Michael Sutherland

Michael Sutherland

What would the neighbours think?

When Frank Whitman kicks the bucket, it causes a big flap in his normally quiet hometown in Nova Scotia.

When Frank Whitman kicks the bucket, it causes a big flap in his normally quiet hometown in Nova Scotia.

It’s not just that the well-known farmer has died — it’s how he died that figures prominently in the next Central Alberta Theatre comedy, Fishing for Frank by Daniel R. Lillford.

Town residents can’t get over how Frank was stung to death by hornets after running over their nest with his new John Deere tractor.

The same gossips also can’t stop yakking about Frank’s scandalous wife, Millie.

She previously walked out on Frank only to take up with a younger man — a much younger man, doncha know?

Erna Soderberg, the director of this dinner theatre comedy that opens on Friday, Jan. 6, at Red Deer’s City Centre Stage, said Red Deer was a small enough community while she was growing up here. Combined with her experience of other small towns, whether they be in Alberta or Nova Scotia, Soderberg believes a kind of communal judgment prevails whenever someone bucks conventionality and does the unexpected.

Millie, for instance, becomes something of a town pariah after leaving Frank late in life.

Only her friend, 60-something Hilda, hasn’t turned her back on her. But even Hilda asks Millie to come in by the back door so she doesn’t have to explain her visits to the neighbours.

It’s a kind of a “group-think” that takes over, said Soderberg, who believes Fishing for Frank is sprinkled with so many truisms that audience members can’t help relating to the humour — especially if they’ve experienced small-town living.

While Frank’s one-time neighbours have a somewhat narrow view of what’s acceptable, Soderberg said the characters in this comedy — notably Hilda, her husband Ed, and his friend Dick — don’t know they are being judgmental. They also don’t realize they are contributing to the very rumour mill they believe is running amuck.

But Soderberg appreciates the characters for their salt-of-the-earth humour and outspokenness.

Ed, for example, can’t forgive himself for once voting for that “leftist, Montreal separatist, Trudeau.” He feels Stephen Harper is “the best friggin’ prime minister, ever.”

Ed and Dick spend their time in their man cave of a workshop dissecting the alarmingly liberal turns taken by the Anglican and United Churches — and, of course, Millie’s sex life.

“They talk about politics, sex and religion ­— the very things you’re not supposed to talk about,” said a chuckling Soderberg, who enjoyed bringing the small-town Annapolis Valley community to life.

She believes the audience will love hearing all the local gossip, too — and seeing what happens when the life of another upstanding community member takes a bizarrely unexpected turn.

“It’s just funny. Every line has humour in it.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A commercial building, housing two businesses, in Stettler was completed destroyed by a fire Thursday. (Photo courtesy Stettler Regional Fire Department)
Fire destroys commercial building in Stettler

A commercial building just outside of Stettler was destroyed by a fire… Continue reading

Almost half of Alberta's population should have at least one shot by the end of May said Premier Jason Kenney Monday morning.
Alberta poised for economic ‘renaissance’ after pandemic, says premier

Economic recovery is Alberta’s “next big challenge,” says the province’s premier. “It’s… Continue reading

Red Deer has a new welcome sign at the south end at the new entrance from Hwy 2. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Red Deer ranks 241st on MacLean’s Best Communities list

The list features 415 Canadian communities

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

A FedEx worker loads the 255,600 doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine which came from Europe into a freezer trailer to be transported during the COVID-19 pandemic at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada’s incoming vaccine supply from Moderna will… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Have an opinion you'd like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
Letter: MLAs who are against tougher restrictions have no plan for consequences

The group of UCP MLAs pushing to end lockdowns are exacerbating what… Continue reading

Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair leaves the police station after being charged with two counts of sexual assault dating back to 2014, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Preliminary inquiry in September for ex-PQ leader Boisclair charged with sex assault

MONTREAL — Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair will have a preliminary… Continue reading

Three vials of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine are pictured in a new coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccination center at the Velodrome-Stadium in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Sohn, pool
Trudeau sending help to Ontario as Pfizer vaccine supply bolstered by 8 million doses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more doses of COVID-19 vaccines are coming… Continue reading

Teachers demonstrate outside a school during a morning walk out in Longueuil, Que., Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Around 73,000 Quebec teachers say they will walk off the job for several hours on April 27. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
73,000 Quebec teachers plan to walk off the job for more than two hours April 27

MONTREAL — Around 73,000 Quebec teachers say they will walk off the… Continue reading

People line up in the rain for a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic at the Masjid Darus Salaam in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood in Toronto on Sunday, April 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario science advisers urge six-week stay-home order as province pleads for help

TORONTO — Ontario’s science advisers called for a six-week stay-at-home order and… Continue reading

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Students in Alberta town ready to return to school after quarantining

ATHABASCA, Alta. — A superintendent of schools in northern Alberta says the… Continue reading

Britain’s Prince Charles, with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visits the gardens of Marlborough House, London, Thursday April 15, 2021, to look at the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace, following the death of Prince Philip. (Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via AP)
Princes William, Harry won’t walk side-by-side at funeral

LONDON — Prince William and Prince Harry won’t walk side-by-side Saturday as… Continue reading

Most Read