Elizabeth Elwood

Body and Soul wins two CTC awards.

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Elizabeth Elwood | 0 comments

Body&SoulPosterVagabond Player’s production of Body and Soul  was a winner in two categories at the Community Theatre Coalition awards. Elizabeth Elwood and Jacqollyne Keath won for Best Sound Design and Miles Lavkulich won for Best Lighting. Kudos also to Mary Larsen, Miles and Elizabeth for their nominations for Best Set Decoration and Best Significant Achievement. Congratulations to all the CTC winners and nominees, and a special thank you to the wonderful Body and Soul cast, crew and production team that made the project so successful.

 

CTC 1

Body and Soul director, Elizabeth Elwood, received the award for Best Sound Design.

 

Cast photo

collage copy

 

Set design by Elizabeth Elwood

Set design by Elizabeth Elwood

Read More

Oops! Do I dare admit a link between one of my characters and a real-life person!

Posted by on Jun 4, 2017 in Elizabeth Elwood | 0 comments

Front coverThe Devil Gets His Due and Other Mystery Stories, as with my other books, comes with a disclaimer that the characters in the various tales are entirely a product of my imagination. However, unlike my other books, Devil has one notable exception where fact meets fiction, and what fun that was to write.

Anne Kent in “The House of Once Before” is the one exception and her character is based on National Post columnist, Barbara Kay, who has encouraged my writing ever since I sent out review copies of my first book. After reading To Catch an Actress, Barbara contacted me to say how much she had enjoyed it and gave me permission to quote her endorsements. She continued to be supportive after my second book was published, and subsequently, when I was visiting Montreal, we arranged to meet.

3 Day Event_Front coverWe discussed mystery writing—Barbara also had a manuscript in the works, later to be published as the intriguing mystery novel, A Three-Day Event—and when I told her my intention to use Montreal as a setting for a future story, she laughed and asked if my outspoken protagonist, Bertram Beary, was going to meet an equally outspoken newspaper columnist on his travels.  I took this comment as lightly as Barbara had made it, but after I returned to Vancouver, we kept in touch.

0595428509.qxdSubsequently, I wrote two more books and after The Beacon and Other Mystery Stories came out, Barbara gave me another wonderful boost when she featured my series in her column. A couple of years later, Barbara and her husband were downsizing, and she wrote a column about their new home, which happened to be a house that she had visited and loved in her youth.  The next time we were in touch, I quipped that her move would make a great subject for a mystery story. She reminded me that we had joked about Beary meeting an outspoken lady columnist and suggested that this was my chance to make it happen.

prospect pointAnd so “The House of Once Before” was born. Naturally, Barbara’s new home had an imaginary set of characters as the first occupants, for these provided the mystery that Anne Kent solved. It was great fun to create a literary mystery for a female protagonist who, like Bertram Beary, never fears to say what she thinks and refuses to hide behind the veil of political correctness. Thank you, Barbara, for stepping into my story and making it special.

The photo above was taken at Prospect Point during Barbara’s recent visit to Vancouver.

 

Read More

Inspiration from Fort Benton

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Elizabeth Elwood | 0 comments

Inspiration from Fort Benton

One of the advantages of writing a short-story collection is that I can send my characters travelling to places that I have enjoyed visiting myself. One such location is a small town that we discovered while searching for a coffee shop during a cross-country driving trip several years ago. Fort Benton, which boasts of being ‘The birthplace of Montana’, is located on the Missouri River a little below the series of rapids that gave Great Falls its name. Because the river was not navigable beyond that point, the town became the place where the steamboats stopped and the stage coaches began.

FFF39Starting as a fur-trading post and later sold to the military, Fort Benton was where infamous trails such as the Whoop-up Trail to Alberta and the Fort Walsh Trail to Saskatchewan began. According to one of the plaques in the riverside park, the town in the early days was so wild that the U.S. Calvalry had to be called in if arrests had to be made.

M0NTANA FLAGSWith the advent of the North West Mounted Police in 1874, however, the whiskey trade was halted and an era of commercial interaction and cooperation between Canada and Fort Benton began. This historic connection is reflected in the three flagpoles that stand by the river, for the Canadian flag flies between the U.S. and the Montana State flags.

