Celebrating the arts in Brome-Missisquoi
Playwright, actor, and musician Laura Teasdale is concerned with the facts. Originally from Nova Scotia, Teasdale has called Quebec home for more than 25 years, where she has enjoyed a successful theatre career. As an artist, Teasdale’s work is informed by the histories that lay uncovered within the land on which we walk today, but remains grounded in exciting narratives that come alive across the stage.
Teasdale first came to Brome-Missisquoi County from Montreal in 1994 as an actor, ready to take part in a production with Theatre Lac Brome. Her first season with the theatre left her in awe at the vibrant English arts community and stunning landscapes that surround Knowlton, and soon afterwards relocated to the area.
“In Montreal I was always writing little things, putting together scenes and shows and cabarets,” Teasdale explains. “But after I moved out [to Lac Brome] I wrote all the time […] I really blossomed as a playwright when I got there because everyone made me feel so valued.”
While she had not always been a writer, Teasdale has always been an avid history buff. As she began writing, she found that playwriting could be a vehicle to transmit her passion for history. She started writing plays informed by the local histories she came across in Knowlton and the Eastern Townships, which can be found notably in her plays Love For Sale, Home Child, and Woodswalker.
Woodswalker required particular care when crafting its narrative, since Teasdale herself is not someone from the Abenaki community. While doing research at Knowlton archives, Brome County Historical Society, and Pettes Memorial Library, Teasdale read stories of kidnappings of British children by Abenaki tribe members in the area during the 16th century. She was particularly struck by one story of a boy who was kidnapped and did not want to return to his parents after he was found.
“I like the power of wanting to see something and then being able to do it, to make it happen,” she explains. “When I wrote [Woodswalker] I wanted to know what that boy would have said to his parents, so I made that happen. That’s a big part of it, shaping the world and manifesting what you want.”
Teasdale remains conscious of the responsibility on her shoulders when choosing to engage directly with local history. While writing Woodswalker, she spent time in Odanak, the Abenaki reserve in Central Quebec, and browsed through oral histories at the Abenaki Museum. As a writer, the lived experiences of people can often become just names or characters on the page, but Teasdale engages directly with the communities involved to be sure she is giving fair representation, even though none of the characters in Woodswalker are Indigenous.
“It can suck the joy out of a play to be too correct and careful,” Teasdale explains. “You need people to do things like be a protagonist, or antagonist. If you’re too careful you make it really anemic. So it’s always a balancing act, but that’s why comedy is the best. Everyone knows I’m taking the piss out of it.”
Teasdale considers her piece Honky Tonk Blue – The Night Patsy Met Hank to be the “bread and butter” of her career, a comedy-musical that details a fateful meeting between Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. In her own prophetic way, she wanted to see Cline and Williams on stage together so she made it happen, which was fortunately picked up immediately.
Many of Teasdale’s works use comedy and laughter to bring joy to audiences and transmit her messages, particularly when working with young students. She has been teaching art, drama, and music in the Quebec school system for over 14 years in both English and French, instilling a love for theatre in children and community members alike.
“In a basic way, [theatre] is an empathy machine for kids,” she says. “It’s also teaching confidence. Separate from all that is the actual joy and pleasure of it, which is worth a lot too. It’s so pleasurable for kids to play and be young and foolish together.”
Teasdale is currently working on a musical comedy based on her father’s family heritage. The play follows a repertoire season that is vaguely inspired by Theatre Lac Brome. She is also writing a play for The Knowlton Player’s fundraiser in support of the Pettes Memorial Library this summer.
This project has been made possible by the Community Media Strategic Support Fund offered jointly by the Official Language Minority Community Media Consortium and the Government of Canada.