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Markham Little Theatre's Waiting For The Parade
 sure to bring a smile and a tear

article and photos by Grant Weaver,

The Cast of Waiting For The Parade
Julia Guthrie, Michèle Browne, Kate O’Hearn, Carol LeBreton and Barbara Clifford

            (Aug. 29, 2008)  Markham Little Theatre kicks off its 2008-09 season with Waiting For The Parade, a play written by John Murrell.  Running September 17-20 at Markham Theatre For Performing Arts, this unique work features a cast of five women and is set in Canada during World War II. 

            The story’s five women have all been affected by the war, each in a different way.  Waiting For The Parade is alternately dramatic, poignant and funny, and also features some of the great songs made popular during the war years.

John Murrell was born in Texas in 1945, came to Canada in the 1960’s to avoid the draft, and the Vietnam war, and has become one of our greatest playwrights.

 Waiting For The Parade is on Markham Little Theatre’s playbill for the second time.  Eric Newton was producer when MLT staged the show twenty-four years ago and is delighted to be reprising it this year as director.

Another important link to the 1984 production is actress Michèle Browne who played the young Catherine and returns this year in the role of the older Margaret.

“The audience truly enjoyed the show, especially the older patrons,” she told us, speaking of the first production.  “It brought them back so much.”

We asked Eric how he anticipated an audience of 2008, virtually a generation later, would respond to the play.  He feels that the war in Afghanistan, and seeing Canadian soldiers dying there, will give it a special poignancy to today’s audience.

            “In the Second World War,” Eric continued, “men may have had their tales of heroism in battle but the women who remained at home told the tales of getting by, and what it takes to both get by and succeed on the home front.”

            First produced in 1977 by Albert Theatre Projects who had commissioned John Murrell to write a Canadian history play, Waiting For The Parade is set in Calgary where five women respond in their own way to the challenges of life during wartime. 

            There is Catherine whose husband is overseas.  She takes work in a canteen and ends up getting involved with another man.  Margaret is a generation older and has one son fighting in Europe and another who joins the Communist party.  Always the pessimist, she believes she will lose them both.  There is Janet who becomes aggressive in her patriotism and her volunteerism in order to mask the unease she feels from the fact that her husband has avoided active service with his supposedly essential work giving the news on CBC radio.  Eve, a young school teacher, is distressed to see her students cut short their education to enlist and yet is married to a man who espouses the militaristic feelings she deplores.  Marta, an immigrant from Germany, came to Canada as a mere child and yet now must cope with her father being interned as a spy.

            Let’s meet the rest of the cast. 

            Catherine is played by Kate O’Hearn who is in her first production with Markham Little Theatre.  Kate grew up in Sudbury and appeared in productions, through the Sudbury Theatre Centre, such as Carousel and Annie Get Your Gun.  She studied theatre arts at Laurentian University and then at York University.  After taking a break from theatre to focus on the home front, she and her family are now settled in Stouffville.  Kate was anxious to get back to acting and, this summer, saw MLT’s audition call for Waiting For The Parade, a play she had studied in high school back in Sudbury!  The timing was perfect and she was thrilled to land the role of Catherine.

            “Catherine is a very brave woman, a very strong woman,” Kate told us.  “I can relate to her on many levels, and on the ones where I can’t ... well, that’s what acting is all about.”

            Barbara Clifford plays Janet.  Barbara has been involved behind the scenes in a number of MLT productions but is stepping onto the stage with the company for the first time in ten years.  She has also performed with a dinner theatre in Whitby, with East Side Players and in Scarborough.

            Like all the cast, she has become very attached to the character she plays.

            “Janet is misunderstood,” she smiles.  “She’s very committed, takes her job very seriously.  She’s not there to fool around.”

            Barbara’s stage versatility is highlighted when, still in character as Janet, she accompanies on the piano the singing of some popular wartime songs. 

            The young school teacher, Eve, is interpreted by Carol LeBreton whom Markham Little Theatre audiences enjoyed last February in Out Of Sight, Out Of Murder.  Carol has performed since then in Watershed Moments with Stone Circle Theatre in Pickering. 

            “Eve is very sweet and innocent,” Carol said.  “She is not tainted by life experiences.”

            Eve’s displeasure with the war flows from her own perspective.

            “She is passionate about teaching the young people,” Carol continued.  “She is upset with the war because it is taking all her students away.”

            Julia Guthrie, who plays Marta, had a starring role in 2007 in Markham Little Theatre’s The Long Weekend.  She found time for a small role last Spring in the company’s production of Over The River And Through The Woods while she devoted herself to her new theatre studies program at York.

            Marta is a challenging role for which Julia had to “acquire” a German accent.  The advent of war has resulted in the interning of Marta’s father.  She also must bear the brunt of anti-German feeling even though she has been in Canada since she was a small child.

            Michèle Browne, this year's Margaret, told us: “Waiting For The Parade holds a special place in my heart”.  The 1984 production was one of the first plays Michèle appeared in with Markham Little Theatre. 

            Margaret is an endearing, touching character. Unlike the other women, who have high hopes that their men will return, she fears and expects the worst.

            Michèle’s husband, Terry Browne, is stage manager.  Terry needs no introduction to our readers.  He has filled just about every role there is on the company’s board over the years and has still found time to wear many hats, metaphorically or literally speaking, on stage as well.  In the last year, we have seen him in cowboy hat in Outlaw and in the butler’s uniform in Out Of Sight, Out Of Murder.

            Another long time MLT stalwart, Ron Brownsberger has taken on the producer’s job and is keeping tabs on the budget and set construction.

            Director Eric Newton goes back a long way with MLT as well, having joined the company in 1979, and is currently in his sixth directorial assignment.  He directs his cast with precision and humour. 

   appreciated very much the opportunity to attend a complete rehearsal at MLT’s Backstage venue and to chat extensively with the director and his cast. 

            Don’t miss Waiting For The Parade!  It has everything.  Playwright John Murrell has knit a rich tapestry of characters, settings and circumstances, of dialogue, monologue and music.  And Markham Little Theatre has brought together a richly talented cast. 

            For complete show details, click here.

            To learn more about Markham Little Theatre, visit



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