≈ 3 hours · With intermission
Like so many readers, I remember where I was when I read Fall On Your Knees because I remember the effect the novel had on me. As a young, queer, gender non-conforming person, born and raised on the East Coast into a family whose tree included immigrants, settlers, secrets, and surprises, I was moved and inspired by the novel; I felt seen by the story and stirred by the hope that lay in the characters’ reckoning with truth – however searing.
As a theatre maker, I was struck by what I recognized as an inherently theatrical engine driving the novel; I could see, hear and feel the worlds that MacDonald created. I was inspired to explore a theatrical adaptation because I knew that this voice, which continued to speak and sing in my imagination long after I set the book down, would speak and sing as powerfully to an audience. I’m grateful that Ann-Marie (who is, full disclosure, my wife) allowed me to try.
I have had the good fortune to assemble a remarkable team of collaborators. Over the past ten years my company, Vita Brevis Arts, with the support of many incredible theatre companies and artistic leaders, has shepherded the project through a development process designed to listen to the voice of the novel; to explore the material and discover the style of the piece. My first partner in this endeavour was the brilliant Hannah Moscovitch, who had not only the talent and vision but also the courage and stamina to take it on.
The shared dream of our collaborators was to bring to the stage the dynamic of the novel; its sweep of love and ambition; its page-turning suspense; the deep relationships that readers develop with characters who are flawed, gifted and often wounded. All this, along with the sheer delight of a story animated by music and passion.
When it came out, Fall On Your Knees was immediately remarkable for the lesbian love story at its heart but as time has gone on, the long overdue reckoning with racism in our society has rendered other veins in the novel more urgent than ever. In the twenty-five years since I first read it, my children have grown up, my parents have passed away, and both my perspective and our world have shifted. In light of the increasing vulnerability of so many of our communities, the larger embrace of the novel’s story of family, both chosen and biological, is all the more poignant and powerful.
Fall on Your Knees is above all a story of passion – for life, for love, for truth and ultimately for redemption. I am beyond grateful to the many, many collaborators who shaped this piece over the years and above all for the cast and company of this premiere production. Their love for and care of the story and its characters are a source of profound inspiration. I hope that you are inspired by their artistry, and I thank you for being here with us today.
Last updated: March 10, 2023
The National Arts Centre Foundation wishes to extend its heartfelt thanks to two of Canada’s greatest theatre champions: NAC Foundation board member Margaret Fountain, C.M., D.F.A. (hc), D.H.L.(hc) and her husband David Fountain, C.M. of Halifax. Their generous leadership support has helped to bring this acclaimed Canadian story to stages across the country.
The National Creation Fund’s investment of $200,000 supported a new approach to translating the novel from page to stage, with significant time dedicated to exploring non-literal, theatrical ways to capture and embody the power of the story. The Fund’s support also made the final two development workshops possible.
Thank you to the many artists whose talents and generosity shaped this stage adaptation. It cannot be said enough that works of theatre are shaped by many hands and hearts and Canadian theatre practitioners are among the very best in the world for creating new work. This list is an attempt to shine light on those artists but there are many more who worked behind the scenes or who are not included here by oversight. Please accept our thanks.
Trish Lindstrom, Alice Snaden, Fiona Byrne, Ryan Allen, Sabryn Rock, Lucinda Davis, David Storch, Krystin Pellerin, Daren A. Herbert, Jacoba Barber-Rozema, Adrianne Pieczonka , Lesley Barber, Sam Khalilieh, Dalal Badr, Marcus Nance, Tony Nappo, Yanna MacIntosh, Evan Buliung, Paul Sportelli, Marla McLean, Graeme Somerville, Kawa Ada, Diana Donnelly, Alana Hibbert, Kate Hennig, Joanna Falck, Antoine Bedard, Kate Smith, Peter Haworth, Anna Hardwick, Will Lafrance, Damien Broomes, Aurel Pressat, Lauren Barnett, Luciano Decicco, Karli Feldman, Nathan Simmons, Jeff Newberry, Vanessa Sears, Sabrina Weinstein, Melanie Phillipson, Robin Evan Willis, Gloria Mok, Evalyn Parry.
Special thanks to Jeanine Tesori and Reza Jacobs whose musical expertise and generosity of spirit was invaluable to our journey.
Thank you to Mel Hague, Patricia Cerra, Kimberley Rampersad, Jillian Keilley, Maggie Fairs, Cassandra Nicolau and Alanna Palmer for insight, guidance and care.
Special appreciation to Cherissa Richards, Michael Hart, Doug Price, Sarah Miller and Ciaran Brenneman for the long days of generosity and joy in the rehearsal room.
Thank you to the many producers, administrators, and artistic directors whose support over the years made this project possible including Linda Intaschi, Brian Sewell and David Mirvish of Mirvish Entertainment, Jackie Maxwell and the Shaw Festival, Daryl Cloran at The Citadel Theatre, Jim Nichols at New York Theatre Workshop, Anita Gaffney, Andy Lunney, Monika Seiler, Nina Lee Aquino and the team at the NAC, Heather Moore, Chris Dearlove and Sarah Garton Stanley at the National Creation Fund. Thank you to Elaine Calder, Patricia Cerra and Paul of VBA. Above all thank you to David Abel, Paul Beauchamp and Elissa Horscroft. Your faith, commitment, ingenuity and compassion are indescribably powerful. Our weekly meetings over the past five years were a lifeline.
