Playwright Robert Chafe's newest work highlights the resilience of coastal Newfoundland

Playwright Robert Chafe is the artistic director of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.   (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Playwright Robert Chafe is the artistic director of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Playwright Robert Chafe is the artistic director of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.
Playwright Robert Chafe is the artistic director of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.

Playwright Robert Chafe is part of the team behind Taking on Water. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

St. John's actor and playwright Robert Chafe is well known for his stage dramas Tempting Providence and Between Breaths, but says he's found himself trying not to call his newest production a play.

His newest work, Taking on Water, is a collaboration between the Tuckamore Festival and the Future Ocean and Coastal Infrastructures project, a multi-institute research project that combines academics and politics to examine the current state of coastal living.

"I've been trying to stop calling it a play, because it kind of gives people the wrong impression I think leading up to it," Chafe told CBC News this week.

"They wanted to have a cultural component to this, a cultural investigation. So they reached out to the Tuckamore Festival…We'd worked together before, and so they approached me and a process unfolded."

Chafe's work involved interviewing people across Newfoundland who live near the water, asking them why they live there, what they love about it and the challenges that come with it.

He then took elements from all of the interviews to craft five stories that will be performed by Chafe alongside actor Louise Moyes, with music by Canadian composer Randolph Peters performed by chamber ensemble Duo Concertante, the founders of the Tuckamore Festival.

"What I quickly discovered was that the real root of the story here wasn't that there was a central theme, but the real root of the story was that there was so many different perspectives, so many different stories," he said.

"So many different stories of resilience, so many different stories of challenge."

Taking on Water will tour at Arts and Culture Centres across Newfoundland and Labrador from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27.
Taking on Water will tour at Arts and Culture Centres across Newfoundland and Labrador from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27.

Taking on Water will tour at Arts and Culture Centres across Newfoundland and Labrador from Sept. 21 to Sept. 27. (tuckamorefestival.ca)

Taking on Water is touring Arts & Culture Centres across Newfoundland and Labrador this week and next: Thursday in Gander, Friday in Grand Falls-Windsor, Saturday in Corner Brook, Sunday in Stephenville, and Tuesday in Lab West.

He believes now is an important time for audiences to see this kind of production.

"It's a horrible way to put it, but the threat of our future is so very real. The challenges that lay before us are so very real. And yet what I was encountering when I was interviewing these people was a real, honest appreciation of that threat and those challenges, while at the same time an incredible optimism," Chafe said.

"I always try to impart something to an audience that's surprising and that's beautiful and gives you a new way of thinking about things. And so that's where the research led me."

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