CAT presents Butterflies Are Free

Central Alberta Theatre is launching into a new season with the well-known production Butterflies Are Free, opening Sept. 26 in the Memorial Centre’s Nickel Studio.

Curtain is 7:30 p.m. with additional shows through to Oct. 12. There is also a matinee on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.

The 1960s romantic comedy Butterflies Are Free is the story of a young man, Don Baker, blind from birth, who is trying to experience life on his own much to his over-protective mother’s chagrin. The flirty, flighty hippy girl in the next apartment (Jill) adds both the love and comedy interest.

Butterflies Are Free was a 1972 film based on the play by Leonard Gershe, which had made its debut in 1969. The film, directed by Milton Katselas, was adapted for the screen by Gershe.

“It didn’t have a long theatre life before it was eclipsed by the movie,” explains director Tanya Ryga, an instructor at Red Deer College and a gifted actor in her own right. Although there is much humour in the script, there is pain as well, she said. “It’s both funny/painful, and painfully funny.”

Goldie Hawn and Edward Albert starred in the film’s central roles, and Eileen Heckart received an Academy Award for her performance as Mrs. Baker. And while the original play was set in Manhattan, the screenplay written for the film was set in San Francisco.

The cast in CAT’s adaptation features Jordan Galloway as Don, Nicole Leal as Jill, Barbara Adams as Mrs. Baker and Dylan Hopkins as Ralph Austin, a theatre director.

For Ryga, delving into the world of the late 1960s was a joy on every front, from the finding the unique fashions of the time to exploring the music. It was a turbulent time socially, but in many ways there are striking similarities to today.

But it’s a relatable play as well, with those universal themes of love, family, letting kids go and finding one’s way in the world. Don Baker hails from a wealthy suburb so it’s incredibly tough for his mom to see her son leave that kind of stability and security for an apartment in a gritty part of the city. But Don is longing for independence – in spite of his blindness.

“Mothers and fathers can be overprotective, worried or concerned, but that’s just love in another form. They’re learning how to let go – hence the ‘butterflies’ motif,” said Ryga. “Everyone is learning to let go in this play.”

Mrs. Baker eventually drops in and is horrified to see his apartment, but he loves it and is finding his way in his new surroundings – along with Jill, who is trying to break into the acting scene.

Don and Jill really couldn’t be more different, but end up forging a close relationship.

“It is the story of their love, their relationship and how they affect each other. She sees in him such great strength, and begins to get over a fear of boundaries. And he starts to let loose a little bit, understand his and understand that life is going to be really, really hard for him. He might embrace his blindness, but the world isn’t ready yet.

“It’s also about the clash of values, the clash of age – a tempest of people trying to get what they need in a world gone mad – the late 1960s was a mad world. And the young people often bear the brunt of how to deal with it all.

“But ultimately, this play is about family; it’s about falling in love and leaving the nest.”

For tickets and more information, call the Black Knight Inn at 403-755-6626 or visit