Writer's first play delves deep into psyches

A 90-MINUTE PLAY by Comox Valley writer J.S. Hill has received a glowing endorsement from notable Canadian playwright Sharon Pollack. - TERRY PENNEY
A 90-MINUTE PLAY by Comox Valley writer J.S. Hill has received a glowing endorsement from notable Canadian playwright Sharon Pollack.
— image credit: TERRY PENNEY

When I’m 64, a 90-minute play by Comox Valley playwright J.S. Hill, is earning kudos beyond the Valley.

Leading Canadian playwright and Governor-General Award winner Sharon Pollack commented,  “When I’m 64 is really a charming play. It’s entertaining and quite solid. I’m sure not only audiences, but actors, will love the roles.”

With Pollock’s endorsement, interest in the play is stirring in a major centre, but Hill won’t say at this time much for fear of jinxing the opportunity.

Although this is Hill’s first attempt at writing a play, he is no stranger to the theatre. He was a professional actor in William Hutt’s hand-picked Young Company at Theatre London, and performed in four West End productions in London, England.

A fork in the road and a Jesuit education led Hill away from the theatre and into real-life drama doing medical ethics and spiritual care for the sick, dying and the bereaved, a vocation Hill calls “a privilege.” It is this experience that sets the foundation for 64.

The play, performed as a dramatic reading, follows six female characters “of a certain age.” Although each character’s story is unique, they are connected by a thread of compassion and underlying strength.

It is a funny, poignant and authentic treatment of common mid-life issues that dig deep into the psyche of each character.

“Minimalist staging and limited props allow the audience and actors to focus 100 per cent on the spoken word, to centre their attention on the story of each woman,” says Hill.

Being a male playwright makes this play all the more remarkable. Some critics might question the credibility of a man appropriating the inner thoughts of women.

“All of us share a common humanity, whatever our gender,” says Hill.

As with author Arthur Golden, who wrote the 1997 bestseller Memoirs of a Geisha, Steve Hill has a talent for getting deep inside the hearts and heads of his female characters.

“Through my work in pastoral care, I had the privilege to hear what really mattered to women, many of whom faced huge challenges. The strength in these women and the power of their stories still resonate with me. The characters in 64 are an amalgam of some of these.”

Hill understands that we share our most intimate stories, our most sacred thoughts, when someone we trust really listens. That’s when our humanity surfaces.

Merlin’s Sun House Theatre in Victoria is staging When I’m 64 on Feb. 1, a performance that has already sold out. It is also being performed through Elder College at North Island College on March 14.

Tickets for the Feb. 1 production in Victoria are available by contacting Tim Gosley at 1-250-598-7488 or timgosley@telus.net.

For more information, e-mail Steve Hill at playtrain@gmail.com or 250-941-3976.

Katherine Gibson is a bestselling author of several books who lives in Comox.

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