Robert Chafe reads from brand new play Between Breaths

Playwright Robert Chafe is no stranger to Gros Morne, but if you don’t know him by name you might better recognize some of his writing: Tempting Providence (performed by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador in the Gros Morne Theatre Festival summer season, around Newfoundland and Labrador, and around the world), Oil and Water, and Afterimage are only three of Robert’s well known works. Most recently he adapted Wayne Johnston’s novel Colony of Unrequited Dreams for the stage, produced by Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.

Now Robert and Artistic Fraud are working on a brand new play called Between Breaths. During the 2015 Liminus festival in Woody Point, NL, we sat down with Robert and he read us a passage from the brand new, unreleased play. Watch the video above.

Here’s the synopsis of the play from Artistic Fraud:

On a remote coast of north east Newfoundland a 35 foot humpback has entangled itself in a cod trap. The fishermen, too nervous about the size and power of the beast, ready their shotguns, aim for the blowhole, and brace themselves for the inevitable $8000 loss of gear. The whale fights for its life, tries to dive to no avail, ropes cutting painfully deeper and deeper into its flesh. Both man and beast are pushed to desperation.

Jon Lien is called. A Norwegian American marine biologist, Lien’s early university education focused on human psychology. He doesn’t know exactly what to do, but he knows he has to earn some trust. He ushers the very wary fishermen closer and closer to the animal, close enough to reach it from the diminishing safety of the boat. And then with only snorkel, mask and knife, Lien risks his life fully in the water with the formidable and frightened animal, staring it in the eye, earning its trust too. He coaxes the whale against its flight instinct to stay at the surface, dipping himself further down and the around the animal to the make the necessary cuts to the net. He saves the whale, as well as saving the fisherman damaging losses.

Lien now, wheelchair bound, brain damaged from a highway accident and teetering on the edge of dementia, revisits his first and subsequent 500 whale saves in the coastal waters of Newfoundland.  As his life becomes further and further confined, Lien’s mind stretches itself in memories of release and salvation.

Between Breaths is slated for production in 2016.  Like all of the company’s work, it will be large, music based, and choral in scope, and will face head on the ensemble challenges of staging a panicked humpback whale and its rescue.

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Tom Cochrane

Tom Cochrane is a digital storyteller and the creative director of Old Crow Magazine. Tom's photography and videography work can be found at Tom is based in Newfoundland, Canada.