Other Stuff–David French Lane

by Lynn on June 23, 2014

in The Passionate Playgoer

Other Stuff

David French Lane

width="150"There is a grid of laneways running off side streets all over Toronto. There are many especially in my area of the Annex. The local business association in the area decided that they should be named and compiled a list of those people who should be honoured. One of the people chosen for the honour was David French.

Mr. French was a wonderful playwright. He was born 1939 in a tiny village in Newfoundland and died in Toronto in 2010. He wrote plays about the Mercer family—the angry, disappointed father, his patient, stoical wife, their wounded children. David French was writing about his own family and it was heartbreaking, moving, funny, tender and full of forgiveness.

He wrote about the hilarious trials and tribulations about life backstage in Jitters, about four years beforeNoises Off in London. His plays found a welcome home at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto that premiered them over three decades. More recently Soulpepper Theatre Company produced his plays a few years ago as a kind of revival.

It was lovely seeing Mr. French in the audience of any play. Quiet, not animated, serious. I had heard he was really impatient with anyone who made noise in the theatre once the play started. A man after my own heart. I believe he was known to quietly tell someone who was making noise to stop. Now! I liked that. I just stew until the boiling point.

I never met him, but saw him often as I walked to work. He lived in the area for decades and I always saw him about the same time each morning getting the paper and perhaps going to have his breakfast at a local restaurant.

I did meet his partner, Glenda MacFarlane. She liked something I wrote about him after he died and I was touched by that. She invited me to the gathering Sunday, June 22, first for a cup of tea and a nosh and then to walk around the corner to the laneway for the unveiling ceremony.

I checked out where the laneway was and where the name plate would be a few days before. The name plate was up there already but covered by a black plastic garbage bag. I thought that was rather sweet in an unassuming Canadian way—sort of like the man himself. But when I walked passed the laneway on June 22 on the way to Glenda’s place, the name plate was uncovered, announcing David French Ln for all the world. Did I get the time wrong? The day? No. The people who were organizing the ceremony were going to cover it with a spiffy blue covering with “TORONTO” and I guess the seal of City Hall on it. There would be gold ropes to pull that would fall away revealing the name plate.

When we all—the French family is rather large—came around the corner for the ceremony all was ready. Rory Sinclair, who originally suggested naming the lanes as part of the local business initiative, looked majestic in his family kilt, hose (he told me that was what they called the socks), dagger in the sock on the right leg and all the other stuff necessary to carry on the family tradition. He made a fine speech. He played the bagpipes commemorating the Battle of the Somme because a battalion? of soldiers from Newfoundland factored heavily in it. Glenda MacFarlane made a lovely speech, telling us about Mr. French’s connection to the area. Then she, her daughter Mary and others from the French family pulled the gold ropes and there was the name plate. It was wonderfully moving. And well deserved.

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