LISTEN UP! 2019 YOUTH THEATRE PROJECT: Seeks Youth Actor and Stage Manager



Youth Actor and Stage Manager Wanted (2 positions)

Reporting to the Artistic Producer, the troupe will be involved in the research, creation rehearsal and performance of scenes for a play based on youth issues during the winter/spring of 2019. This year’s play will focus on how to overcome negative issues around body image, self-esteem, media and peer pressure and eating disorders.

Specific duties include:

  • research of facts and events relating to local youth issues to be used in the creation of theatrical scenes
  • be involved in the improvisation, creation and rehearsal of theatrical scenes
  • present scenes as part of public performances
  • be prepared to participate in after-show audience talkbacks at all performances
  • assist with load in, load out and setup at all performances
  • in addition, the Stage Manager will support the rehearsal process and run sound during all performances

Qualifications, skills and interests include:

  • interest in local youth issues
  • interest in theatre and/or performing arts
  • excellent literacy and dramatic skills
  • willingness to train
  • keen sense of responsibility
  • able to work in a team setting
  • punctual at all times
  • able to be self-directed and motivated
  • take instruction and direction well

An honorarium will be provided.
Preferred Age Range:  14-25 years of age
Hours:  Part-time from approx.  Feb. 1 to Apr. 30, 2019

To apply, please send an email outlining why you’d like to be part of this project and why you feel you would be a good fit, as well as a resume.

APPLICATION DEADLINE:  January 25, 2019               

Email application to:

More information:

CTF: Takes Home Two Capital Theatre Awards

The Classic Theatre Festival’s Associate Producer Matthew Behrens, Board Secretary Stephen Dale, and Actor Catherine McNally celebrate at the National Arts Centre’s Capital Theatre Awards, where the Perth-based company was again recognized for artistic excellence.

When members of the national capital region’s theatre scene gathered at the National Arts Centre on December 3, the Classic Theatre Festival was honoured with two Capital Theatre Awards, capping off its 9th successful summer season in heritage Perth.

The 20th annual awards ceremony, organized by some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers, presented Toronto-based performer Catherine McNally with a Best Actress Award for her performance as Kitty Warren in the Festival’s 2018 production of the GB Shaw classic, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, which was directed by the Festival’s Artistic Producer Laurel Smith.

In a new surprise category for an outstanding body of work in publicity and outreach, Festival Associate Producer Matthew Behrens was given the Audrey Ashley Award, named for the late writer who worked as the Ottawa Citizen’s music and drama editor for an unprecedented 25 years.

Since the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth was founded by Laurel Smith in Perth in 2009, it has garnered consistently strong reviews as well as multiple awards nominations for artistic excellence. Smith herself was nominated this year both for Best Direction – her third nomination in the category since 2016 – and Best Production (again, her third consecutive nomination) for the nail-biting thriller Angel Street, aka Gaslight.

“As we get prepared to mark our 10th anniversary season, we are grateful for many things, not least of which is the recognition of our professional peers, who clearly appreciate the way we have built a Festival that not only produces new interpretations of classics from the golden age of Broadway and the London stage, but also celebrates local heritage with our walking plays,” say Smith. “It’s also been an important economic driver for the summer tourism market, when thousands of Festival guests are spending more and more time enjoying the sights of Perth and Lanark County, eating in restaurants, shopping downtown, and staying overnight too.”

Smith says the latest round of awards is a nice boost as the Festival enters its anniversary season. “As people call in to order their 2019 tickets, we hear time and again how much people enjoy the experience of coming to Perth,” she says. “The feedback we get is particularly strong when it comes to being welcomed by our fantastic Front of House volunteers as well as our young summer staff, who have become real brand ambassadors for this beautiful town.”

As part of a company that appreciates Canadian theatre history, Behrens says it was humbling to receive an award honouring someone who played such an important role in promoting and documenting the capital region’s artistic milieu.

