Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna bring 50 years of friendship and performing to ‘Things I Know To Be True’


Even though the Price family in the play “Things I Know to Be True” is fictional, actors Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna say they know them.

The characters and relationships are so believable that they remind McCamus and McKenna of people in their own lives, including themselves.

“I think the play will speak to people,” said McKenna in a joint interview with McCamus. “People will bring their own stories and see our story, and they’ll meet somewhere in the middle.”

Andrew Bovell’s play was first performed in Adelaide, Australia, in 2016 and this co-production between the Company Theatre and David Mirvish is its Canadian premiere.

McCamus and McKenna play a couple who’ve been married for 30 years and have four adult children, all of whom experience major life events during the play that challenge their parents’ capacity for acceptance and love.

“That’s life, right?” said McKenna. “There’s always curveballs. It’s constant change. It’s how you deal with the changes, how you react, how you respond. And we don’t always respond in the best way.”

McCamus’s Bob is an auto factory worker who was made redundant in his 50s and now spends a lot of time in his garden. As with McKenna, McCamus is drawing on his own life and relationships as he approaches the character.

“I watched my own father,” said McCamus. “He did leave (work) too early, but as soon as he left he just rattled around. He didn’t know what to do. It was like his routine was taken away from him, And also, it was interesting because when he left work, my mother was still working.”

This situation is directly mirrored in the play: McKenna’s Fran is a nurse and still committed to her job, as well as being the centre of the family’s life. “She likes her work,” said McKenna. “She doesn’t want to give it up right now. She’s always busy with four kids and working … It’s a lot. And you’re the hub. Four children. This is the command control.”

Both actors have been married for four decades to fellow theatre artists: McCamus to Chick Reid and McKenna to Miles Potter. They’re finding that the play is making its way into their own lives.

“I find myself saying things … I’m at home on my day off and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m doing the play,’” said McCamus.

“I said to my son, ‘I think I’m bleeding into this and Fran is bleeding into me,’” said McKenna.

McCamus and McKenna have a friendship of very long standing: they first met 50 years ago when she was in a show in Ottawa with the Ontario Youth Theatre and he came to see it with a group of friends. He doesn’t clearly remember the play or meeting McKenna. He remembers the “dancing and partying afterwards. Because that was the stage that we were at,” he said.

Asking if they’ve played husband and wife before produces a warm cascade of memories.

The first time was in “Phèdre” in 2010 at the Stratford Festival, a production that then toured to San Francisco. But they’d performed together many times before that: first in Michael Frayn’s “Benefactors” at Canadian Stage in 1990, then in “St. Joan” at Theatre Plus Toronto the following year and then in Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” in 1993 in Winnipeg.

They also recalled a number of memorable experiences working together at Stratford, including a 2010 production of “Dangerous Liaisons” in which they played the sparring, scheming former lovers Merteuil and Valmont.

Both were interested in performing in “Things I Know to be True” as soon as director Philip Riccio approached them and they read the script. Finding out that the other was involved sweetened the deal.

The characters in the play are openly affectionate and loving.

“This is a family that always kisses on greeting and parting,” say Bovell’s stage directions. “It is just second nature.” That being said, mother and father have very different ways of dealing with challenges.

Bob “believes whatever his kids tell him is the truth, even when it’s not,” said McCamus. “He deals with a lot of things in terms of denial: ‘This is the way life is.’ And if it goes to a place where he doesn’t like it, then he just kind of ignores it.”

Fran’s more reactive, perhaps to a fault.

“You can’t stay in the moment when they were five years old. You can’t stay in the moment when they were adolescents. Now they’re all flying the nest,” said McKenna. “It’s that tug of wanting to hold them really, really tight and wanting to let go. And what happens when that happens, when a couple is left with themselves again?

“They’re complex,” said McKenna of the relationships in the play. “But the constant is love.”

This, she knows to be true.

“Things I Know to be True” plays at the CAA Theatre, 651 Yonge St., through Feb. 19. See or call 1-800-461-3333 for tickets.


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