Between Breaths tours the Maritimes this Spring

Category: stage 150

Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland will bring the story of Dr. Jon Lien, aka “The Whale Man” to Maritime audiences this spring.

Matt Carter
Submitted Photo

Between Breaths, an original production by Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland, created in collaboration with the National Arts Centre, made its world premiere in St. John’s in 2018 with a sold out run of performances. The play, based on world renowned whale researcher and conservationist Dr. Jon Lien, aka The Whale Man, went on to tour the province in 2019 with an eye on a larger Canadian tour in 2020. Then COVID arrived. 

Plans are now underway to bring the production to theatres around the Maritimes beginning on March 27 with a performance at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, PEI. 

“The planned tour this spring was supposed to take place last year. The first set of lockdowns happened just before we were set to take the piece out to British Columbia, and then onwards through the Maritimes,” said Robert Chafe, the company’s artistic director. 

“At that time, the presenters in Atlantic Canada indicated that they would like to rebook the show at some future point when it might be plausible. These particular [upcoming] dates for the show were booked and confirmed this past fall when the Atlantic Bubble was in good standing. And we proceed now with the hope that the bubble will be reinstated in time for these touring dates to happen.”

The Atlantic Bubble, an inter-provincial travel agreement put in place to limit the transmission of COVID-19 from outside sources while supporting travel between the four Atlantic provinces, came to a close in late November after a rapid rise in active cases. 

“Of course our primary concern is the safety of our cast and crew and the safety of any audiences that would take in the work,” said Chafe, “so the tour will only happen if the bubble re-emerges and all covid protocols can be met.”

About the Play

Well known in Newfoundland as the Whale Man, Dr. Jon Lien during the course of his work pioneered techniques for rescuing whales entrapped in fishing nets. Often risking his very life in the water with the formidable and frightened animals, Dr. Lien would seek to earn their trust as much as the fishermen’s. He looked for the best way to free whales while doing as little damage to the fishing gear as possible. His efforts saved the lives of over 500 animals, and earned him the hard-won respect of the island’s fishermen. Despite his risky work, Lien’s biggest fight came at the hands of a lengthy illness, the suspected long-term result of a random highway accident. He passed away in 2010, but not before his body was slowly conquered over 8 years by a progressing immobility and dementia.

Between Breaths jumps time backwards, from the final moments of Lien’s life – in a wheelchair and dealing with brain damage – to his very first whale intervention. As his life becomes further and further confined, his mind stretches itself in memories of release and salvation. 

Upcoming Performances:

March 27, 2021 – Harbourfront Theatre (Summerside, PEI) POSTPONED to Winter 2021
March 28, 2021 – Kings Playhouse (Georgetown, PEI) POSTPONED to Winter 2021
March 29, 2021 – Capitol Theatre (Moncton, NB) POSTPONED to Winter 2021
March 31, 2021 – Imperial Theatre (Saint John, NB) POSTPONED to Winter 2021
April 1, 2021 – Fredericton Playhouse (Fredericton, NB) POSTPONED to Winter 2021

Written by Robert Chafe
Directed by Jillian Keiley
Original Music Composed & Arranged by The Once
Additional Arrangements by Duane Andrews
Musical Direction by Kellie Walsh
Featuring: Steve O’Connell, Berni Stapleton, Darryl Hopkins, Andrew Laite, Brianna Gosse and Josh Sandu.
Dramaturgy: Iris Turcott
Additional Dramaturgy: Sarah Garton Stanley
Assistant Director: Sharon King-Campbell
Costume Design: Shawn Kerwin
Sound Design & Technical Direction: Brian Kenny
Stage Management: Mara Bredovskis
Managing Producer: Patrick Foran
Associate Producer: Crystal Laffoley
90 mins, no intermission


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