Matthew Ferguson Returns to the Stage

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The bait.

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About a week after the most recent "Lights, Camera, Auction" celebrity charity event, where attending fans first learned that Matthew Ferguson, Birkoff on USA's La Femme Nikita, was presently in rehersal for a play, I was checking the Heyn's Hussies message board and found out it would be put on in Sudbury, a small city in northern Ontario, and definitely within driving distance from my house.

I phoned the Sudbury Theatre and talked to a very helpful woman named Janna who assured me that yes, Matthew was indeed in the play and had already received numerous e-mails and faxes from his fans. I ordered my ticket for the Thursday evening performance and Janna offered me a seat in the front row. When I asked about possibly meeting Matthew after the show, she told me to send an email to him, in care of the theater, on the day of the performance, and ask him directly. I did, telling him where I was coming from and that I would be the emissary from his online fans. I also mentioned that I would be sitting in the front row and that something would be sent backstage for him.

I went straight back to the Hussy Board, told the girls that I had gotten my ticket and could indeed be their emissary at the play. My 'mission', issued promptly by my fellow operatives, was to attend the play and meet with Matthew afterwards. To say the least, my mission was accomplished!

So on November 9, 2000, I drove from my hometown of Burks Falls, Ontario, to Sudbury to see Matthew perform in "Glace Bay Miner's Museum" at the Sudbury Theater Center.

The play, adapted, by award-winning playwright Wendy Lill, from a short story by Sheldon Currie, was first produced by Eastern Front and Ship's Company Theatre in 1995 and is set in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, after WWII. It tells the story of the hardships of coal mine workers by way of one family who lives in the town at a time when its main employer were the coal mines. The mother, Catherine MacNeil, played by actress Deborah Grover, has lost her husband and one son in the mines. Her daughter Margaret, the main character, played by actress Irene Poole, is generally known as 'snot nose' and has a bit of a reputation in town. One for always having a runny nose, and the other — well, you can guess. Then there is Ian, Catherine's other son, played by Matthew, who works in the mines and is part of a group that wants to start a union for mine workers. Actor Peter Elliot is Grandpa, and he is quite a character. He doesn't have a speaking part and does all his acting by sitting in a rocking chair and thumping a slipper on a table to get attention. Grandpa has worked in the coalmines until he got sick with black lung. Throughout the play he communicates by writing down all his lines and the cast takes turns reading aloud what he has to say. Finally there is the character of Neil, played by Phillip MacKenzie, who meets up with Margaret after coming home from the war and they become an item and eventually get married. Neil doesn't want to work in the coalmines, as he had a bad experience on his one and only day down in the tunnels, before he met Margaret. After cutbacks at the mines, and Ian having fewer hours, a job opening comes up and Neil finally relents, going to work alongside Ian. It is in the mines that they die, side by side, as one of the tunnels collapses.

I had left home shortly after 2 p.m. in the afternoon and arrived in Sudbury about 2 1/2 hours later. I drove around the town for a bit and then went for dinner at a restaurant close to the theater. The doors opened at 7:30 p.m. and I made my way in to the ticket office. Janna wasn't there, but the woman at the ticket counter was very nice too. I told her I had something to give to Matthew and even though she looked at me funny when she saw it was a bag of Oreo cookies, she took it and gave it to one of the other employees to take to Matthew. I laughed and told her that Matthew would know what it was — an inside joke from the loyal Nikita fans, a play on Birkoff's fondness of Oreos.

Once inside the theater I took my seat, and when they say front row center, they mean it. The stage was literally only a few feet away from me. Well, as I was sitting and waiting for the performance to start, I decided to take a picture of the stage (which of course didn't turn out — figures) and one of the employees, Jeff, came up to me. I thought I was going to get in trouble for taking a picture, which isn't allowed during the performance, but that wasn't why he was there. He asked me if I was Karin and said he had a message for me from Matthew, that he would be pleased to meet with me after the performance in the lounge.

Okay — by that time I was excited enough already, but that gave me yet another boost. I had never had the opportunity to meet him at any of the Close Quarters Standby Conventions, and I was tickled pink that he had offered it.

As for the actual performance, seeing Matthew in a live production like this was a treat for me. After watching him on LFN for so many years and getting to know his 'Birkoff' persona, it was refreshing to see him play another character. There he was in coveralls, plaid shirt and work boots. His voice projected very nicely into the audience and he seemed very comfortable in his role of Ian. His hair has gotten quite a bit longer since the last season of LFN, and I guess he was wearing his contacts as he didn't have glasses on. At the end of the play, during curtain call, Matthew looked down to where I was sitting (there were only 3 of us in the front row) and gave me a smile (at least I think it was for me!). The whole cast got a standing ovation and they gave two curtain calls.

Okay, finally I'll get to the part where I met Matthew.

After making my way out of the theater and into the lounge, Jeff came up to me and told me that Matthew would be out shortly as he had to change first. He finally appeared and came right up to me and shook my hand as he said, "Hello Karin. We talked for a bit about La Femme Nikita, the many fans he had online, and how many LFN sites and boards there are.

Digging for Season 5 intel, I asked him which episodes he was in and he mentioned one he knew for sure (I am not going to tell you which — wouldn't want to lessen the suspension) and also said he 'may' be in another one.

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The catch.

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Matthew said he and the rest of the cast loved the Oreos, and that they all shared them during the intermission. In fact, and he wrote this in my program, Phillip MacKenzie almost went back out onstage with his teeth all black. I asked if he was glad to be back on the stage and his answer was a very emphatic yes.

On the topic of CQS4, he said that yes, he would attend both CQS and LCA if at all possible next year, provided he is not working. He felt badly for backing out of this year's LCA at the last minute, because of rehearsals for "Glace Bay Miner's Museum."

Matthew was overwhelmed with the amount of fan messages he had received while doing the play, and said that he was going to keep all of them.

Before he had to leave, I asked him if he would mind having a picture taken with me, and we recruited Jeff to do the honors. Matthew posed with me, even kissed me for the first shot, and then we said our good-byes. He truly is a gracious young man and I am glad I got to meet him.

I had intended on staying in Sudbury for the night but I was so hyped about seeing Matthew that I decided to drive home — after all, I needed to debrief and file my mission report as soon as possible.

In Nikita circles Karin Davies is known as Northstar.