Fifteen years ago, Julia Mackey travelled to Normandy, France, for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
That trip — the people she met, the places she stood and the stories she heard — inspired her to write the play Jake’s Gift. The play has won many awards over the past 13 years, and later this month, Mackey will be returning to Normandy to perform the play on the very beach where so many Canadian soldiers lost their lives on D-Day.
Mackey, who lives in Wells, will be performing Jake’s Gift in English and in French at various venues in Normandy, France, including the Juno Beach Centre, between June 1 and June 10.
To help make this all possible, she is performing Jake’s Gift as a fundraiser this Saturday night (May 18) at the Sunset Theatre in Wells.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. There will be a reception after the show in the lobby.
In June 2004, Mackey travelled to Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. She attended many ceremonies, walked the coastline and interviewed dozens of veterans who had returned for the occasion. The experiences of the veterans, her own discoveries, and a lifelong interest in Remembrance Day led to the development of the play at The Sunset Theatre in August 2006.
Jake’s Gift is a multiple-award-winning play about a World War II veteran’s reluctant return to Normandy for the 60th Anniversary of the D-Day landings.
While revisiting the shores of Juno Beach, Jake encounters Isabelle, a precocious 10-year-old from the local village. Isabelle’s inquisitive nature and charm challenge the old soldier to confront some long-ignored ghosts, most notably the war-time death of his eldest brother, Chester.
At its heart, Jake’s Gift is about the legacy of remembrance and makes personal the story behind one soldier’s grave.
“Jake’s journey is about going back and taking the final journey to go back and find his brother’s grave,” said Mackey. “It’s something he’s been avoiding for 60 years.”
When Jake meets Isabelle, she encourages him to have a graveside conversation with his brother, explains Mackey.
“That conversation is really a cathartic memory where he realizes that what he did during the war is important,” she said. “I think like many soldiers I met over there, he just doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Since 2007, Jake’s Gift has gone on to play at festivals and theatres in more than 250 communities across Canada, including International stops to Washington State, the U.K. and in France for the 70th and 73rd anniversaries of D-Day.
For more information about Jake’s Gift, visit jakesgift.com.