Oh, the stories that park bench could tell if it only had the chance. It witnesses the joys of life and bears the sorrows of all those who choose to sit on it. It’s also the key prop for The Park Bench, which will be performed at the Arden Theatre Father’s Day weekend, June 15, 16 and 17.
“It’s the story of the bench that people walk by. Some of the people are connected and the central characters are Kate and Joe. Joe is struggling with dementia and they are worried about the future. He sings a song to his wife, I’ll Know You by Heart,” said playwright Sandra Brenneis.
The Park Bench is a fundraiser for Harmony Haven, which is the secure unit for residents with dementia, who live at West Country Hearth. The inspiration for the play came to Brenneis about five years ago when she and fellow volunteers were sweeping up construction debris at the Villeneuve seniors’ facility.
“It’s a story that is about all parts of life. Everyone has a story and I am always interested by how we all have an impact on each other,” Brenneis said.
Brenneis explained that as she swept, she kept thinking about what it would be like to lose your memory. Nonetheless, the play is about all the other people who pass by that park bench too. In all, there is a cast of 30 and the characters range from a young romantic couple to a woman in a troubled marriage, whose husband struggles with alcoholism.
This is the third play for Brenneis, whose previous efforts include Mary’s Veil and The Lost Apostle. This is the first one that is non-denominational and less religious in nature. It is also the first to include dialogue as well as music.
“The others were straight music but this is a different venture. I wanted to tell the stories about the great moments in life, such as when we fall in love, and I wanted to tell how small things impact us all,” she said.
Presently there are 13 units in Harmony Haven. With the support of this fundraiser, it’s hoped that the unit will expand and there will be room for 26 people. The cost of the project is $2.1 million and there is a grant in place for $1 million.
The Park Bench is written by Brenneis and produced by her new company GHG Productions and performed by members of the Villeneuve Choir.
Performances are at the Arden Theatre: Friday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 16 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 17 at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Tickets, $20, are available from the Arden Theatre box office, 780-459-1542.