Stones in the Woods sheds light on part of the community’s history

The Cellar Door Project presents a play based on the story of the Kingston observatory

Performers share their message on a sunny afternoon in City Park.
Image supplied by: Tim Fort
Performers share their message on a sunny afternoon in City Park.

Set in a quiet, woody area of City Park, Stones in the Woods isn’t only a historically informative play, but an intimate, well-acted one.

The one-act play is presented by The Cellar Door Project, a non-profit organization that uses theatrical presentation as a means to refreshingly convey stories of Canadian history − many of which are unknown to viewers.

Stones in the Woods is set in 19th-century Kingston and is based around the Queen’s University observatory that once resided in City Park.

The story begins with Colette (Nikki Clydesdale), an eccentric prostitute living in the woods with nothing but her tattered clothing, crocheting skills and sharp wit. Violet (Mariah Horner), a curious and knowledgeable young woman, visits Colette often and is supremely fascinated with the concept of stars.

This is where Nathan − a young clock-maker hired to work at the potential observatory being built in Kingston − arrives, to the excitement of Violet. Nathan (Cameron Horack) explains to the two women that the ground they stand upon will soon be home to an observatory, and the four flat gray stones scattered around the woods are where it will be built.

From there, the hot-headed, misogynistic William (Sean Meldrum) is introduced, who is mysteriously linked to both Violet and Colette and despises the concept of the observatory.

As the play progresses, it unravels points of symbolism and history that work together to create a unique piece of theatre.

Perhaps the most charming part of the play is the factor of intimacy, with 20 chairs for audience members to sit in a circle around one of the stones. The actors phenomenally utilize the amount of space given to them, both within the circle and outside of it through voice projection and subtle interactions with the audience.

Horner and Devon Jackson, both ArtSci ’15, were the artistic play directors and were involved in constructing the vision and direction of the play over a two-and-a-half-month period of time.

Horner, who acted in the play in addition to directing it, said their main focus when creating the concept was getting people interested in the historical references.

“The best part of tonight was watching everyone go and find the stones,” Horner said, after the play finished. “History has such a great potential to excite people and the best part of it, to me, is getting people excited about the history of the stones.”

Jackson said the process of putting the play together was much quicker than he had previously been used to.

“Our last project took a year and a half, and this one took two-and-a-half months,” he said. “It was a lot of intensive rehearsal, which we’re not used to − we just had to focus and reach out to people who we knew would be interested.”

In many ways, Stones in the Woods captured the essence of an important part of Kingston, and depicted the history of the observatory in a unique way.

Considering the directors had such a short time to plan, the play came together nicely, Jackson said.

“Nothing in theatre is going to be perfect,” he said. “But we’re perfectly content with that.”

Stones in the Woods runs from Sept 23-Sept 27 in City Park.


History, Play

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