In an article on Ashley, retired Carleton University professor and  Classic Theatre Festival attendee James Noonan wrote: “Ashley suffered the fate of many theatre critics whose editors were not always sympathetic to their work. While she received support from some editors, she served under one who had no use for ‘culture’ and felt the main focus of The Citizen should be national affairs. Music and theatre were extras, to be inserted where space was not needed for more important events. She endured the indignity of one editor who “vandalized” her stories, and eliminated a column on the arts which she had written for several years. Eventually, in 1977, Ashley was replaced as Music and Drama Editor. A critic’s lot is not always a happy one, and we can only admire her tenacity and dedication to her work in remaining with the newspaper after being treated so shabbily.”

The Festival is now busily preparing for its 10th anniversary season in 2019. Next season’s mainstage offerings will feature the 9th-longest running play in Broadway history, the remarkable WW2-era romantic comedy The Voice of the Turtle (by John Van Druten); George Bernard Shaw’s most popular play, the hilarious Pygmalion (the basis for the musical My Fair Lady); and the longest-running comedy-thriller in Broadway history, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap (by the author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil and The Stepford Wives).

The Festival also plans its 5th annual season of Perth through the Ages theatrical walking plays with a brand new show on how residents of Perth came together to survive the Great Depression (running five mornings and two evenings a week).  In addition, after the Festival’s huge success of its completely sold-out dinner theatre run at Michael’s Table, a new dinner theatre show will play both Tuesday evenings and Tuesday at lunchtime from June 4 to the end of August. It will feature the Shaw satire on the Roman Empire, Androcles and the Lion.

Those interested in enjoying deep discounts to the 10th anniversary season can receive 25% savings on a season flex pass between now and December 31, and they don’t have to pick their dates until next summer. “They make great gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and ‘just because’ moments, too,” Smith says.

Tickets can be ordered online at or by calling 1-877-283-1283.

CTF NOMINATED: Three Prestigious Capital Critics Circle Awards

Some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers have honoured the Classic Theatre Festival with three Capital Critics Circle Awards nominations for artistic excellence during their 2018 summer season in Perth. An awards ceremony will be held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on December 3rd.

The Classic Theatre Festival’s Artistic Producer Laurel Smith has just picked up her third consecutive Best Director nomination from the Capital Critics Circle Awards for her work helming last summer’s Angel Street. She will also represent the company at the December 3 awards ceremony in Ottawa for the Best Production nomination. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Laurel Smith, a Perth resident and the Classic Theatre Festival’s Artistic Producer, was nominated both for Best Direction – her third nomination in the category since 2016 – and Best Production (again, her third consecutive nomination) for the nail-biting thriller Angel Street, aka Gaslight. Meanwhile, Toronto-based performer Catherine McNally garnered a Best Actress nomination for the title role in the G.B. Shaw classic, Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

It’s the third season in a row that the Capital Critics Circle has nominated Classic Theatre Festival shows: the 2016 season saw four nominations that were followed by an additional five in 2017.

“We are blessed to host amazing talent here every summer, both on the stage with Canada’s top professional performers as well as behind the scenes, from stage managers and assistant stage managers to folks who bring us the beautiful look and feel of the show, like our lighting designer, Wesley McKenzie, our costume designer, Renate Seiler, and last year’s set designer, Roger Schultz,” says Smith. “And while it is wonderful to have theatre critics praise the high quality of our shows, it is incredibly gratifying that our audiences are having such a great time here as well.  Over 80% of them are tourists, and they really help pump up the summertime economy by eating in restaurants, staying overnight, and shopping in our local stores while they’re here.”

In the meantime, the Festival is busy preparing for its 10th anniversary season in 2019. Next season’s mainstage offerings will feature the 9th-longest running play in Broadway history, the remarkable WW2-era romantic comedy The Voice of the Turtle (by John Van Druten); George Bernard Shaw’s most popular play, the hilarious Pygmalion (the basis for the musical My Fair Lady); and the longest-running comedy-thriller in Broadway history, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap (by the author of Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil and The Stepford Wives).