THE CAMELBACK BRIDGEIn 1883, the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad to Helena and the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Calgary caused a decline in business and ended Fort Benton’s importance as a prosperous commercial hub; however, there are still many fascinating sites to see that reflect the town’s history and its glory days. The Fort Benton Bridge, which was the first bridge to cross the Missouri River in Montana Territory, is the oldest steel truss bridge remaining in the state. THE COLONEL'S ENDAlthough a new traffic bridge was built in 1963, the old bridge is accessible as a walking bridge and provides lovely views of the river and surrounding hills. When I strolled out and watched the powerful Missouri churning past the metal plates that sheathed the concrete piers below the bridge, I realized it was the perfect location to begin a mystery story.

GRAND HOTELAnother striking historical landmark in Fort Benton is the Grand Union Hotel, built in 1882. Although the hotel failed when the town’s fortunes declined, a multi-million-dollar project in the nineties restored the hotel to its former elegance, and now it provides a delightful lodging and dining experience for visitors to the town. Fine dining, old-world atmosphere, and a saloon providing beer on tap with highly original names! My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our stay there, and I resolved on the spot that one of my story characters would have to stay there at some point in the future.

CLOSE UP OF SHEPThe thing that most deeply touched my heart, though, when we first visited the town, was the statue of a dog that stands outside the Grand Union Hotel. Our dog, Max, had died shortly before we began our trip, so the Montana memorial was particularly moving for me. The statue is of a dog called Shep, whose sad story goes back to 1936 when his master died and the body was sent back east at the request of his family. The faithful dog kept vigil at the railway station, continuing to watch for his master until the day he died. Shep was buried on the hillside overlooking the railway station and a small cairn marks the spot, alongside the original Shep memorial.

FB28The statue by the hotel is a bronze sculpture surrounded by bricks that people can buy to commemorate their own pets. Naturally, we bought a brick to commemorate Max, and on a subsequent trip to Montana, we returned to see it in place. So if you ever visit Fort Benton, be sure to look for the brick that bears the name, Max, the Ho Hum Husky.

FB33The Shep statue was not the only moving tribute to dogs in the town of Fort Benton. The military park adjacent to the fort has a section devoted to service dogs, and predictably, one of the plaques is dedicated to a Shep who served in Vietnam. Naturally, having visited the two Shep memorials and having read the touching dedication to service dogs in the military park, it was inevitable that the final story in my latest book would be a novella set in Fort Benton and developed around a series of incidents related to dogs. Now that The Devil Gets his Due and Other Mystery Stories is out, I hope readers will enjoy their literary visit to this charming town as much as I enjoyed our stays there.

CH3Oh, and by the way, Fort Benton did have that coffee shop we were looking for, and it was a delightful one too!

Front cover reduced2

 

Now available on Amazon

 

EXCERPT:  The footbridge that crosses the Missouri River at Fort Benton is the most historically significant bridge in Montana. Certainly, it is one of the oldest, built in 1888, a year before the Territory became a State and the first bridge to ford the Missouri in Montana. For seventy-five years, the steel-truss bridge carried traffic—horses, carts and wagons in the early days, and later motor vehicles—but in 1963, a new bridge was built a quarter-mile upstream, and the old steel bridge was closed. The striking quartet of trapezoidal trusses connecting to the east bank remains intact; however, the original swing span that was constructed to allow the passage of steamboats was replaced when the centre pier was washed out in a flood in 1908. Today, the west bank connects to the original structure by a long camelback span, supported, like the original trusses, by concrete piers sheathed in metal plates. The old bridge now serves as a pedestrian feature of the river park, although it can only be accessed from the west side, as the cottonwood-laden east bank is privately owned. So while the traffic in and out of Fort Benton motors across the Chouteau County Memorial Bridge by the Grand Union Hotel, tourists strolling the river path can walk out over the old bridge and look back towards the unique little town that constitutes the birthplace of Montana.

However, on a Saturday morning in September, tourists are a rare commodity, and the locals, long used to the black metal span yawning over their river, rarely deem it worth the crossing, knowing that they simply have to return again. Walkers and joggers stick to the river path and feel no temptation to turn onto the concrete walkway that leads to the bridge. But children are another matter, and the young Mason boys and their friend, Rory O’Mara, considered it an adventure to walk out along the wooden planking and stare down at the swirling waters below.

As they reached the point where the camelback truss ended and the trio of Baltimore trusses began, the boys turned back to see one of their schoolmates walking her dog along the river path. The German shepherd was bounding ahead, and as it came to the bridge, Jack Mason whistled and yelled out, “Hey, Shep! Here boy!” As an afterthought, he waved to the girl and added, “Sally, come join us.”

