Jake's Gift was born in a three-week full-time intensive Mask Characterization workshop Pacific Theatre offered early in 2002. Based on the work of Libby Appel, then Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and previously my acting teacher and mentor at CalArts, the intensely physical process led about a dozen established and emerging actors through a journey that culminated in the creation of remarkably rich and complex characters. Perhaps the richest and most complex of them all was Jake Spleen, a crusty and isolated World War Two vet who struck up an uneasy friendship with a little girl in a park - the story-line that became the spine of Mercy Wild, the collective creation which came out of that workshop process and which Pacific Theatre premiered in December of that year.
It was obvious that Julia Mackey had an extraordinary transformative ability as an actor. But that came as no surprise to anyone who had seen her work in a dizzying array of other roles: Jules is a chameleon. The revelation was that she also possessed an innate sense of story: in exercise after exercise, fully-formed narratives kept emerging from her fertile imagination. Not just great situations, but great stories. Beginning, middle, end. Set-up, discovery, surprise, reversal, revelation, resolution - all those tools in the story-teller's tool box seemed to come to hand without effort.
So it seemed inevitable when Julia decided to make Jake his own show. Not only had she discovered a character she couldn't walk away from, she came to realize what a deep and abiding respect and affection she had for the people who have served in Canada's wars and conflicts all over the world. So, endless interviews and books and conversations later, after a research trip to Normandy to see Canadian veterans honoured, and following hundreds of performances for audiences all across Canada... Jake returns to Pacific Theatre.
Welcome home, Jake.
Jake's Gift runs Apr 6 - 16 at Pacific Theatre
photo credit: this is a snapshot Jules took
on her visit to the ceremonies honouring Canadian veterans at Normandy