– Alisa Palmer
A National Arts Centre, Vita Brevis Arts, Canadian Stage, Neptune Theatre, Grand Theatre Production
FALL ON YOUR KNEES
World Premiere Adaptation for the stage by Alisa Palmer and Hannah Moscovitch
Co-Created and Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Co-Created and Directed by Alisa Palmer
Production Dramaturgy by Mel Hague
Based on the Novel by Ann-Marie MacDonald
Part 1: Family Tree
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
Early 1900s to 1960s
Approximately 3 hours with 1 intermission
Part 2: The Diary
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and New York City, New York
Early 1920s to 1967
Approximately 3 hours with 2 intermissions
Please note this performance contains:
partial nudity, graphic violence, sexual content, sexual violence, strong language,
e-cigarette performance, smoke and haze.
Trigger Warning: parental abuse, incest, childhood sexual abuse
Lead Donors: Margaret Fountain, C.M., D.F.A.(h.c.), D.H.L.(h.c.) and David Fountain, C.M.
Developed with support from the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Produced with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.
Ann-Marie MacDonald is an author, playwright, and actor. She is known for her novels, Fall On Your Knees, The Way the Crow Flies, Adult Onset, and Fayne, as well as her plays, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet), Belle Moral: A Natural History, and Hamlet 911. Her work as an actor on stage and screen has earned her a Gemini Award and a Genie Nomination, and she hosted and narrated CBC TV’s documentary series, Life and Times and Doc Zone. Her writing has been honoured with awards including the Chalmers, the Dora Mavor Moore, the Governor General’s, and the Commonwealth Prize. Ann-Marie is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. In 2019 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in recognition of her contribution to the arts and her activism for LGBTQ2S+ rights.
Director / Adaptor / Co-Creator
Writer / Adaptor / Co-Creator
Music Supervisor & Composer
Piper / Ensemble
Tim Campbell James
Adelaide Taylor / Sweet Jessie Hogan / Ensemble
Sister St. Monica / Giles MacVicar / Mrs. Luvovitz / Ensemble
Lily Piper / Ensemble
Frances Piper / Ensemble
Kathleen Piper / Ensemble
Ralph Luvovitz / David / Ensemble
Leo “Ginger” Taylor / Impresario / Ensemble
Materia Piper / Charity Woman / Ensemble
Mrs. Mahmoud / Musician
Rose Lacroix / Doc Rose / Ensemble
Anthony / Ambrose / Ensemble
Dakota Jamal Wellman
Mercedes Piper / Jeanne Lacroix / Ensemble
Jenny L. Wright
Mr. Mahmoud / Tommy Jameel / Maestro / Ensemble
Conductor, Piano, Accordion
Flutes, Reeds, Pipes
Vocals, Qanun, Oud, Percussion
Associate Costume Designer
Leigh Ann Vardy
Associate Music Supervisor
Fight & Sexual Choreography
Dialect & Disability Consultant
Assistant Stage Manager
Apprentice Stage Manager (Halifax, Ottawa, London)
Apprentice Stage Manager (Rehearsal and Toronto)
Projectionists, Wardrobe Mistresses, Masters and Attendants are members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 471.
The National Arts Centre is a member of the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres and engages, under the terms of the Canadian Theatre Agreement, professional artists who are members of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.
Nina Lee Aquino
Community Outreach Lead
ASL Interpreter Consultant
Senior Marketing Manager
Associate Producer, Artistic Projects
Vita Brevis Arts (VBA) was founded by Alisa Palmer to support the development of unusual theatre projects, aimed for larger spaces and audiences. VBA was created to support projects that are ambitious in scope, urgent in content and that have the capacity to speak to diverse audiences in a highly theatrical and sensually rich language. Inclusive and artistically excellent storytelling is at the heart of VBA's mission. In practice, VBA partners with established theatre companies and helps to realize projects that may be outside the box: to curate artist - driven development processes outside traditional development models, and which require sensitivity to culturally specific material. VBA is comprised of producers Alisa Palmer and Paul Beauchamp.
Canadian Stage is one of the country’s leading contemporary performing arts organizations. A collision of disciplines and cultures, Canadian Stage reflects the dynamism and complexity of Canada and is a vital artistic force locally, nationally, and internationally. In its over thirty-year history, Canadian Stage has employed thousands of artists and developed and produced hundreds of new productions. Many of the plays developed by Canadian Stage have been awarded and nominated for Canada's most prestigious literary and performing arts honours, including Governor General's, Chalmers, and Dora Mavor Moore Awards. Throughout the theatre season, nearly 100,000 patrons attend performances and workshops in its three Toronto venues.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum and Executive Director Deb Harvey, the Grand Theatre (the Grand) is a leading cultural hub located in the heart of downtown London, Ontario. The not-for-profit regional theatre offers diverse, relevant, and original stories from around the globe through collaborations with national and international performing arts organizations. The Grand is committed to developing, producing, and premiering original stories through its COMPASS New Play Development program. Further, it is an ardent supporter of educational programming, as demonstrated through initiatives like the High School Project and Subsidized Student Matinees.
Neptune Theatre is Atlantic Canada’s regional theatre, now in its 59th season. On our stages you’ll experience theatre that is uplifting and thought-provoking. Working with the best local, regional, and Canadian theatre professionals, we seek to present a thought-provoking playbill that amplifies creative voices, inspires future generations of theatre artists, and delights audiences. With a mindful and inclusive approach, we are committed to bringing stories that represent the history and diversity of our region and its people to life on our stages. The work created and presented at Neptune explores our rich history and diversity, builds understanding, and shapes dialogue, helping to create a stronger, connected community.
Margaret Fountain, C.M., DFA(hc), DHL,(hc) & David Fountain, C.M.
Developed with support from the National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund.