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Jennie's Story, a stage play


Jennie's Story flyer
Jennie's Story ad


Jennie's Story is set in the late 1930s on the Canadian prairies. It concerns the Sexual Sterilization Act that was enacted in 1928, allowing a sterilization procedure to be performed without consent on individuals that were deemed to be unfit or mentally challenged. Jennie McGrane takes the title role, and her discovery of what the priest Father Fabrizeau has done to her is the central drama of the play. Believing she had an appendectomy when she was a teenager, the truth is revealed when she's unable to conceive. This was one of Lambert's latter works, and among her finest. In 1999, it was adapted into an independent film by Kim Hogan.

Winner of the 1983 Chalmers Canadian Play Award.

1983 Chalmers Award

Theatrical Productions

1. The New Play Centre, Canadian Theatre Conference in Sasksatoon, Saskatchewan, and the Waterfront Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia, October 1981.

Directed by Jace van der Veen
Stage Managed by Paddy McEntee
Sherry Bie
Pierre Tetrault
FATHER Edward Fabrizeau

David Ferry

EDNA Delevault
Lillian Carlson
MOLLY Dorval
Laura Bruneau

ticket stub

2. CentreStage Company, St. Lawrence Centre in Toronto, April 1983.

Directed by Bill Glassco
Designed by Sue Le Page
Stage Managed by Catherine Russell
Nora McLellan
Michael Hogan
FATHER Edward Fabrizeau
William Mockridge
EDNA Delevault
Clare Coulter
MOLLY Dorval
Denise Naples


3. Many subsequent productions both within and outside of Canada.

production flyer
production flyer


"...[an] ambitious play [that] transports us into another era, and into different levels of reality."
     -Vancouver Courier

"This haunting story from Western Canada in the '30s is a fine one and will undoubtedly become a minor classic of contemporary Canadian Theatre...a must for every lover of good theatre."
     -Jim Costley, Burlington School Board

"Jennie's Story, like all good plays, is about more than what happens during two acts of hectic action. It is, as the author suggests, a study of how people respond to their entrapment by beliefs and social attitudes, but it is also, at another level, a play about women as the victims of men and men as the victims of their own mythologies. At all levels it is a powerful, involving and disturbing dramatic event."
     -Christopher Dafoe, The Vancouver Sun

"Prairie tragedy portrayed on Phoenix stage", The Ring, Volume 21, No. 14 , October 13, 1995.

"Needing a baby for Jennie", The Gazette, Volume 90, Issue 91, March 19, 1997.

Andy Maton & Donna White

About the Play

"This story my mother told me (now she tells me it's not the whole story--she's so angry at me for having written it). I grew up on this story about a woman, a girl really, who had worked for the local priest in southern Alberta. On the advice of the priest, she went to Calgary for an operation, thinking that she was having an appendectomy. Years later she married a farmer in the district, and they were very much in love, but she couldn't seem to get pregnant. Finally she went back to the city to find out why she couldn't get pregnant, and she was told that she had had a hysterectomy, at which point she went home and opened a bottle of Armstrong and Hammer lye and mixed it up with some water and drank it. And killed herself.

"That is a story that I had been told since I was a girl, and I knew the husband, so that when I came to write...I mean, it's always bothered me, it's something I knew I'd have to deal with one day. I mean the whole...the Catholic Church. She was obviously sleeping with the priest, and I couldn't figure it out. I thought he would have to have had some kind of legal support to do a thing like that, so I started looking into the statutes on sterlization and they're horrific. B.C. was bad, but Alberta was unbelievable. In Alberta you could be sterilized--and by that they meant hysterectomy--for the transmission of evil, and evil was loosely defined as anything from pauperism to alcoholism, to feeble-mindedness. The figures are incredible, and this was not changed until 1971."

-from an interview with Betty Lambert


Lambert, Betty. (1987). Jennie's Story & Under the Skin. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press.

Jennie's Story


Heart of the Sun, 1998, 94 minutes, directed by Francis Damberger, screenplay by Kim Hogan.

Christianne Hirt
Jennie McGrane
Shaun Johnston
Michael Riley
Father Ed
Merrilyn Gann
Eric Johnson
Jessica Carmichael
Graham Greene
Mark Anderako
Orderly Swanson
Clara Hare
Nurse Shields
Jeremy Hart
Dr. Finney
Judith Haynes
Nurse Cross
John B. Lowe
Train Conductor
Arianna Marsden
Paul McGaffey
Man #2
Bill Meilan
Milissa Mihalcheon
Nurse Needle
Wendell Smith
Man #1


Production Credits
Francis Damberger
Kim Hogan
Brenda Liles
Executive Producer
Sydney Banks
Executive Producer
Betty Lambert
Play Author
Peter Wunstorf
Simon Kendall
Lenka Svab
Ken Rempel
Art Director
John Danylkiw
Shaun Johnston
Wendy Partridge
Costume Designer
Shane Conelly
Sound Designer
Ian Emberton
Sound Editor
Tony Wyman
Boom Operator
Craig Wallace
First Assistant Director
Pierre Tremblay
2nd Assistant Director
Katherine Ringer
3rd Assistant Director
Bette Chadwick
Russell Gray
Robin Swiderski
Set Decorator
Rosemarie Diekmann
Key Hair Stylist
Prudence Olenik
Key Makeup Artist
Andrew Moreau
Assistant Art Director
Kirk Jarrett
Stunt Coordinator
Isabel Bloor
Set Costumer
Dana Dube
Animal Trainer
Kim Goddard-Rains
Production Coordinator
Kenneth Hewlett
Camera Operator
Corey Jones
Script Supervisor
Karen Redford
Location Manager
Grizz Salzl
Assistant Camera

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