Even among the current crop of fundamental western religious groups, the Quiverfull faith is a curious take. Its followers eschew all forms of birth control, and live their day-to-day lives in a biblical patriarchy: the man of the house is the closest to God, with any women born into the family set to live at home as helpers and servants until the day comes—if it ever does—that father decides to marry them off. It’s the belief system practiced by the Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting—and more recently, of great scandal—one that’s piqued the interest of Northern Light Theatre artistic director Trevor Schmidt.
“That culture, I think, is ripe for examination,” Schmidt explains. “And since we chose the play, all that [Duggars] exposé stuff has happened, and they’ve now been disgraced.
“I’m sure there’s something really wonderful about family values in those cultures and the families are very close,” he continues. “But I also think that strange idea of isolation, and no social interaction with anyone who thinks differently than you—I think that’s really dangerous and damaging in society.”
It’s on one such a devotee that The Good Bride finds dramatic focus: the one-woman show sees a young bride awaiting her husband to be—a man a few decades her senior—and, when left alone with her thoughts, finds herself feeling increasing uncertainty about the situation.
The script was written by Edmonton-raised playwright Rosemary Rowe, who now calls Vancouver home. It’s a satire: on his first read of a draft, Schmidt notes he laughed out loud on page one (“I was like, OK, I’m interested in this,” he recalls). But the script’s critical barbs aren’t just about lampooning faith for the sake of it.
“It’s really important to me—like with Pink Unicorn last year—because we’re examining a character with faith, that it’s not about making fun of them, and it’s not about taking pot-shots at Christianity or anything like that,” Schmidt says. “I really feel strongly that it needs to be even-handed and respectful of people’s beliefs. So I’m happy with the play: I think this one has a little more of a satirical edge than Pink Unicorn did about the religion.”
The Good Bride also marks the first show in Northern Light’s 40th season. Schmidt—who first got involved with the company back in ’95 when he first moved to Edmonton, and has been artistic director for about 14 years now—notes that planning for the milestone season was less about finding a throughline, as many NLT seasons do, and more of a showcase of what the company does best.
“Let’s do a whole bunch of everything,” he recalls, of planning the season. “Let’s show what we’ve done over the past 40 years.”
The resulting season includes a remount of recent Fringe hit Flora & Fawna’s Field Trip, written and performed by Schmidt and Darrin Hagen; a bilingual co-production with L’Uni Theatre, The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux, which will run in both English or French, depending on the night; a “really dark wildcard” as its season-ender in Wish; and The Good Bride’s social exploration for an opener.
“It’s an interesting little piece, and it turns quite desperate and dark by the end,” Schmidt says. “Which I think is typical of Northern Light stuff—I like that. Who likes a happy ending? Not me.”
Fri, Oct 16 – Sat, Oct 24 (7:30 pm; 11 pm additional show on Fri, Oct 23)
Directed by Trevor Schmidt
PCL Studio, ATB Financial Arts Barns, $16 – $28