by Tim Chapman, Professional Theatre Coordinator
ASTRO (Association of Summer Theatres ‘Round Ontario), it is not surprising to often discover the same productions, plays and playwrights shared among the member theatres. It is also not surprising to find successful productions and plays being re-mounted or revived by theatres. It goes without saying that there are many practical reasons for this in the financially precarious world of live theatre, but it also provides audiences a chance to see hit shows they may have missed, to re-visit their favourite writers, and to see popular plays and shows from elsewhere which have not been performed locally. I want to give you a peek at what is coming this summer, taking a rather circuitous route of revivals, shared productions and oft-produced plays and playwrights programmed for the 2010 summer season.
I will begin with a relatively new play, Freedom 85, by Debra Hale. It has been produced in fringe festivals in Toronto and New York but it recently has been re-written and lengthened, premiering its new version at Theatre Orangeville this past February in a co-production with Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque where it is scheduled for this coming October. Now Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover has picked up the show for its summer season this year, opening in August. A 2009 Lighthouse premiere, Blue Suede Shoes, is opening Port Stanley Festival Theatre’s 2010 season. 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook is re-mounting their 2009 hit production of The Right Road to Pontypool in July.
Continuing with re-mounts, Drayton Entertainment and Victoria Playhouse Petrolia are co-producing the classic farce See How They Run, a 2009 Drayton production, scheduled for runs this summer in Petrolia and Penetanguishene. They are also doing a joint production of the New York hit musical Cowgirls this summer. Victoria Playhouse and Theatre Collingwood are both bringing in Leisa Way’s tribute to Patsy Cline, Sweet Dreams.
As far as playwrights, Norm Foster remains the mainstay of summer theatre in Ontario with no less than eight productions of his plays and musicals scheduled for 2010 summer season at seven summer theatres: Century Church Theatre in Hillsburgh; Lighthouse Festival, Port Stanley Festival, Showboat Festival Theatre in Port Colborne, Stirling Festival Theatre, Theatre Collingwood and Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg. That even places Norm ahead of the greatest playwright in the history of the English language, one William Shakespeare, who has seven productions among the ASTRO member theatres in 2010: four at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Driftwood Theatre’s touring production of Twelfth Night, Macbeth at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott and Westben Arts Festival’s production of Women in Shakespeare in Campbellford.
Next is Neil Simon with four productions. Both Upper Canada Playhouse and Rose Theatre in Brampton are doing The Odd Couple—Upper Canada is producing the female version of the play. Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon is producing The Star Spangled Girl, and Highlands Summer Festival in Haliburton is doing The Goodbye Girl. Peter Colley has three productions on the go. He has written the book for a new musical about screen legend James Cagney which Drayton Entertainment is opening in Drayton on June 30. Festival Players of Prince Edward County is presenting the Colley stand-by I’ll Be Back Before Midnight and an even earlier Colley play, You’ll Get Used To It: The War Show is at the Rose Theatre. Sarah Quick, also Artistic Director of Globus Theatre, has two productions this summer. She has a new play premiering at Globus in August and Port Stanley Festival has programmed her show Knickers: A Brief Comedy in July.
There are many plays being revived this summer, as always. I would like to draw your attention to a recent Linda Griffiths play, Age of Arousal, which is in Shaw Festival’s 2010 season. This superb new piece set in 1885 London has been previously produced in Calgary at Alberta Theatre Projects and in Toronto at Nightwood Theatre. Joan MacLeod’s wonderful new play, Another Home Invasion, produced at Tarragon Theatre in 2009 is being produced this summer at Thousand Islands Playhouse. Tempting Providence, a play originally produced by Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador which has toured across Canada, is opening at Festival Players of Prince Edward County in late July. Blyth Festival is reviving its 1987 hit play Bordertown Café in July. The 2008 Blyth premiere Harvest has been picked up in 2010 by Lighthouse Festival after Victoria Playhouse produced it in 2009 and toured their production to Red Barn Theatre. Unfortunately, after their tragic fire last year, Red Barn is not producing in 2010.
I have noticed a couple of relatively new Broadway successes making their way into the summer theatre this season. 39 Steps, an adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie, is being produced by Thousand Islands Playhouse, Victoria Playhouse and Globus Theatre this summer. And Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is at both Globus and Showboat Festival. The tried and true Driving Miss Daisy is around again this year at both the Stirling Festival and the Starbright Summer Festival in Sarnia. Starbright’s production even has a former TV star, Michael Learned, from The Waltons.
It is encouraging to see good plays and productions being re-mounted, revived and shared. It is also encouraging to see more Canadian plays and musicals getting an extended life in our summer theatres along with the classics and the recent successes from New York and London. Have a merry time this summer going around to all of our great summer theatres spread across Southern Ontario. I hope I have whetted your appetite for getting out of the house and enjoying live theatre this summer.