Shep darted onto the planked walkway. Sally waved back and followed the dog onto the bridge. She was only part way along the camelback span by the time the dog reached the boys. Ralph Mason gave the dog a perfunctory pat and then leaned out over the railing. He liked to see the powerful water surging up and curling around the metal plates.

Jack and Rory started to play with Shep, but Ralph remained mesmerized by the water below the bridge. Something that looked like a sack seemed to be bobbing against the concrete pier.

As Sally reached the end of the first span, Shep abandoned Jack and raced back to meet her. Rory turned to see what had transfixed his friend’s brother.

“There’s a sack down there,” said Ralph. “It’s caught on the pier. It’s full of some stuff, and there’s bits of cloth attached to the back of it.”

“No way,” said Rory. “A sack wouldn’t float.” He moved to the railing and stared down into the water.

“Jeez, you moron,” he said. “That’s not a sack. It’s got legs. That’s a body down there.”

Jack abandoned Shep and came to the railing.

As the boys stared downwards, the body lifted, and an expanse of tan cowhide rose and subsided, its tattooed insignia of interlocking antlers hovering momentarily in view before it glided back under the slate grey water. 

“Holy moly, that’s The Colonel!” said Ralph.  

Jack’s eyes bulged and his face went white. Then he gasped as the force of the current rolled the torso against the pier. He felt suddenly sick. He reeled away from the railing and threw up.

“What are you guys staring at?”

Sally’s voice behind him made Ralph look round. She and Shep had reached the centre span.

“We gotta get the sheriff,” said Rory. “There’s a body down there.” 

“No,” breathed Sally. “Are you serious?” 

She moved towards the railing.

Ralph stopped her. Even at the age of ten, cowboy-country gallantry was ingrained in his psyche, and he had already seen the effect of the corpse on his older brother. 

“Don’t look,” he said firmly. “He doesn’t have a head.”

 

Read More

Now available – Body and Soul

Posted by on Dec 31, 2016 in Elizabeth Elwood | 0 comments

front-coverAfter a highly successful run with Vagabond Players at the Bernie Legge Theatre, Body and Soul is now available for other theatre groups. This charming romantic comedy was enthusiastically received by New Westminster audiences and the play is sure to be a hit with community theatre groups everywhere. The plot combines time travel with the supernatural, the script is witty and original, and the story is full of surprises. For queries about royalties, contact info@elihuentertainment.com, and for additional information, view the Body and Soul page in the play section of this website and read about the Vagabond Players production.

Read More

Body and Soul

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Elizabeth Elwood | 0 comments

Body and Soul

Fifteen years ago, I wrote a marionette musical called The Christmas Spirit, which Elwoodettes Marionettes produced for the Vagabond Players Christmas show in 2003. The audiences were greatly amused by the whimsical plot where, though time travel, a woman named Mary Fairfax was brought forward several hundred years and found herself inhabiting an old English manor house which was haunted by her spirit. Thus she found herself present in both body and soul.

The Bernie Legge Theatre, Queens Park, New Westminster

The Bernie Legge Theatre, Queens Park, New Westminster

Because the plot went over so well, I thought it would be fun to take that concept and use it in a romantic comedy for actors, as opposed to marionettes, and what better place to premiere the play than the Bernie Legge Theatre, which reputedly has several ghosts of its own. The original story took place in England, but the play is set in Canada—in a heritage home in the Queens Park area of New Westminster.

A visit to Irving House.

A visit to Irving House.

The historical details have been adjusted accordingly. Mary’s ‘tragic’ story now stems from an event during the second Boer War, specifically the battle of Paardeberg Drift, a struggle where Canadian soldiers stood out for their bravery. The references to Mary being the star of the local operatic society are also pertinent as there was an opera house in New Westminster at the time. The design for the wainscoting and other set details were inspired by a tour of Irving House.

The real Wee Geordie.

The real Wee Geordie.

One reference in the play needs clarification: Geordie Fairfax, the tall, cantankerous Scottish landlord in the play, is referred to by his tenants as ‘Wee Geordie’, an eponym that will resonate with people who are old enough to have seen the delightful 1950s comedy of that name that starred Bill Travers. The film was loosely based on the life of Scots Olympian and farmer, Tom Nicolson, so the real Geordie, being a sturdy hammer thrower, was definitely not ‘Wee’.

