A number of years ago, while working for a large insurance company, Lee MacDougall had the opportunity to meet a woman by the name of Florence - a completely charming albeit incompetent office worker who had some how managed to keep her job. Her story truly fascinated him.
And many years later, at a social gathering, out of the blue someone asked, "Have you seen Erhardt's Ginkgo?" It struck him, at the time, as oddly funny and seemed to stick in his mind.
Eventually these two characters made their way into the madcap comedy The Ginkgo Tree, now playing at the Blyth Festival.
Set in a mom and pop gardening shop called Anything Grows (based on the delightful Stratford shop of the same name), Rose rules the roost but her eccentric manager Florence keeps things chaotic at the best of times. To cover up her financial errors, Florence has engaged in some "creative" bookkeeping. Enter Joe, the loans officer sent to investigate the store's records. But Joe is not ready for Florence's feminine charms. The Ginkgo Tree is an hilarious story of love, retail, and how to beat the bank.
Lee MacDougall, a Stratford resident for the past 14 years, has spent most of his professional career as a performing artist. Although he was inspired to write while working on a comedy review at university, MacDougall didn't put pen to paper until the mid '90s when "I felt I had something of value to say and when I worked up enough nerve to say it." His first play, High Life, a comedy about four "down and out" ex-cons who rob a bank machine, premiered at Harbourfront's World Stage Festival in 1996, won a Dora Award that same year, and has enjoyed multiple productions around the globe including in New York, London and Tokyo). In addition to High Life and The Ginkgo Tree, MacDougall adapted W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind for the stage and is currently working on a new project, Resistance, based on G8 protestors.
As an actor, MacDougall performed on stage in the Toronto and U.S. tour of Mamma Mia, and Urinetown and has just completed shooting for the film Cheaper by the Dozen II with Eugene Levy, Steve Martin and Hilary Duff. MacDougall hopes, to one day, don the director's hat on a special project.
The Ginkgo Tree is playing at the Blyth Festival, in repertory, until Aug. 13. Starring in the play are Nancy Beatty, Adrian Churchill, John Dolan (Stratford), Mark Harapiak, Sharon Heldt, Suzanne Roberts Smith, Ken Munday and Lisa Norton. Sets and costumes are designed by Shawn Kerwin and lighting design is by Louise Guinand (Stratford). Sound services by Todd Charlton of Stratford.