Image: Mitch Smolkin, Jennifer Higgins and Sarah Boucher (Theatre & Company)

Lake Nora Arms

Adapted by Jane Miller and Brian Quirt
From the book by Michael Redhill

In the atmosphere of an old cottage country hotel, warm summers of lakeside living are recalled in this a cappella musical based on Michael Redhill’s 1993 book of poems. Lyrical songs composed by Jane Miller bring to life the fog of the lake, a swim on an unbearably hot day, birdsong and rain bouncing on water and the beauty of a sunset on water. This evocative, beautiful ensemble musical rings with innocence, regret, longing and lives lived. A perfect beginning to summer, and a wonderful way to remember a past that is just out of reach.

Dramaturgy and process

Lake Nora Arms was developed by Nightswimming, which commissioned the score by Jane Miller. Jane and Brian first met when Brian was the dramaturg at the Theatre Centre, and they’ve since collaborated on many productions as co-creators, sometimes with Jane as performer and/or composer, including Brian’s The Death of General Wolfe, Jane’s touring show Disco Goalie, and their more recent piece These are the Songs That I Sing When I’m Sad.

Brian and Jane both knew Michael, and loved his poems about the past and present of Ontario’s cottage country. Brian asked Jane to make several poems into songs, inspired by words that seemed to also be lyrics, and challenged Jane to create songs without instrumentation. 

Nightswimming had not developed a musical, let alone an a cappella one, so the dramaturgical hurdles were exciting to us: how much narrative is necessary to hold the poems/songs together; how do singers remain in key when there are no instruments providing accompaniment; how do we keep the piece active and present when part of it is about the powerful nostalgia of what appears to be the simpler, quieter years of the past?

Throughout the many musical workshops, the process was greatly assisted by the many singers and actors who have participated, and particularly David Matheson, our superb Workshop Musical Director and Co-Arranger.

Developmental workshops for Lake Nora Arms were produced by Naomi Campbell and directed by Brian Quirt for Nightswimming. Lake Nora Arms received a public reading as part of the National Arts Centre (Ottawa) On the Verge New Play Reading Festival 2004 and was first presented at Buddies in Bad Times’ 1996 Rhubarb! Festival. Special thanks: Christine Brubaker, Alex Fallis, Peggy Mahon, Jay Turvey, David Matheson, Nancy Webster, Lise Ann Johnson, Sky Gilbert.

NNNN. The rhythms of life, love and longing swirl evocatively in Jane Miller and Brian Quirt’s rich and sensitive adaptation of Michael Redhill’s book of poems… Miller’s songs – alternately playful and profound – connect with the soul.

NOW Magazine

Lake Nora Arms is superbly staged and lit by director Stuart Scadron-Wattles. There is no story as such here, rather we see fragments of the past, and the staging, blocking, lighting and vocal music are so carefully crafted that one feels that sliding into the water of Lake Nora is not only possible, but essential.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record
Five people on a beach. One is side profile. The rest have their backs facing us, with one is sitting on their heels.
Painting of a green background, there is the head of a fish sticking into the right side of the painting. Below that is a canoe with someone inside.
Five people, in two rows facing each other at a beach. They are standing close to each other