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“Seeds” a fascinating, compelling docudrama of a little man who fought big business

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Whoever said that you can’t fight big business obviously didn’t know Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser.

 

Over a decade ago, the canola farmer was accused by Monsanto Inc., a large biotechnology multinational corporation, of illegally planting their genetically modified canola seeds on his farm, and was taken to court for patent infringement. At the offset, one may think that the deck was stacked against Schmeiser and that he couldn’t win such a case against such a big corporation; however, his fight against Monsanto became a cause célèbre not only in Canada, but also around the world.

 

Playwright Annabel Soutar and the innovative Montreal theatre company Porte Parole has chronicled Percy Schmeiser’s man vs. big business struggle in the excellent docu-drama “Seeds”, which is playing at the Centaur until November 24.

 

This multi-media, somewhat interactive production almost reminds you of a typical broadcast of such classic TV newsmagazine shows as “CBS Reports” or “This Hour Has Seven Days”. Soutar (played by Liisa Repo-Martell) tells the story of this ethical, legal struggle, from Schmeiser’s farmhouse in Bruno, Saskatchewan, to the offices and labs of Monsanto, to the courtroom, to the halls of the Supreme Court of Canada, while getting the story of this battle from the Schmeiser family, lawyers, media, and executives and P.R. reps from Monsanto. And after the decision of the first trial is handed down, Schmeiser becomes an international cause célèbre as he speaks out for the rights of the average farmer in media interviews and speeches that he delivers in the U.S., India and South Africa. However, at the same time, Soutar finds out from residents of Bruno about the other side of Percy Schmeiser. The audience wonders if it’s the ugly truth about this instant farmer’s champion, or a campaign orchestrated by Monsanto to discredit Schmeiser?

 

This is a classic “David and Goliath” story, and Soutar and the entire ensemble cast of “Seeds” certainly deserves a great deal of credit for doing the impossible of being able to explain the complexities of this complicated case in its simplest terms through this based on fact dramatization (and take a dry, mundane topic and make it fascinating for a theatre-going audience). Veteran actor Eric Peterson shines as the defiant farmer Percy Schmeiser, and handles the role with plenty of Saskatchewan stubbornness and sensibility; and the rest of the ensemble cast excellently complements the production for how they handle the multitude of roles they are given to perform, especially how they smoothly switch from one character to another without breaking their dramatic rhythm.

 

“Seeds” knows how to spread the fertilizer around to germinate a compelling story about how a little man fought big business, and managed to cut his way through its far reaching, tightening tentacles. To get your tickets for “Seeds”, call the Centaur box office at 514-288-3161.

 

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Over a hundred friends, family and dignitaries filled the council chamber of Cote St. Luc City Hall on November 4 to witness the swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Anthony Housefather and his eight-member council for its third mandate since the suburb demerged from the City of Montreal eight years ago.

 

Also in attendance were MNA Lawrence Bergman, MP Irwin Cotler, recently re-elected Mayor of Hampstead mayor William Steinberg and his entire new town council, which prompted Housefather to comment that “this is close as two communities can be,” and added that such an instance would never happen during the “old days” of the 1990s, when Irving Adessky and Bernard Lang were running (respectively) Hampstead and Cote St. Luc at the time.

 

The evening concluded when Cote St. Luc city clerk Jonathan Schechter administered the oath of office individually to Housefather and all eight councilors, in which all but one councilor were returned by acclamation (incumbent councilor Sam Goldbloom’s District 1 seat was the only one that was challenged; however, he was re-elected to council by a large majority on November 3).

 

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Back in the 1930s, Rudi and Miriam Weissenstein opened up a photography studio in Tel Aviv called Pri-Or Photography, and began to create a visual record of the State of Israel’s development as a country. Over the next 80 years that collection of photos remain to this day as one of the most important photographic archives in the country’s history.

 

On November 14, the Segal Centre, 5170 Cote St. Catherine Road, will be holding an exhibition of a selection of the Weissenstein’s photos, along with a screening of the documentary about them and their photographic legacy called “Life in Stills” starting at 7 p.m. As well, Sternthal Books, a Montreal-based art book publishing company that is putting together the exhibition, is compiling these selected photos for a companion coffee table book that will be published in the near future.

 

Tickets for the event are $12 and can be obtained by calling 514-739-7944.

 

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The Dorval-Strathmore United Church, 310 Brookhaven, is holding a military whist card party on November 15 starting at 7:30 p.m. Participants don’t need to know how to play whist beforehand, as they will be taught the game prior to the event. Tickets are $5, and refreshments will be served following the game. To purchase tickets, call Irene at 514-631-8641.

 

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If you have an event that you want publicized in the Grapevine, please send the information to my attention at bookbanter@hotmail.com

 

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