Rooted is all about the people and places that make us proud to call our community home.
There will be a new way for people from North Bay and the surrounding area to learn about the life of the Dionne Quints.
Well-known local actor Gerry Mendicino has put together a new stage play which will retell the sisters' story from a unique perspective.
“When the city was talking about what to do with the house a few years ago, it led me down this path to exploring and researching about the Dionne’s,” says Mendicino.
“I always loved the history of their story, it’s a story that should be told by the community. It’s a wonderful story as far as an event is concerned, although they did live pretty horrible lives at times as well.”
Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne were the first quintuplets to survive their infancy. Born in Corbeil, the sisters' custody was signed over to the Red Cross. They paid for their care and also built a hospital, while they were also put on display at “Quintland” which was a tourist attraction for people to see the girls.
“It is one of the most important events in the 20th century and at the time it was easily the biggest event in the world,” says Mendicino.
“People were coming out of the depression and North Bay as a city was in bankruptcy and looking for a way to bounce back financially and so everybody jumped on the bandwagon with, as far as I’m concerned, good intentions initially. If it happened now, the sisters would probably have their own reality show, it would’ve been exploited no matter when it was happening.”
Mendicino says young people might not know who they are and so that’s why he wanted to do something that could educate and entertain them.
“I had this idea of doing a show about their lives,” he says.
“I’m not a writer but I have some friends, Zoey Adams and Tony Quarrington, who were looking for some new projects to work on during the COVID-19 Pandemic. So I gave them this idea and what I was looking for and they came up with an entirely new and original show that I think people will just love. What they came up with was way beyond my expectations and I was just thrilled and I knew we had something really good here.”
Mendincino says the whole show is done as a ‘live radio broadcast from the 1930s.
“CFCH used to broadcast live from the Capitol Centre and I thought ‘why not present the play like this,” says Mendicino.
“The characters will step up to the mic and present as if you’re listening to a live radio broadcast from that time period and the audience is encouraged to participate in the show. We have a live band on stage led by Neil Kennedy, as well as other local artists who will play the different roles in the show.”
Mendicino says the show starts with the Dionne’s birth and it moves into the politician's reaction to the news and then how the media and tourists react to seeing the children.
“Then we’ll hear the young Quints tell the story through their eyes, from a child's point of view,” says Mendicino.
“The goal is to educate people on their story, and I think it's something that should be told many times because of its importance to the world and the community.”
The show is called Five-The Dionnes: A musical and tickets can be purchased here:
The ensemble cast includes local artists: Michael Bernier, Jennifer Carroll, Scott Clark, Steph Clarke, Steph Kast, Matt Lishman, John Macdonald, Gerry Mendicino, Andrew Palangio, R.D. Bartlett, Ted Chase, Chris Clarke, Allison Denomme, Sam Depatie, Mary Kennedy.
Mendicino says he was thrilled with the script and so he decided to book the Capitol Centre and put on the show.
The idea is now growing into something bigger.
“I read it to my brother Dave and he loved it and then he put his community hat on and thought that a whole weekend centered around the show would be something people would really enjoy,” says Mendicino.
His brother, City Councilor Dave Mendicino says, “I heard it and I started to think that since we were coming out of the pandemic, we’re going to be looking for things to do as a city and that led to an idea of putting together a weekend that surrounds the show under an arts and history theme.”
“We got the North Bay Museum involved, the downtown is getting involved and the folks that run the Dionne Quints Museum are also involved and totally behind the project along with Creative Industries ”
Dave adds Mike Monaghan and Kevin Oschefski from The Moose and CFCH will be presenting the pre-show. They will give a brief history of CFCH at the Capitol Centre and introduce a few special guest performers, before the actual show begins.
Outside of the show, Dave says there are a few events planned to bring people down to the area, “We’re going to be having a Gallery Hop Shop Hop over the weekend to help push that message to folks to come Downtown and enjoy our Waterfront.”
“The North Bay Museum will be open to display the Quints artifacts as well as the Quints Home. The Public Art Advisory Board will be holding public presentations and consultations over that weekend to develop a public art community plan moving forward.”
Dave says there’s a lot of potential to grow the public art presence in the city.
“It’s all about beautifying the community and having that connection.”
The show will be two nights, taking place on Friday June 3rd and Saturday June 4th. Dave adds there is a dinner and a show package they are hoping people can take advantage of.
“Lou Dawgs, The Moose Cookhouse and Cecil’s Restaurant have agreed to do a Dinner and Theatre deal for $50,” he says.
“They’ll offer items on their main menu for $25 while the tickets for the show are also $25.”
There will also be live entertainment for people to come to after the theatre production.
Dave says, “This is all part of developing ways to bring people downtown and have them spend their whole day and evening down there.”
If you have a story for the “Rooted” series, send Matt an email at firstname.lastname@example.org