The Festival also plans its 5th annual season of theatrical walking plays with a brand new show on how residents of Perth came together to survive the Great Depression (running five mornings and two evenings a week).  In addition, after the Festival’s huge success of its completely sold-out dinner theatre run at Michael’s Table, a new dinner theatre show will play both Tuesday evenings and Tuesday at lunchtime from June 4 to the end of August. An announcement of the lunchtime and dinner theatre show will be made shortly.

Those interested in enjoying deep discounts to the 10th anniversary season can receive 25% savings on a season flex pass between now and December 31st, and they don’t have to pick their dates until next summer. “They make great gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and ‘just because’ moments too,” Smith says.

Tickets can be ordered online at or by calling 1-877-283-1283.


As the Classic Theatre Festival’s historic theatrical walking plays bring history to life, its performers and crew often meet those making contemporary history. Last summer, troupe members were privileged to meet with MP Romeo Saganash (who has worked for over three decades to create and pass the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and who authored a Parliamentary bill recently passed to adopt and implement the Declaration in Canada). They also met tireless Indigenous rights activist Leah Gazan, a member of the Wood Mountain Lakota Nation and co-founder of the #WeCare campaign to end violence against indigenous women and girls. Saganash (upper left) is seen here with (clockwise, standing to sitting) director Joanna McAuley Treffers, performers Connor Williamson, Brooks Knapton, and Keegan Carr, and Leah Gazan (sitting, far left).

Every year, the Perth through the Ages historic theatrical walking play uncovers stories and characters from Perth’s past. Often, a historic event or character will be supplemented by fictional creations who are true to the era and which aid in the development of the story.

For playwright Laurel Smith, who writes both the morning walking plays and the evening Lonely Ghosts Walks, “I always find playwriting/storytelling to be a spiritual, mystical process, as well as a serious responsibility.” For the past two summers, her works have focused on historic wrongs committed against Indigenous people in and around Perth, one of many communities that was settled in what is still unceded Algonquin territory.

Numerous histories of Eastern Ontario still rely on the inaccurate notion that this area was uninhabited until European colonizers arrived, ignoring the fact that the Algonquin people have lived in the area since time immemorial, and still do. Much of Algonquin history is either buried or paved over and renamed.

In 2016, Smith’s play River of Memory reminded audiences that when Europeans first arrived in the area, they could not have survived were it not for the generosity and knowledge of the Algonquin people who were already here. The story focused on a young man discovering his Indigenous heritage following the death of his mother.

A Serendipitous Connection

Last summer, A Nation Lost and Found  told a story of conflict at the time of Confederation, when a Scottish woman, Bridget O’Leary, experienced community disparagement after hiring an Indigenous man known as John Stevens to work on her farm. O’Leary was also criticized by her fiancé for helping care for Stevens’ baby, Marie.

Over the winter, Smith was contacted by someone researching their family history. While Smith had consulted with representatives of numerous Algonquin nations to ensure the play’s historical accuracy, the Stevens name never came up in her research, and was instead, she thought, a fictional creation chosen to help represent Indigenous-settler relations at the time.

But according to an email she received, the Stevens were in fact real people, and Smith’s choice of first names and approximate dates of both was uncannily in sync with family records. Indeed, Peter Stevens was the adopted name of Algonquin Chief Shawanipinessi, who along with his community at Bob’s Lake experienced an all too familiar tale of land dispossession and dishonourable treatment on the part of the Crown.

“Peter Stevens’ son was John Stevens who was born in 1831,” read the email. “Marie Stevens was born between 1863 and 1867, which was a perfect match for the baby in your play!”

The backdrop to A Nation Lost and Found was based on the less than savoury historical record, one of constant attempts by local Indigenous people to petition colonial authorities to end acts of violence and theft against the region’s first inhabitants.

Unsavoury History

According to archival records, “The Government of Sir Charles Bagot granted a license of occupation to Shwanapenesi  and his band of 90 or so souls in 1844. They lived on an island in the East Basin of Bob’s Lake. Shawanapenesi and the people of the community dreamed of having a sawmill, school and farms. In that same year, loggers arrived in the upper watershed of the Tay River and began felling timber on the 2000-acre Reserve. Men were beat-up, women were raped and the only valuable resource was cut and floated down river.

