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2 Minutes with Jeremy Novak

Jeremy Novak, the inventor of the character Jerome the Gravekeeper, says his view of mortality changed after losing his father this past February.
Jeremy Novak, the inventor of the character Jerome the Gravekeeper, says his view of mortality changed after losing his father this past February. - Kirk Starratt

He’s portrayed a dead man hundreds of times but had never seen death.

Sitting bedside this past February as his father’s life slipped away, Jeremy Novak’s view of mortality changed. A desire to make the most of limited time deepened.

How will I be remembered?

Novak puts a lot of himself into a character he created more than a decade ago.

Jerome the Gravekeeper is his contribution to Annapolis Valley culture, honouring local history.

Sitting in Wolfville’s Al Whittle Theatre, Novak waits to meet aspiring performers at a casting call. Some he will cast for his Valley Ghost Walks tours.

Novak loves watching this eclectic team of performers grow in number and in their roles. So long as there are actors willing to breathe life into the past, the historical stories of the Annapolis Valley live on.

“We ought not forget some of these things…but we should also be entertained.”

Drawing excitement and energy from the crowd, Novak is tempered by the challenge to deliver his best performance. Grateful for the opportunity.

Novak never forgets that every tombstone represents a person who helped build the community.

He feels a sense of responsibility sifting through layers of Valley history and bringing the stories of his long-dead subjects to life. They speak to him. He relates to them. They are part of us.

They were people like you and I, experiencing life’s trials and tribulations. Mona Parsons, John Frederic Herbin, Ebenezer Bishop – they lived, loved and left legacies to be celebrated.

“We ought not forget some of these things…but we should also be entertained.”

After all, it’s performance art, street theatre. Every experience is unique. A time for spontaneity, humour and fun.

Thoughts are racing before show time. He dons on Jerome’s black garb. Makeup turns his face pasty white. Neat and tidy haircut hidden under a wig of tangles.

Lines rehearsed.

Confident. Nervous. Thankful.

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