COURTHOUSE CUM THEATRE
by Lotta Demp.
What better place to turn into the Stable at Bethlehem, this season of peace and good-will, than a former court house?
With the one-time jury rooms as dressing rooms, a practising Queen's Counsel as co-producer, designer and director and an Oxford graduate English teacher babysitting while his wife takes the major role on stage?
All this could happen only in enchanting Niagara-on-the-Lake, one feels sure, with Toronto-born Brian Doherty, the lawyer-playwright, at the helm.
Dynamo Doherty, a one-time Davis Cup tennis player and erstwhile successful adapter of "Father Malachy's Miracle" for Broadway, will present, with Juliana Saxton, the beautiful Henri Gheon gypsy version of the Nativity, "Christmas in the Market Place" for evening performances, this Saturday and Sunday, and the following Saturday and Sunday, at the unique Court House theatre.
Originally written in French for presentation by amateurs in parish halls of Paris and environs, the English translation was done for performance in the crypt of St. Paul's and at Canterbury Cathedral in England.
But for its first Canadian offering, Brian has written a prologue in mime with music, designed Stratford-style steps (with help from Peter Stokes, the Upper Canada Village architect), and arranged incidental music on the Spanish guitar.
Young performers in masks act as the donkey, the ox and other animals in the Stable, and carols by a school choir in the gallery mark the finale.
The lawyer, who has been practising in Niagara Falls for the past seven years, is excited in his good luck at having the former Judy Gianelli, who played many leading roles at Hart House when she was a student at Trinity College here, as his star.
After graduation, Miss Gianelli studied for the stage in London, but returned to Toronto to marry John Saxton, an Oxford graduate and also a fine actor, who now teaches at Ridley College.
"Judy not only is beautiful, and possesses range and expressiveness," Brian extolls. "She flows from her characterization of Maria, the Gypsy, to Mary, the Mother of Christ and back again without a hint of effort."
Other performers include John Ruta, recently seen here in "Twelve Angry Men" at the Crest, and Eva Gottschalk, an experienced character actress now living in Niagara Falls, New York.
Brian, who lives in a charming little Gate House of the Rand estate (and has, by the way, the only really squirrel-proof bird feeder I've ever seen), serves on the planning board of Niagara Falls, is president of the Falls* Bar Association, is a member of the Medico-Legal Society, the Canadian club, the Community Concert Association and works in many other organizations, including the Mental Health Association for Welland County.