“Shawanapenesi complained. He received a letter from the Government of Upper Canada explaining that he had received a license of occupation and that the timber license had been given to a Mr. Flint. Shawanapenesi complained of the treatment that the band members had experienced at the hands of the loggers.” But the Commandant at the Perth garrison, instead of protecting Shawanapensi and his people from sttler violence, instead wrote to “assure him that should the Indians harm the loggers or settlers he would dispatch soldiers to the area, but for no other reason. Within a few short years of the beginning of the Bedford Reserve it was devastated.”

As Joan Holmes wrote in a 1998 paper,  Hidden Communities: Research Difficulties encountered in Researching Non-Status Algonquins in the Ottawa Valley, “The British Crown never entered into formal treaty relations with the Algonquin and Nipissing, despite the fact that the Algonquin and Nipissing repeatedly petitioned British authorities to compensate them for the loss of their traditional lands and the destruction of the resources upon which they depended for their livelihood. On several occasions, authorities acknowledged their claims but no action was taken.

An Untenable Situation

“….In the last half of the 19th century,  the Algonquin and Nipissing occupying lands on the Upper Canada or Ontario side of the Ottawa River were in an untenable situation. They were not eligible for the free homestead grants being offered to settlers moving into the area, because they were Indians, nor could they claim squatters’ rights or exercise pre-emptory rights to lands they occupied like whites that had settled in the area. Thus,  the free grants offered to whites from 1868 to 1908 were not available and lands upon which they were settled were not protected.”

The social and environmental destruction wrought at Bob’s Lake was no aberration, but rather a pattern that was repeated throughout the territory. Despite Indigenous people originally befriending newcomers to the area, settlers took over more and more of the traditional territory, pushing aside Algonquin people with little regard for their cultural, material or spiritual needs, nor for the land that sustained them.

In the book At Home in Tay Valley, Algonquin writer, activist and educator Paula Sherman quotes Kaondinoketch, an Omamiwinini leader from 1840, addressing a Perth council meeting with a complaint similar to that of Shawanapensi: “Our hunting grounds that are vast and extensive and once abounded in the richest furs and swarmed with deer of every description are now ruined.  We tell you the truth, we now starve half the year through and our children, who were accustomed to being comfortably clothed, are now naked.  We own, brother, that we are partly the cause of these present misfortunes; we were too good and generous; we permitted strangers to come and settle on our grounds and to cultivate the land; wood merchants to destroy our valuable timber, who have done us much injury, as by burning our rich forests, they have annihilated our beaver and our peltries, and driven deer away.”

Building Truth and Reconciliation

For a number of years, Lanark Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation have worked diligently to ensure such history is not forgotten, while also addressing the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In a presentation they delivered to numerous area town councils, they pointed out: “The land on which we stand was then and continues to this day as unceded Algonquin territory.  No agreements have been signed to state how the land shall be shared.  It is a fundamental truth of our collective history that the Perth settlement was established in contradiction to British law and the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which stated that no land could be granted to settlers without a prior agreement between First Nations and the Crown. The Proclamation was ratified at the Treaty of Niagara in 1764 where delegations from Indigenous peoples from across what is now southern Ontario met and exchanged wampum belts with a representative of the British Crown. Through this peace process the Algonquin people agreed to share the land but did not then nor ever since surrendered their title and rights to the land. The history of broken treaties began almost immediately as the Crown granted parcels of unceded land to reward soldiers for their service.”

CTF AUDITIONS: For 2019 Summer Season

The Classic Theatre Festival in Heritage Perth, Ontario (an hour south of Ottawa) is the Ottawa Valley’s only professional theatre company. Our 2019 season consists of the following:


The Voice of the Turtle by John van Druten

Rehearsals start June 4
Runs June 21 to July 14



Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw

Rehearsals start July 2
Runs July 19 to Aug. 11



Deathtrap by Ira Levin

Rehearsals start July 30
Runs Aug. 16 to Sept. 8



Performance schedule: Tues. to Sun. at 2pm; Wed. and Sat. at 8pm.

