Theatre Debut for Bookstore Owner Janice LaDuke


Text by Josh Quirion

     Literary connoisseur and owner of Queen Street’s Black Cat Books, Janice Laduke, is trying her hand at playwriting. Her subject, Pilgarlic the Death, is the debut novel by Bernard Epps. First published by Macmillan in 1967, it was, in the words of LaDuke, “resurrected” by Quadrant Editions in 1980. England-born and U.S.-schooled, Epps was an author, historian, humorist, and cartoonist who established himself in Lennoxville in the 1980s, where he became, as LaDuke characterizes it, “a bookstore regular from day one.”

            Epps’s novel, Pilgarlic the Death, was described by Professor Sherrill E. Grace as a “very fine” one that is concerned with the celebration of ordinary life and the mysticism of small towns. The small town in the novel is Stormaway, and it is situated in the Eastern Townships where the primary characters, Dougal the School, Hugh the Hero, John the Law, Milly of the Hill, and the eponymous Pilgaric the Death, become, as Grace describes them, “dream figures who are larger than life.” 

            It is his novel and these characters from which, approximately two years ago, LaDuke perceived the possibility of creating an adaptation of Epps’s work and of giving it a voice. And so, LaDuke “set about cutting down and paring out of Bernie’s novel, a play.” Although she admits that the play is nowhere near the story in its entirety, she qualifies it as a sampling, and hopes that it might entice and guide readers in the direction of the original work.

            Staged by the Eaton Corner Museum, the play will open on February 23rdat the Sawyerville Community Center in Sawyerville (situated less than twenty minutes outside of Lennoxville). LaDuke considered that because of its previous plays—“brimming with life and enthusiasm and pride in the history of this place where we live”—the Eaton Corner Museum represented the ideal theatre society to help her production materialize.

In the words of Janice LaDuke:

            “If you have any interest at all in the Eastern Townships, in the people of the Eastern Townships, in the history of the Eastern Townships, in the geography of the Eastern Townships, in literature, in play, in comedy and in tragedy… if you have any interest at all in LIFE, then you must come and see this play.”

Laduke has resurrected a novel that disappeared prematurely. Let us bear witness:

Feb 23, 2 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
6 Rue Church, Sawyerville
Tickets available at Black Cat Books (168 rue Queen)
or contact Elaine Lebourveau for reservation: 819-563-8700