The Story behind the Story: Robert Chafe’s Chance Encounter

Colony-img 8957  large
NAC English Theatre 2016-2017 Season The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
Colony-of-unrequited-dreams  large
NAC English Theatre 2016-2017 Season The Colony of Unrequited Dreams

Attending pre-performance chats and donor previews are one of the many benefits donors receive when they support performance, creation and learning across Canada through the National Arts Centre Foundation. On January 26, National Arts Centre Foundation supporters attended an informative talk by Artistic Director and playwright Robert Chafe about his play The Colony of Unrequited Dreams before they attended its preview. The following is just one of the things they learned:  

There is a saying that sometimes the answer you are looking for is right under your nose. In playwright Robert Chafe’s case, the story he was looking to bring to the Shaw Festival’s stage fell right at his feet. Sometimes, confined living quarters can open a world of possibility.

It was the holiday season and Robert wanted to put up a tree. He was feeling festive though he had been struggling to find the right story for the Shaw Festival after its Literary Manager, Joanna Falck, asked him to create something for the theatre and to “think big”. The problem (with the tree) was that he would have to move his bookcase. Everyone knows that emptying a bookcase full of books—and of course a playwright’s bookcase is full to the tilt—is a lot of work. So of course Robert did what any efficient person would do...he tried to shimmy it out of the way to make room for the tree. And that’s when Wayne Johnston’s tome The Colony of Unrequited Dreams fell to his feet.

This was Robert’s eureka moment. It would be a perfect play for the Shaw stage: it is a Canadian story; the action took place during George Bernard Shaw’s lifetime, and it was a bestseller that would appeal to Shaw’s American patrons. Robert quickly called Joanna, was given the go-ahead, and the rest is history. The only unanswered question is, did he ever put up the tree?

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams plays at in the NAC English Theatre until February 11, 2017.

A special thank you to our Open Rehearsal and Preview Sponsor, Rob Marland, Royal LePage Performance Realty who makes these sessions possible for NAC Foundation donors.

Join more than 6,500 champions of performance, creation and learning by supporting Canadian artists, educators and students through the NAC Foundation.

Join our email list for the latest updates!