In particular we are seeking to cast the following:

Male Lead (Bill – The Voice of the Turtle) – age early 30’s, American, soldier with a yen for true love, quiet and mature.

Female Lead (Eliza Doolittle – Pygmalion) – age mid to late 20’s, a common flower girl, feral and feisty, determined to better herself, transforms to an educated, far-seeing young woman who discovers other ambitions and a longing for freedom. Cockney and RP accents required.

Female Lead (Myra Bruhl – Deathtrap) – age early 40’s, self-effacing and supportive, wife of Broadway playwright.

Male Lead (Clifford Anderson – Deathtrap) – mid to late 20’s, aspiring writer, ambitious.

Supporting Female (Mrs. Pearce – Pygmalion) – 40-60, long-suffering housekeeper of Henry Higgins, tart, can be intimidating.

Supporting Female (Mrs. Eynsford-Hill – Pygmalion) – 40-60, middle-class, but aspires to upper class, mother of Freddy and Clara, she is trying to do her best for her children.

Please submit resume and headshot by Tuesday, October 9 to Laurel Smith, Artistic Producer, at Please indicate which role you would like to be considered for, and what your preferred audition time would be. We appreciate everyone who submits, however only those who secure an audition time will be contacted. No phone calls please; all inquiries by email. For more information:

Auditions will be held in Toronto on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 13TH. Ottawa auditions will be held as needed.

Please submit your headshot and resume by TUESDAY, OCTOBER 9, indicating which role you would like to be considered for, and what your preferred audition time would be. We appreciate everyone who submits, however only those who secure an audition time will be contacted. No phone calls please; all inquiries by email to Laurel Smith, Artistic Producer: laurel[@]


The Classic Theatre Festival in Heritage Perth, the Ottawa Valley’s only professional theatre company, is seeking applications for the position of Set Designer for the 2019 summer season (

The three plays are: “The Voice of the Turtle” by John van Druten, “Pygmalion” by Bernard Shaw, and “Deathtrap” by Ira Levin. All three plays will be directed by the Festival’s Artistic Producer, Laurel Smith.

The Set Designer will be responsible for the design of all three plays, including all technical specifications (including masking flats and sightline design) and drawings (including a full colour elevation and/or maquette), supervision of the set build in coordination with the Production Manager, as well as design and acquisition of all props and set dressing. Please apply with a cover letter, resume and set design samples.

Email applications by OCTOBER 5, 2018 to Artistic Producer Laurel Smith at: laurel[@]

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER: Warms up Classic Theatre Festival Stage in August

Fans of gripping psychological thrillers are in luck as the Classic Theatre Festival opens its annual mystery thriller, Angel Street (also known as Gaslight) starting August 17 in Perth. This story of an unsolved murder and the lethal mind games employed to protect the main suspect is considered one of the best plays of the genre, a cat-and-mouse struggle for survival that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats until the final curtain.

Angel Street takes audiences back to Victorian-era London, and nights of thick fog and shadowy figures lurking in the distance. Its author, Patrick Hamilton, also penned another mystery mega-hit, Rope, which became an Alfred Hitchcock film, as well as a series of novels that in recent years have been rediscovered and acclaimed for their insights into the underbelly of London and the lives of those living on the margins.

When Angel Street opened on Broadway, it catapulted its young male lead, Vincent Price, into superstardom, while also providing a plum role to Canadian-raised actor Judith Evelyn. When a British film version was made in 1940, all the negatives and prints were bought up and destroyed by MGM, which preferred to keep the story for its own star, Ingrid Bergman.

Anyone familiar with the popular social media term ‘gaslighting’ – whereby manipulators intentionally set up misdeeds or falsehoods and then question the sanity of victims who challenge what is going on – will recognize why the term was inspired by this play. Written at a time when modern psychology was becoming a critical reference point in popular culture, the idea of gaslighting rapidly became a signifier of abusive relationships on both personal and political levels.

