Why chickens are crossing the Vanderhoof stage

Chickens, farmers, and musicians are cooping up on stage to entertain the Vanderhoof audience with poultry behaviour this season.

Chickens The Musical

Chickens, farmers, and musicians are cooping up on stage to entertain the Vanderhoof audience with poultry behaviour this season.

From Nov. 3 to Nov. 12, Vanderhoof Community Theatre Society is presenting Chickens The Musical over two weekends at Nechako Valley Secondary’s Integris Community Theatre.

Written by Canadian playwright Lucia Frangione, the musical is set in Alberta during the 1980s farming recession.

A struggling farmer and his wife was backed up against bank loans and attempted to start their business again with chickens, described producer Sylvia Byron.

“The chickens become representatives of different parts of their personality: the males represent parts of him, the females her,” Byron said. “It’s a discovery of the past, overcoming tragedy, and working through small town family farm struggles.”

The script features authentic chicken personalities and is flooded with chicken puns, including the occasional movie reference.

“As a chicken owner, this scriptwriter knows the chickens and their personalities,” Byron added. “If you own chickens, you’ll get a kick out of some of the dynamics of the play, and if you’re not, you’ll still find it hilarious.

“It’s lighthearted and funny, but very poignant.”

With six actors, this year’s production showcases live music accompaniment from seven musicians and 10 instruments — including a banjo, an accordion, a stand-up bass, a washboard, and a kazoo — that will be housed in a makeshift barn loft on stage.

First-timer efforts are also centre-stage this season: Megan Young, though not new to theatre, directs a musical for the first time; Sarah Hara also participates for the first time as a stage manager; and two on-stage participants — Charlene Wiebe and Lori Wallace — are acting for the first time.

Wallace watched many plays and made costumes — her husband and kids were actors — and was asked by the director, who is also her daughter, to audition this time.

“I always say yes when people ask me to do stuff and I knew I couldn’t sing, but there were non-musical parts I could participate in,” Wallace said. Her daughter might have been worried about the empty nest syndrome, as all five children have departed from the Wallace home for the first time, she added.

“So I thought I would cross to the other side and try [acting.]”

With many puns, the play is a healthy opportunity to cackle out loud, Wallace said. She plays a 40-year-old farmer’s wife, and will be sharing the stage with her husband Kevin, who plays one of the four chickens in the play.

“It’s all you do,” Wallace said. “For example, when one of us says, ‘Fine,’ the other says, ‘Fine, fine, fine,’ [as part of the play.]

“It just takes over.”

Through the play, Wallace learns that chicken owners relate to their chickens.

“They depend on you and if you’re not around, they will die because they are so stupid [and could not take of themselves,” she said. “But it makes you feel like a strong benefactor.