A Saskatchewan holiday tradition is back for another year.
Meacham’s Dancing Sky Theatre is presenting another prairie panto — and the 2017 offering is actually a remount of one its most popular stories from the past.
Farmer Joe and the Money Trees opened on Dec. 1, and it is likely to be familiar to some audience members. It was the theatre’s inaugural prairie panto in 2004, and one of the seven pantos Dancing Sky has produced in 12 years.
Crispi Lord was originally involved in writing the show and is currently a cast member in the remount. She said in an interview with Saskatchewan Weekend that “it’s so much fun to come back” to the production, which features slapstick comedy, songs and puppets.
“We really, when we started, had no idea if it was going to be well received or if people were going to get into the spirit of things,” Lord said of the prairie panto genre.
“And, since we’ve done seven of them now, it’s really fun to come back to the first one and polish it up.”
The story centres on the character Jack, played by Lord, who is sent by his mother to the city to sell land in an effort to save the family farm. He earns a dollar from the sale and plants it, which sprouts a money tree — and greed in his community.
Cast member Kent Allen said the show “portrays the iconic farm position and the attitude of steady, thoughtful, caring, giving, honest.”
“It really is about Saskatchewan sensibilities, rural sensibilities,” he said.
Farmer Joe and the Money Trees was written in three weeks by Dancing Sky director Angus Ferguson and other well-known local theatre artists, including Lord and James O’Shea.
There is no single playwright for the pantos; rather, multiple people are involved in creating the storylines together.
“It’s developed as an ensemble cast, so we bring it together as a collective. Angus directs it and starts us with an idea, the seed of an idea, and we develop the script together,” said Lord.
Production fine-tuned for 2017
“So this year, because we’re bringing it back, we had a full script to start with — which is very different in the pantos for us — but we still had a lot of fun fine-tuning it on our feet and rewriting things as we went.”
Amidst all of the chaos of a panto, the hearts of the characters still come through, said Lord.
“I think it’s just joyful to sit with so many talented actors and artists and be able to let them shine through the whole process,” she said.