WHEN THE curtain closed on the popular Terrace historical play Ma Lambly’s more than four years ago after a number of successful runs, audiences weren’t sure if they’d ever get a chance to experience Terrace through Flossie Lambly’s eyes and memories again.
But luckily for them – and especially for those just discovering the area – playwright and historian Cindy Hansen and actor Janine Hamming have brought Ma Lambly back to life.
Ma Lambly’s is a play about the early history of Terrace told by weaving together the stories of eight women, all played by Hamming. Its first run was around Christmas in 2004 and during the next three years it ran more than 30 times. At the time, Hansen was working as the curator of Heritage Park Museum.
“There’s been enough time away from it,” said Hamming, on why they chose to remount it now. “I think we kind of exhausted the audience last time, playing so many shows. It’s small town, there’s only so much audience. But with it being new, I think we’ll attract some more people.
The characters, with surnames that will be familiar to Terracites, like Eby, Lanfear, and Little, were developed by Hansen after she interviewed family and community members, and scoured old newspaper clippings and historical records.
She stresses that while some of the women are based on real people, others are fictional composites. There are also two new characters this time around. Danina Lanfear and Clara Little join the familiar faces of Flossie ‘Ma’ Lambly, who audience members might be surprised to learn is also the great-grandmother of celebrated artist Freda Diesing, Vina Eby, Annie Ross, Addie Nelson, Corporal Lizzie Rochester and nurse Jenn Erickson, to make it a more well-rounded affair.
“There were bits in the play that I wanted to explain more,” said Hansen. “I thought introducing a new character would be a good way to explain that.”
She specifically wanted to explain the Indian Act and a part in the show that mentions “No Indians Allowed” signs on store doors. That portion is flushed out more thoroughly in this version using the character Clara Little.
Both Hamming and Hansen agree that the play is stronger this time around – the four-year hiatus meant they came back to it with fresh eyes and were able to give it a retooling. For Hamming, that meant changing some of the characters mannerisms. Hamming said the new show was somewhat of a challenge – although she’s played these characters before, and knows them through and through, she had to delve deep into herself to find the characters again. But once she found them it was like muscle memory and she had a chance to revisit the old characters and explore the new ones.
“I like Lizzie Rochester, I always have,” said Hamming. “She gets to be a bit crazy. But I mean, Flossie, she’s the one who grounds the whole thing.”
Flossie Lambly was the proprietor of the Corner Snack Shop that opened in 1945 where National Car Rental’s lot on Kalum St. is now. It was a touchstone in the early Terrace community.
“And Danina Lanfear is a great new character,” said Hansen. “There’s so much more to her story.”
The set and lighting have changed, as has Hamming’s hair, makeup and costuming. One of the best costume additions is Flossie Lambly’s purple coat – the real thing, donated by Roberta Perry, Flossie’s other daughter.
“We’re serving things differently as well,” said Hamming. Tea, coffee and desserts are served to audience members who watch the show sitting at banquets.
“The whole space becomes part of the show,” said Hansen.
The show runs through July and August in the Dance Hall at Heritage Park.