Norm Foster turns to his adopted roots for his latest play, Come Down From Up River. It opens in Collingwood on Aug. 7.
“I’ve written two previous plays on the Maritimes and thought I’d like to write a third and set it in the province I live in, New Brunswick,” said Foster, adding the play is named for the expression ‘up river,’ which is used for anyone who lives on a river.
The central character lives up river, on the Miramichi, where he works as a logger in the woods of northern New Brunswick. Shaver Bennett lives a relatively solitary life until he revisits his past to make amends with his deceased sister’s daughter, who is now an adult and married to another woman. He is traveling to a hospital in Saint John to have a medical issue checked out. His niece lives in the same city.
Foster enjoys writing about relationships, all kinds, whether it is between family members, friendships or work. The majority of his stories are comedies. This one has the added elements of drama and heart.
“I think the audience will like it,” he said. “It’s not specific to the Maritimes and has a great cast.”
Foster grew up in Toronto, where he started out as a writer but not, at that time, for theatre. He wanted to write for television but back in the early 70s was told there was no market in Canada for TV writers. As result, he switched over to radio. A job offer in 1979 took him to Fredericton and he fell in love with the city.
His first exposure to theatre occurred a year later when a friend invited him to audition for a community production. On a lark, he accepted and landed the part. At that point, he had never seen a play in his life yet two years later, he wrote his first professionally-produced work, a farce called Sinners. The link between writing for radio and theatre, for Foster, was dialogue.
Since then, he has become one of Canada’s most prolific playwrights. He is considered to be the most produced playwright in the country. After writing more than 55 plays and two musicals, there is even a festival dedicated to his work. In 2016, he was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
When he isn’t writing new plays, Foster enjoys playing tennis. He has also been known to appear on stage as an actor several times each year. He is currently working on a new musical.
Divorced with four children, Foster remarried a few months ago in Bermuda. She is an actor-singer, he met through a composer friend. The couple plan to spend a month together in Ontario this summer.
Come Down From Up River runs from Aug. 7-11 at the Gayety Theatre in Collingwood. Visit theatrecollingwood.ca or call 1-866-382-2200 for tickets.
photo: Norm Foster brings his latest play, Come Down From Up River, to Collingwood on Aug. 7-11.