About this book
In 1913, Sarah Bernhardt travelled to Edmonton, Alberta, to perform the last act of Dumas’ The Lady of the Camellias before two packed houses at the Empire Theatre. Augmenting well-documented accounts of both the Bernhardt visit and the surprisingly active local live theatre scene during the pre-First World War years, At the Zenith of the Empire creates a swirling speculative scenario about the impact of a very special day in the lives of Edmonton’s earliest theatregoers and theatre practitioners. The Divine Sarah herself narrates this sumptuous romp of reminiscence, in which she and her eccentric co-star Lou Tellegen become instantly embroiled in the lives of the people they’ve come to entertain. Playwright Stewart Lemoine combines drama with hilarity in a play that visits such local landmarks as Ada Boulevard, the Groat Ravine, newly annexed Strathcona, and the not-quite-completed High Level Bridge—all the while celebrating that most crucial component of the theatrical equation—the audience.
"Matters of the heart, of life and love, of human connectedness, are what theatre is about. Here, Lemoine proposes that it’s what theatregoing is about, too. And when the biggest celebrity in the world comes to town, and everybody must go, the swirl of individual motives in the audience is heated, heightened, focused."
"A witty theatrical treat.... Lemoine has presented us with a mystery, a love story, and a valentine to theatre."
"Lemoine shows vulnerability beneath the genuinely funny, heartfelt writing.... Lemoine’s Bernhardt becomes an evocation of the endless possibilities inherent in all societies, not just a turn-of-the-century boom-town."
"The play was a delight to see, and is also a joy to read."