"I Come from the Valley!" hits the stage
RANKIN – Stone Fence Theatre has brought an Ottawa Valley literary celebrity’s life to stage with “I Come from the Valley! Tales and Times of Joan Finnigan”.
Born in Ottawa in 1925, Joan Finnigan was the daughter of Ottawa Senators hockey legend Frank Finnigan - "The Shawville Express" - and his wife Maye Horner Finnigan. Both of her parents grew up in Shawville, Quebec, where Finnigan spent a lot of her time as a young girl.
Throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, Finnigan became a beloved Canadian poet and storyteller who wrote 28 books, mostly detailing true stories from the Ottawa Valley along with tales from her own colourful life. She also composed a 1968 movie titled “The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Caladar” that won a national film award. During her days exploring and visiting various communities in the Valley, Finnigan grew a large fanbase and made many good friends – including Ish Theilheimer.
“She never actually lived in the county but she visited the county very frequently and she collected oral histories from people. She'd interview old-timers about their lives and she'd record their stories and then she'd write them up in her books and she got to know the county quite well,” said Theilheimer. “I was a big admirer of hers and it was later in her life that Joan and I became friends and she encouraged me in my work.”
A few years after Finnigan passed away in 2007, Theilheimer wanted to pay tribute to his friend’s life and her outstanding literary works. As the company producer for Stone Fence Theatre, Theilheimer put pen to paper in 2015 and began composing a musical that would interpret Finnigan’s life and stories and put them onstage for all to celebrate.
“I was always inspired by Joan and it just seemed like the right time to bring her back and bring back her memory,” said Theilheimer.
After three years of writing and composing music alongside fellow songwriter Johanna Zomers, Theilheimer and Stone Fence Theatre have put together the final finishing touches for their play “I Come from the Valley! Tales and Times of Joan Finnigan”.
“It’s a biography of her life and her work with snippets of her stories,” said Theilheimer. “You see a lot of what Joan loved so much about the Ottawa Valley, including the tradition of storytelling, close community relations and strong character in the face of hardship.”
Featuring a talented nine-member cast and music performed by the Donohue Family of Douglas, the musical retells many of Finnigan’s favourite stories and also brings to the public, for the first time, the often-difficult and always-colourful story of the woman behind all the fun.
With the opening night on July 12 at Rankin Culture and Recreation Centre, the musical will be performed 17 times in nine different communities across the Ottawa Valley.
For more information about “I Come from the Valley! Tales and Times of Joan Finnigan.” visit https://www.stonefence.ca/