The Gift of Remembrance

Gripping one woman show pays tribute to veterans

By Hanna Fridhed, Connect Contributor

Julia Mackey as Jake in the one act play Jake’s Gift, which was performed at the Keyano Recital Theatre on November 14. Photo by Tim Matheson

Julia Mackey as Jake in the one act play Jake’s Gift, which was performed at the Keyano Recital Theatre on November 14. Photo by Tim Matheson

On November 14, the Keyano Recital Theatre was visited by the disarming and heartwarming one act play Jake’s Gift, written and performed by Julia Mackey and directed by Dirk Van Stralen.

Jake’s Gift is a multi-award winning play about Jake, a Canadian WW2 veteran who reluctantly returns to Juno Beach for the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. While revisiting the shores of Juno Beach, Jake encounters Isabelle, a precocious 10-year-old from the local village.

Isabelle’s inquisitive nature and charm challenge the old soldier to confront some long-ignored ghosts – most notably the war-time death of his eldest brother, Chester, a once promising young musician. Jake’s Gift is about the legacy of remembrance and makes personal the story behind one soldier’s grave.

As a young girl, Julia Mackey watched a documentary about WWII and it marked the first time she ever saw such horrific imagery. She remembers crying, and after visiting the Arlington National Cemetery in grade 7, the seed to care deeply about Remembrance Day was sown.

In June 2004, she travelled to Normandy, France, for the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. She attended several of the ceremonies, walked the coastline and interviewed dozens of veterans who had returned for the occasion. The experiences of the veterans, her own discoveries, and a lifelong interest in Remembrance Day, led to the development of Jake’s Gift.

2016 marks the 10 year anniversary of the play. Since they began touring in January 2007, Juno Productions has toured Jake’s Gift to over 225 communities across Canada, including stops in the US, the UK and a notable performance in Normandy, France, for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.

Julia Mackey did not only write this powerful one act production, she also plays all of the characters with great conviction, capturing their mannerisms and quirks without missing a beat. Jake’s arthritic hands and slow gait, Mackey’s endearing playfulness and the somber sweetness of her grandmother are all portrayed with honesty and skill.

“Having spent ten years with these characters, they feel like friends, like real people,” said Mackey. “I love spending time with them, I get a lot of enjoyment out of showing their story. Jake, who is very old and Isabelle, who is very young are both at an age where they don’t care what other people think.”

In Jake’s Gift, the young girl Isabelle in the play often speaks of her fascination and love for the Burlington Teen Band from Ontario, who performed during the 60th Anniversary of D-Day.

To Mackey’s huge surprise, a member from the band who was present during the anniversary, local resident Diana Moser, was in the audience during the performance and was deeply touched by the play.

“It was a beautiful performance,” said Moser.

After the evening performance at Keyano Recital Theatre, Julia Mackey presented the Fort McMurray Legion Branch with a beautiful commemorative painting.

– Connect Weekly –