Jim Keary's Queen of the Night

Jim Keary’s Queen of the Night

Another point of interest for long-time Vagabond Players patrons: The opera collages that will be decorating the set are the artwork of the late James Keary, a member of the club who acted in and designed sets for Vagabond Players shows during the eighties. Jim is fondly remembered by all who knew him. He was a great supporter of my own artistic endeavours and I like to think that he, along with his collages, will be there in spirit on opening night.

Body&SoulPosterThe play is now cast, with a wonderfully talented group of actors, and an equally fine production team is in place. The lovely poster design by Michael McCray is ready to go, reflecting the New Westminster heritage-house location. The cast list and other details can be seen on the Body and Soul page in the play section on this website. Another new play! Another new adventure.

Read More

Inspired by Opera.

Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in Elizabeth Elwood | 0 comments

Inspired by Opera.

When I recently attended the charming Burnaby Lyric Opera performance of La Bohème at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, the afternoon brought back memories of many lovely productions of the popular Puccini opera. Surprisingly, considering how familiar I was with the opera, I had only seen one other production on stage, and that was with the Vancouver Opera in 1970.

stratas

Metropolitan Opera production with Stratas.

However, I had watched several filmed productions, including the wonderful Zeffirelli film with Mirella Freni and a Metropolitan Opera version in which Teresa Stratas was by far the most consumptive-looking Mimi I have ever seen. The glorious score is familiar to me from listening to the Pavarotti/Freni recording many times, not to mention from working on the arias with the wonderful Luigi Wood in my younger days as a singer.

Boheme 3

Chorus time – on the other side of the curtain.

My familiarity with La Bohème also stems from experience on the other side of the curtain. I had been in the VOA chorus for the company’s 1976 production, which was directed by Jan Rubes, and starred Clarice Carson as Mimi, William McKinney as Rodolfo and Mary Costa as Musetta. The chorus as a whole was only on stage in Act II, by far the liveliest act and great fun for the participants. However, the few tiny bits and pieces from Act III—customs officers, milkmaids and peasants scurrying back and forth between the customs house and the tavern—were allotted to a handful of the chorus singers too. My memories of that scene are vivid.

Record

The Pavarotti/Freni Recording

The setting is a cold February morning and the snow is slowly falling. I can still remember the feel of the chill in the air, which could have been a draught from the wings as I crossed the massive Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage, but more likely, it was the dim blue lighting and the sporadic snowflakes that created such a wintry atmosphere that I actually felt cold. It was eerie on that vast stage, looking back at the warmly lit windows of the tavern, and then gliding across to the snow-covered customs house. No wonder, years later, when wanting a suitably spine-chilling atmosphere for a mystery story, I recalled this experience and gave my heroine, Philippa, one of those bit parts. Naturally, in between singing her chorus music, she also solves the murder of a spectacularly unpopular prima donna. Appropriately, the story is titled “Mimi’s Farewell” and is part of an upcoming collection in the Beary mystery series.

BLO

The Burnaby Lyric Opera production.

The subject matter of the opera lends itself well to the mystery genre. Based on Henry Mürger’s Scènes de la Vie de Bohème, the opera deals with the life of young artists, who can sometimes be volatile and insecure individuals. Public perception conventionally thinks of Mimi and Rodolfo’s relationship as a gloriously romantic love affair, but their story is actually a tale of two people every bit as riven by jealousy and quarrels as Musetta and Marcello, the secondary characters who spend most of their onstage time having spats. The difference is that, in the principals’ case, the negative scenes happen offstage. But what a perfect scenario for a mystery story where the couple’s relationship differs dramatically on stage and off and the detective must pick up the nuances that distinguish what is real and what is histrionic.

puccini

The composer himself.

While it was fun to use the darker aspects of Mimi and Rodolfo’s relationship in my mystery writing, I found a use for their more conventionally romantic image when writing my play, Body and Soul, which is due to premiere with the Vagabond Players in October of this year. The setting is a heritage house, haunted by a ghost who, in life, was a leading soprano with the local operatic society. Her most glorious memories are of moments on stage with her tenor and lover, Umberto, as they sang the love duet from La Bohème. Needless to say, the occupants of the house have to be very careful about their choice of music if they feel like breaking into song. More news to come on this project. Thank you, Puccini! So much inspiration in one glorious opera!

Read More