Thursday, 7 May 2015

This Summer Explore Theatre in Ontario

by Rebecca Ballarin, Interim Program Coordinator
Summer theatre at Winslow Farm
The Cavan Blazers presented by 4th Line Theatre in 2011
Photo by Wayne Eardley

Growing up in Peterborough, I remember spending a few balmy evenings each summer outside on the picturesque Winslow Farm in Millbrook—home of 4th Line Theatre—watching many of my schoolmates perform in engaging new Canadian plays. I’m sure many of you also have fond memories of summer theatre experiences: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to create some new ones this year? Across the province theatres are gearing up for their summer seasons, with many opening nights just around the corner. Whether you’re looking to learn something new about Ontario’s unique and colourful history, hoping to share some laughs with family and friends, or ready to sing along to some catchy tunes, the 2015 Ontario Summer Theatre season has something for you!

I’m hoping to make a trip back home to visit 4th Line Theatre, which will be presenting Canadian plays that tell unique stories about moments in our history. This year they will be producing the world premiere of Alex Poch-Goldin’s The Bad Luck Bank Robbers, the story of the 1961 robbery of the Toronto Dominion Bank in Havelock Ontario, and Gimme that Prime Time Religion, a satire that takes us to a small town in Ontario where an evangelistic ministry has decided to put on a faith healing rally.

4th Line is not the only company presenting new Canadian works this season; they are joined by Port Dover’s Lighthouse Festival Theatre, Blyth Festival, Festival Players of Prince Edward County, Gravenhurst Opera House, Stone Fence Theatre in the Ottawa Valley, and Classic Theatre Festival in Perth.

Alongside the raucous comedies Corpse!, Stag and Doe, One Moment, and Same Time, Next Year, Lighthouse Festival Theatre presents the world premiere of Peter Colley’s The Ghost Island Light: a comedy thriller about a couple that has been assigned to be the new lighthouse keepers on Ghost Island.

If you’re a fan of this play, or of Colley’s work in general, you can also catch his musical The Vaudevillians, presented this summer by both The Rose Theatre of Brampton (whose season also includes Confessions of a Redheaded Coffeeshop Girl, and On Golden Pond) and the Orillia Opera House (who will also be producing On Golden Pond, as well as Outlaw and The Ladies Foursome).

Blyth Festival—celebrating 40 years of producing Canadian plays—presents Annabel Soutar’s docu-drama Seeds, Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte, Edna Rural’s Church Supper (A Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes production), and the world premieres of Fury - a new musical with book and lyrics by Peter Smith and music by Samuel Sholdice – and Sean Dixon’s The Wilberforce Hotel.

The Festival Players of Prince Edward County are presenting a festival of four Canadian solo shows in the month of July, followed by two Canadian plays Stag and Doe and Unjustly, and later in the summer, three brand new works-in-progress: A Splinter in the Heart, Tale of a Town: Prince Edward County, and a show developed by their young company about the agricultural history of their area.

The Gravenhurst Opera House will be producing the world premiere of Lynda Martens’ Swing Dance, along with Shirley Valentine, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a dinner-theatre performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Fly Me to the Moon, and the musical I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.

Bringing the Ottawa Valley Steam Era railway history to life in their new musical Here Comes the Train! The Ottawa Valley Railway Story is Stone Fence Theatre. Based on the first-hand experiences of some of the last of the railway workers from that era, the show features fifteen original songs, and will showcase many of the company’s veteran performers.

And finally, in Perth, the Classic Theatre Festival brings their local history to life with “Perth Through the Ages”; a theatrical historic walking tour. This will be presented alongside this year’s “Classic Hits of Broadway”: Neil Simon’s classic comedy Barefoot in the Park, and Frederick Knott’s heart-stopping thriller Wait Until Dark; popularized by the 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn.

If you’re looking for a good laugh this summer you’re definitely in luck, and, if you’re a fan of prolific Canadian playwright Norm Foster, even more so! Many companies will be producing some of his most beloved comedies this season.

The Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon has chosen The Foursome, a hilarious play about four men sharing a round of golf at their college reunion, reminiscing about the paths that their lives have taken. The play will be presented alongside Three Men in a Boat, End of the Rainbow, No Tell Motel, and Making a Move–a ‘choose your own adventure’ style comedy!

Port Stanley Festival Theatre will be producing Foster’s Hilda’s Yard–a peek over the picket fence into one ordinary family’s life on one extraordinary day. Be sure to also check out the rest of their season, which includes Rhinestone Cowgirl: A Tribute to Dolly Parton, Old Wives’ Tales by Kevin Riodan, The Drawer Boy, and Real Estate.

Theatre Collingwood presents Foster’s musical comedy One Moment, which follows six employees in a call centre selling self-help DVDs. The rest of their season includes the comedies Baco Noir and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, as well as Memories of Rock and Roll and From Weimer to Vaudeville; two musical revues guaranteed to have your toes tapping.

Outlaw, Foster’s wild wild west comedy, will be performed in Petrolia by the Victoria Playhouse alongside A Second Helping: The Church Basement Ladies Sequel, What a Wonderful World, and three musical performances: From the Heart: Women of Country, Mark Payne’s I Love Piano, and The Fiddler and the Crooner.

Not only are a number of theatres producing his plays, but you can catch Mr. Foster starring in a few of them as well! Norm will be performing in his comedy Hilda’s Yard at the Upper Canada Playhouse in Morrisburg this July, and in the Port Hope Festival Theatre’s production of his comedy On a First Name Basis. The Upper Canada Playhouse is also presenting another of Foster’s comedies, The Gentleman Clothier, alongside Stag and Doe, and Touch and Go.  In Port Hope you can catch Soulpepper’s production of A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room, as well as Shout! The Mod Musical, Singin’ in the Rain, and Snarl’d: The Rapunzel Panto.

Celebrating their 15th season this summer, the Highlands Summer Festival of Haliburton presents One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest based on Ken Kessey’s classic 1962 novel, Lend me a Tenor, and the musical comedy Nunsensations!

If you`re craving music, look no further than The Westben Arts Festival in Campbellford which boasts a summer full of concerts as well as a production of Fiddler on the Roof, and the musical revue Kings of Broadway.

Some of Ontario’s larger theatre festivals including Gananoque’s Thousand Islands Playhouse, The Shaw Festival, and Drayton Entertainment are also presenting well-rounded, sure-to-be-entertaining seasons this summer.

The historic Thousand Islands Playhouse will be presenting Closer than Ever (a musical revue), The Pirates of Penzance, the farce Don't Dress for Dinner, Tuesdays with Morrie, and Dear Johnny Deere (the musical), as well as Blind Date—a piece of spontaneous theatre involving clown and improvisation—and the world premiere of Bed and Breakfast by Mark Crawford

The cast of Sweet Charity at Shaw Festival
Photo by David Cooper
The renowned Shaw Festival has programmed such classics as Shaw's Pygmalion, the musical Sweet Charity, and Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, complimented with contemporary works such as Peter and the Starcatcher and Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures.

At their numerous venues in Drayton, Dunfield, Huron County, Penetanguishene and St. Jacobs Country, Drayton Entertainment is producing a number of musical revues including Legends…of Rock n Roll and Canadian Legends, as well as the popular musicals Footloose, Chicago, and The Wizard of Oz.  They’re also producing a wide range of comedies from The Odd Couple to Sexy Laundry.

And finally, if you`d like to make the Bard part of your summer, be sure to schedule a visit to the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival to see their productions of Romeo and Juliet and The Comedy of Errors, or check out where Driftwood Theatre's Bard on the Bus tour will be stopping so you can catch their production of Hamlet.

Phew! There`s certainly a lot going on isn’t there? How exciting! And the best part of all? They’re right in our backyard!

Visit the Ontario Summer Theatre website

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