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COLUMN: Play coming to Orillia is just 'what you need'

'Terrifying and exhilarating, challenging and fun are how I describe what it's like to be a member of the cast of Get What You Need,' says one of cast members
Orillia's Jackie Bennett has written her first full-length play, Get What You Need, which will be performed at St. James' Anglican Church in Orillia.

There is a fun event coming up June 10 at St. James’ Anglican Church in Orillia. A staged reading of Get What You Need is happening at 2 and 7 p.m. and it’s a fundraiser for the St. James’ Community Breakfast Program.

Get What You Need is an original play by local playwright Jackie Bennett which has been performed previously in Uxbridge, Barrie, and Cookstown. 

Bennett is a published author and singer-songwriter. She studied theatre at Queen’s University and has taught drama and directed musicals in elementary schools. A guide to teaching drama for Kindergarten to Grade 6 called Who Needs Drama? that she has written will be released this summer. 

Get What You Need is her first full-length play. Whether she is singing with her band or presenting a production, she tries to find ways to combine performances with raising funds to benefit the community. She has lived in Severn since 2019.

Here’s an interview with the author:

OrilliaMatters: Tell us about the play.

Jackie Bennett: Get What You Need is a comedy about a church that tries to hire the Rolling Stones to raise money for a new roof. Needless to say, everything quickly falls apart. As accusations fly, the ensemble cast of characters (played by 11 people from the Orillia area) struggle to get along in order to make things right.

Although the story takes place in a church it will be of interest to anyone who has been on frustrating volunteer-led committees, are fans of The Rolling Stones, or looking for humour to brighten their day.

OM: What was the inspiration for the plot?

JB: Originally, I wrote the play because my husband plays bass for a Rolling Stones tribute band, and I thought it would be fun to write a play with a Stones theme that would provide gig opportunities for his band. However, that didn’t work out as I was unable to gain permission to use the songs needed. But with some restructuring the play evolved from there to its current story.

Although The Rolling Stones are an important part of the play, the actual story is inspired by a true event (which can not be mentioned without giving away the plot) that happened at a church I once belonged to. Get What You Need is a comedy, sprinkled with the humour I find in everyday situations. As I always say, watch what you say, or do, or you might end up as a character in one of my stories.

OM: Why are you doing a staged reading of the play now?

JB: The development of Get What You Need was just starting to gain momentum when the pandemic hit. With things gradually returning to normal we are more than ready to be dramatic again. Not only can we dust off the script and share it with audiences again, but we are also able to help raise funds for the community breakfast program that provides a weekly hot breakfast for people suffering from food insecurity.

Local author and speaker Sarah-Jane VandenBerg is one of the 11 cast members in the play.

“Terrifying and exhilarating, challenging and fun are how I describe what it's like to be a member of the cast of Get What You Need," said VandenBerg.

“I auditioned for two reasons: my dear friend, Maureen Hair, suggested we do this activity together and I thought it might be fun and also, two to three times a week, I try to do something completely out of my comfort zone to expand my skills, my business and personal resiliency. This activity meets that goal of being out of my comfort zone every week.” 

The staged reading of Get What You Need will be performed on June 10, 2 and 7 p.m., at St. James’ Anglican Xhurch, 58 Peter St. N., Orillia. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the church or at [email protected] or for cash at the door.

This weekend is of course, The Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories event. The festival starts Thursday night at Rama Community Hall from 7 p.m. to sunset and continues Friday with a tour of the St. Paul’s Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery at 7 p.m. and a concert featuring Tom Wilson at 8 p.m., both at St. Paul’s Centre.

Saturday is a full day of speakers featuring Sherry Lawson, Brenda Wastasacoot, S.P. Joseph Lyons, Karen McBride, Amanda Peters, Tom Wilson, Dr. Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Drew Hayden Taylor and Michelle Good, all at Rama Community Hall and the John Snake Memorial Grounds in Rama. Saturday concludes with a concert featuring Tomson Highway at 8 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre

Sunday, there is a slate of events hosted by the Gjojijing Roundtable, with Elder John Rice and other guests. Events start at 10:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s Centre and then continue to Couchiching Beach Park at noon (bring a picnic). From 1 to 3 p.m., attendees are invited to enjoy a multitude of different activities at different places.

All events except the two concerts are free. The two concerts are $25 each. You can get concert tickets and RSVP for the daytime events at Depending on availability, there might be some tickets for the concerts at the door, cash sales only. 

This Saturday at 6:30 p.m. there is an Open Mic of Poetry at Hibernation Arts, hosted by Shouting Into The Void. It’s a $10 cover and you will hear poetry by Josh Poitras, Jeff Manning, Jess Exner and Nicole Labonte before turning the mic over to you. Bring your poems, they want to hear them.

This Saturday in Coldwater, it’s the Village Garage Sale and Pie’oneer Day, all on the main street. Come check it all out, buy stuff, and eat pie.

Also this Saturday, in Midland, it’s the fifth session of A Visual Reconciliation, four artist interpretations of the Seven Grandfather’s Teachings. It’s at the Midland Cultural Centre from 1 to 4 p.m., it’s free, and it will be an awakening for anyone who attends. This session’s teaching is Truth.

Next Thursday at 1 p.m., don’t miss the screening of Steadfast: The Message and the Messenger, at Georgian College in Orillia. This is the documentary about Jean Augustine, the founder of Black History Month in Canada. Free admission and parking.

Live music this week, for sure. At Couchiching Craft Brewery, Friday The Offcuts, Saturday Matt Allen, and Sunday Jazz in the Afternoon with the Chris Robinson Will Davis Duo.

Have a great week and enjoy the summer weather. If you have arts news, send it to [email protected] by Tuesday at noon to be included.