Sarah Rennie –
Tina Tucker Bye, one half of the driving force behind Huntingdon’s Grove Hall, has been selected as one of five artists from the Monteregie-Ouest to receive a grant from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Valued at $16,000, the grant was awarded to Bye and her creative partner Christopher Pennington to create a new musical comedy inspired by the Valley.
Years ago, the building now housing the Bothai Restaurant and Les Entreprises Rankin in Huntingdon was a restaurant called The Rendez-Vous Café, remembered fondly by locals as a near-perfect old-school diner. This small piece of local history in the hands of Tina Bye amounted to a “little inspiration drop that became a wave,” she says, of what will likely become the main setting for the play.
Bye and Tina first discovered they work particularly well as a pair during the time collaborating on the play On the Line in 2017 at Grove Hall. “We just really enjoyed working together,” she says of Pennington, who she credits with being an especially gifted musician (he produced the original score for On the Line) with a secret talent for scriptwriting. The pair have already met on several occasions to talk out the new play.
The main concept for the play will centre on four characters living in a small rural town over a period spanning the 1970s to today with the backdrop of significant moments in Quebec history, from the FLQ Crisis to the referendum “There is very little written about the French-English relationship in Quebec,” says Bye, suggesting this is especially the case from the Anglophone perspective in rural Quebec. The idea is to delve into the way these two cultures evolved while casting a glance at the impact these events had at a local level. To keep the story as authentic as possible, the pair are now looking for stories or anecdotes that could be used to help build a better picture of life in small town Quebec.
The creation of a play from the ground up represents a different kind of challenge for Bye. “It is very creative and open ended, without the concrete needs of a production,” she says, noting the time to explore afforded by this grant is a luxury that is simply not there with most of the productions staged at Grove Hall.
Of course, the creative chaos of a live show will come in time, but for now, she is happy to take a step back and see where the ride on that wave of inspiration takes them. While still at the very beginning of the process, the final product to emerge from the grant is expected to be a public reading in May to be held at Grove Hall.
A busy Fall
While May seems off in the distance, there is much to anticipate at Grove Hall in the meantime. With a steady line-up of musicians and bands throughout November and December, including a stop by the Yukon-based Western swing band Stony Loner and his Rhythm Rounders on November 24, an homage to Led Zeppelin in celebration of the bands 50th anniversary with the ultimate tribute band Kashmir on December 1, and the Bowie Revisited Show on December 8. Grove Hall is also hosting Social Dance for Dummies classes that are becoming extremely popular, as well as Youth Theatre Workshops on the weekend.