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Mistletoe Bride at Silversmith for two readings

Tara Rosling will repeat her one-woman show, which has become a tradition in NOTL and at Silversmith, says Kate Brzozowski.
Tara Rosling will repeat her one-woman show, which has become a tradition in NOTL and at Silversmith, says Kate Brzozowski.  (Penny Coles)

Imagine the intimate setting of a candle-lit, century-old church oozing ambience, with exceptionally talented actor Tara Rosling, considered by her peers one of the best in Canada, telling a haunting, dramatic tale about a wedding night.

If you’ve been to Silversmith Brewing Company for a reading of The Mistletoe Bride, you know it’s become a holiday tradition in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

If you haven’t, you don’t want to miss it this year — but call early for a reservation.

There are just two performances this year, and with only 50 seats in the brewery, they go quickly, with many returning year after year.

The theatrical reading is more of a one-woman performance, from an adaptation of the British folk tale written by Jeanette Winterson, adapted by director and writer Peter Hinton.

Several years ago, Rosling explains, she and Hinton wanted a project they could work on together, and Mistletoe Bride came about from that desire. “We never expected it to take off the way it did.”

This will be the sixth year of the performance, with Hinton busy doing other shows, but Rosling says she has staged it with him often enough that she can “show up with a few bits, and do the reading,” although she will take a quick look at it beforehand to ensure it is still committed to memory.

When she and Hinton initially approached co-owner Chris Pontsioen about staging the reading in the beer hall, which they felt offered the perfect ambience for the dramatic reading, he was onside immediately, Rosling says.

Much to their surprise, they had to turn people away, and decided on the spot to do a second reading that night, she recalls.

It grew to two readings on each of two nights the second year, she says, to three readings over three evenings, says Rosling. She has also performed it at other venues, but discovered nowhere is as well-suited for the tale she tells as the warm, cozy pub on a cold winter’s night.

And with a busy schedule, two performances will be perfect, she says.

Most come to enjoy a meal and a pint before the show, and then, once a final round of drinks is served before the reading, the room becomes still and perfectly quiet. All electricity is turned off so not even the hum of fans or refrigerators spoil the mood. “All the elements are perfectly suited to this brewery-slash-church,” she says.

“It’s incredible what Silversmith does to create the right ambience. There are no disturbances, the audience is quiet. It’s perfect.”

Kate Brzozowski, vice-president and director of operations at Silversmith, couldn’t agree more. 

“This building just perfectly fits the whole experience. It really has become a tradition for us.”

She has been at the pub for several of the readings, and wouldn’t miss it. Staff also ask to be scheduled for work that night so they can also be there to hear it.

In fact, Silversmith is so delighted to host the event, the brewery has a new, limited release this year, called Legend of the Mistletoe Bough, from which the Mistletoe Bride tale derives, says Brzozowski.

The mistletoe on the label was drawn by Brzozowski, and on the back of the label is a teaser, and a bit of a warning: enjoy a game of hide-and-seek, “but steer clear of chests under lock and key.”

It’s considered a barley wine, made from hops, with an 11 per cent alcohol content, she says, with about 1,000 bottles, 500 for this holiday season, and 500 to be kept for next Christmas. 

“It ages well,” Brzozowski says, “just like the tale of The Mistletoe Bride. We’re encouraging people to buy one bottle to drink and one to keep for next year, to compare the flavours.”

Although Winterson’s story was written in 2002, the original legend goes back to the early 1800s, about a young bride who plays a dangerous game of hide and seek with her husband on their wedding night.

Rosling is now focusing on TV — she has been in two seasons of Impulse, on YouTube Red, and is hoping for a third, has wrapped up shooting on Happy Place, a feature directed by Helen Shaver, with an ensemble of talented women, and has been in episodes of Murdoch Mysteries and Star Trek. She is looking forward to her two performances of Mistletoe Bride at Silversmith.

However, she adds, “the one thing that never fails to sadden me and amaze me is unfortunately this story is still very relevant, and timely. It’s never-ending. It’s so rife, so prevalent,” she says. Without going into details that would give it away, she mentions the Jian Ghomeshi trial of about five years ago, and the conversation that has continued since.

But despite the underlying darkness and mystery of the mistletoe tale, “it’s a beautiful, poetic story,” she says.

It’s also a fundraiser for Gillian’s Place, “another beautiful story” of women finding their safe place, she says.

There is no admission, but a box will be passed for donations to aid women and children who have escaped from abusive relationships.

Be prepared for goose bumps, and being transported back in time, with this dark, eerie Christmas story told by Rosling at Silversmith Dec. 16 and 17 — 6 p.m. for a bite to eat, with the reading starting at 7 p.m. Call 905-468-8447 for reservations.