As the Classic Theatre Festival drew its final curtain on its highly successful 5th anniversary season, Artistic Producer Laurel Smith was thrilled both with the increased attendance – including a significant increase in the number of tourists – and a theatrical season that has grown with the introduction of a historic, theatrical walking tour, Perth through the Ages.
Smith is also extremely grateful for the remarkable work of scores of volunteers who built sets, worked as ushers and front of house staff, and helped create the new theatre space at 54 Beckwith Street East this season.
“It is no cliché to say how much volunteers mean to the functioning of the Festival, not only from Perth but from as far away as Ashton and Sharbot Lake, all of them acting as brand ambassadors for Perth, both for the tourists attending the Festival as well as in their own communities,” she said. “Our end-of-year audience surveys always indicate a huge satisfaction with the friendly faces they meet when they first arrive at the Festival: it caps off a perfect Perth experience that keeps people coming back year after year.”
The summer 2014 season posed a number of new challenges for the Festival, from the creation of a new theatre space at the Good Shepherd Hall in St. James Anglican Church, to creating street theatre that brought to life characters and stories from Perth’s 200-year history through a theatrical, historic walking tour. The tour was launched in partnership with the Matheson House Museum and the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization.
“All of the elements came together really well this summer,” Smith says, noting with pride that “audiences were thrilled not only with our Neil Simon comedy but also with the production of our first mystery thriller, as well as our youth theatre training project that presented the walking tour. All these activities brought new audiences to Perth, many of whom had never been here before.”
As always the thousands of visitors to the Festival filled local restaurants, shops, and accommodations, providing a solid economic boost for the local economy.
“We know the role professional summer theatre plays in many smaller communities as an economic driver and tourism attraction. We also know it has played a significant role not only in Perth but in surrounding communities that, for example, will host audience members at bed and breakfasts, for lunch or dinner, or in shops in communities from Balderson to Smiths Falls and Westport.”
The Festival is now busy planning its 2015 summer season, which will be announced later this fall, with two productions and a brand new theatrical walking tour featuring new stories and characters from Perth’s history.
“It takes a community to support a Festival of this nature. This year, we had support from a myriad of sponsors and partners. They included Best Western Plus Perth Parkside Inn and Spa (season sponsor), TVCOGECO (sponsor of Come Blow Your Horn), Camlux Electric, WTC Communications, The Graham-Dixon Group, Barnabe’s Your Independent Grocer, Carleton Refrigeration, Perth Tourism, the Perth & District Community Foundation, Tay River Reflections, McAdoo Construction, Perth Planing Mill Supply and Perth PC. We were also very grateful for the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Ontario Cultural Attractions Fund and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation,” Smith said.
Once the 2015 summer season is announced, the Festival plans to run its annual holiday special, offering 20% discount on tickets. People can stay tuned at www.classictheatre.ca or by calling 1-877-283-1283.