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Jake's Gift spurs remembrance through drama

As Airdronians reflect on the sacrifices of military veterans this November, a production by writer/performer Julia Mackey will provide another opportunity to keep the torch of remembrance alive.
Solo Performer
Writer/performer Julia Mackey portrays four different roles in “Jake’s Gift,” a drama about a veteran of the Second World War who returns to Normandy to find his brother’s grave.

As Airdronians reflect on the sacrifices of military veterans this November, a production by writer/performer Julia Mackey will provide another opportunity to keep the torch of remembrance alive. Jake’s Gift – taking the stage at Bert Church LIVE Theatre (BCLT) Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. – is the story of Jake, a veteran of the Second World War who returns to Normandy to find his brother’s grave. While there, he meets a young French girl, Isabelle, who lives in the town Jake helped liberate. “She really is the person that helps him deal with the loss of his brother and these unresolved ghosts,” Mackey said. “The story is really about friendship and loss and how we help one another through those difficult times.” Mackey performs the roles of all four characters in the piece. The play, she said, is driven primarily through dialogue, with Mackey switching between the four roles. “Each character is very distinct vocally and also physically,” she said. “One of the greatest compliments we’ve gotten is people say, ‘I felt like there was four people on stage.’” According to Mackey, the play’s central character was developed during a workshop. “I started to write this story about these three brothers from the prairies, and their connection to the Second World War,” she said. “After that workshop was finished, I didn’t feel complete with the character of Jake and I really loved that character.” Inspiration for the play came after Mackey visited Normandy in 2004 for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Spending 10 days in France, Mackey conducted several interviews and began writing the play, which she debuted in 2007. “We are almost at 1,000 performances,” Mackey said. “In December, we’re going to reach our 1,000th performance of the show.” More than a decade later, Mackey said she continues to perform the drama to keep the memory of the wars – and, more importantly, the soldiers who fought and died – alive. Remembrance is the most important theme of the play, Mackey said, personified through the character of Isabelle. It is vital to recognize the sacrifices made by veterans and the number of people that gave their lives to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today, she added. “What I’ve discovered and learned over the years of doing this play…is that if the war had gone in a completely different direction and the Allies hadn’t won the war, we don’t know how horrible life might have been,” Mackey said. The upcoming performance will be the first time Mackey has stopped in Airdrie. “We’ve tried to come before, but it just never lined up with the dates,” she said. “We’re so excited, because we’ve been wanting to come to [BCLT] for a long time.” Regular admission for the show costs $26, with student and senior admission $24. Tickets are available at ticketpro.ca. As a bonus, anyone who purchases tickets for Jake’s Gift and the Nov. 24 performance by the Wardens will receive a 25 per cent discount. Mackey will also be selling buttons at the show, with all proceeds going to the Airdrie Legion.