546-0950.