Volume 92, Issue 2

Friday, May 22, 1998

increase this


Curtain rises on summer theatre

Gazette Staff

This summer, you can travel back in time to a '50s ammunition factory, an Edinborough private girls school in the '30s or to modern day New York – all without leaving your theatre seat. A quick visit to any one of the summer theatre festivals is certain to deliver a wide range of plays that should satisfy any taste.

The Blyth Festival in Blyth, Ontario runs a great Canadian marquee from late June until early September. The featured plays for this season stay true to the festival's slogan that "Blyth is the stage of your life" depicting a wonderful array of works that are representative of the various walks of life.

For instance, Carol Shield's play, Thirteen Hands, is what Anne Chislett describes as a "tour de force play for women." The story is a look at women prior to the feminist revolution.

A world premiere, Andrew Moodie's Wilbur County Blues, is also on the playbill. It tells the tale of a Nigerian immigrant's transition from Toronto to the country.

"This season looks very good," says Chris Dorscht, director of public relations for the Huron County Playhouse. "It's a lot more informal. People can just pop in from being off the beach in Grand Bend and come to see a show."

The Playhouse always opens and closes their season with musicals. This year both Bye Bye Birdie and 42 Second Street will grace the stage. The rest of the playbill offers other familiar fare for Playhouse patrons such as Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias and Neil Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue. Dorscht insists that people should "come to the playhouse for just plain old fun."

Moving up to wine country, one can discover the works of literary legend George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Neil Munro, resident director of the festival, says one can detect some wonderfully subtle links among the plays this season. "Christopher [Newton, artistic director] puts the season together part on instinct and part on how the plays sort of fold into one another."

For example, Shaw's Major Barbara is a tale of arms dealers and draws on ideas of war, while Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde is a tale of social corruption. You Can't Take it With You acts as a buffer between the two, as this play postulates that life is worth living and people are inherently generous.

"Whatever we do to put a season together forces us to take a lot of things into consideration," says Munro. Previous productions and the show's potential for change are just a couple.

The Stratford Festival in nearby Stratford, Ontario. goes even further back in time by bringing Shakespeare to the stage. Anita Gaffney, director of marketing and communications at the festival says this season could be called "a season of classics."

Along with Shakespeare, the works of Moliére, Beckett and Chekhov dominate the festival. Gaffney points out that putting the season together takes a lot of hard work. "Richard [Monette, artistic director] starts a year and a half before," she says, noting that promoting lesser known Shakespeare plays is among their top goals.

Gaffney insists this season has worked out to be a great mix. However, the cause of great excitement is the post-season journey of Much Ado about Nothing and The Miser, which are transferring to off-Broadway.

When asked what is the biggest reason to come to Stratford this season, Gaffney says it is "the sterling variety of the season."

The same can be said for this season of summer theatre elsewhere in Southwestern Ontario.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998