Spend a summer evening or three in the company of Victoria’s favourite Ontario farmer Walt Wingfield this month at the Belfry Theatre.
The Belfry is hosting actor Rod Beattie for his 4,500 performance of this comedic series of plays July 30- Aug. 25 as the theatre presents the first three episodes; Letter from Wingfield Farm, Wingfield’s Progress and Wingfield’s Folly, all written by Beattie’s life-long friend Dan Needles.
The last time Beattie was in town to perform one of the Wingfield plays was in 2009-2010 with Wingfield Lost and Found, the seventh instalment in the series.
Wingfield got its start in Victoria at the Belfry in the 1985-65 season when another play dropped out of the lineup. Then artistic director Miles Potter had caught a workshop of the play at Toronto’s Terragon Theatre and took a chance on presenting Letters from Wingfield Farm in Victoria. It was the hit that kept the Belfry afloat.
“An epistolary farm show from Ontario in B.C. Was a long-shot,” says Beattie. “But he wanted to do it I thought ‘sure.’ In a matter of about a month we were out there for a four week run, and it literally sold out, 102 per cent. They brought in chairs. Coincidentally, the Belfry was about to go under and it saved them. That leap of faith of Miles and Victoria audience was worth our loyalty, and ever since we did the first pubic run at the Belfry.”
The Belfry’s Patrick Stewart asked Beattie to be partners on a race horse years later.
The horse, of course, was named Walt Wingfield.
“It was the ugliest horse you’d ever seen before in your life,” says Beattie. “I said ‘You named it before you saw it, right?’ It looked like a deformed moose. My wife said ‘no.’, so that was the end of that. Patty did buy it .... and it had quite a successful career. It won enough to cover its oats.”
Beattie, who is now 64 years old, plays all the parts in the one-man shows. There are 36 characters in the first three episodes.
On some days Beattie will be performing two different plays in one afternoon. “I kind of like that, especially if there’s a late afternoon and evening show. Usually with ordinary theatre I’d get to the point where it’s like deja vu.”
Even though he’s performed it thousands of times, Beattie says he never tires of performing the role of Walt Wingfield.
“Other plays that I’ve done much less I’ve got tired about, but I’ve never felt that about Wingfield,” says Beattie. “I’ve always felt a slightly pacific joyfulness about the prospect of going to that place for a while and taking other people there. After 28 years it’s a good place and a healing place.”
In many ways, I’d like to be more like Walt, he’s an admirable guy, he has perseverance, he leads with his chin, he has an enormous sense of humanity and tolerance about him,” says Beattie. “plus he has the ability to laugh at himself.” Now that’s something the two characters have in common.
Rod Beattie stars as Walt Wingfield in the first three episodes of the comedy series
July 30- Aug. 25 at The Belfry