As the Classic Theatre Festival prepares for its annual mystery thriller Angel Street (Gaslight), there’s still time to catch Mrs. Warren’s Profession. (Colin Legge, Nicholas Rice, Catherine McNally, Anna Burkholder, Kyle Orzechs, photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Starring in this all-time classic is Jeffrey Aarles (returning after his lauded role last season as a conflicted minister in Shaw’s Candida) and Jessica Sherman, who has spent over a dozen years training and working on the UK stage. Also appearing are a trio of performers seen on stages across Canada as well as on TV and film: Sheldon Davis, Darla Biccum, and Lauren Horejda (who played the haunted target of gaslighting in last year’s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight).

Before Angel Street opens, there’s still time to catch George Bernard Shaw’s wickedly satirical take on social hypocrisy, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, a story about the reveal of a family secret, the men who dance around its uncomfortable truths, and an epic mother-daughter showdown. It continues to play on the Festival mainstage until August 12.

Those interested in street-level theatre can continue to enjoy the annual walking plays, with this year’s stories set during World War II. The Prisoner of Petawawa runs Wed. to Sun. at 11 am while the musical tribute to war brides, Far From Home, plays Thurs. & Fri. at 7 pm.

With 16 shows per week, the Classic Theatre Festival, running until Sept. 9, offers something for everyone. Tickets are available at or 1-877-283-1283.

MRS. WARREN’S PROFESSION: Sparks Inspired Discussions at Classic Theatre Festival

Catherine McNally (left) as Mrs. Warren confronts her daughter Vivie (Anna Burkholder) in the compelling Mrs. Warren’s Profession, a legendary Shaw play running at Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival until August 12.  (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

George Bernard Shaw’s legendary play about the gradual reveal of a family secret, the men who dance around its uncomfortable truths, and an epic mother-daughter showdown has sparked a good deal of introspection and discussion during the ongoing staging of Mrs. Warren’s Profession at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth.

The play, which runs until August 12 at 54 Beckwith Street East (at Harvey), is centred in the Victorian era, a time when women had no right to vote or own property, and their status was described by John Stuart Mill as akin to slavery. It is against this backdrop that characters who have made certain choices for survival are challenged to justify their positions. As the show progresses, Festival audiences have found themselves debating during intermission and after the final curtain exactly what they think about Mrs. Warren, her daughter Vivie, and the men who are part of their world.

It’s exactly as Shaw would have liked it, given his penchant for a good debate and his interest in seeing changes to the vast social inequality that marked his age. Modern audiences arriving in Perth from as far away as Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, as well as U.S. destinations, are engaging with the play not only as an entertainment – it is certainly a compelling show that mixes drama and comedy – but also as a mirror held up to 2018, when sexual inequality still exists both in Canada and around the globe.

Indeed, a 2015 UN Human Rights report raised concerns about “the persisting inequalities between women and men” in Canada, including the “high level of the pay gap” and its disproportionate effect on low-income women, racialized women, and Indigenous women. Out of 34 countries in the OECD, Canada had the 7th highest gender wage gap in 2014.

And while there certainly have been improvements since the Victoria era, in Canada, the average amount earned by full-time working women in Canada for every dollar earned by men is 74 cents. Based on a wage gap of 31.5% in Ontario, it currently takes women an additional 14 years to earn the same pay collected by men by age 65. The Canadian Women’s Foundation notes that 80% of all lone-parent families are headed by women, while women who leave an abusive partner to raise children on their own are more than five times likely to live in poverty.

“It’s against this backdrop that we can create a lens through which we view Mrs. Warren’s Profession and ask ourselves: is it her choice that we condemn, or is it the society that limits her choices to begin with that needs a closer examination,” says Matthew Behrens, the Classic Theatre Festival Associate Producer who discusses these issues during daily pre-show talks a half hour before the show.

“We are witnessing very spirited discussions, and people also leave the theatre with a sense of having taken a remarkable journey, which is another part of the theatrical experience,” he says.

Mrs. Warren’s Profession plays Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows every Wednesday and Saturday. For tickets to this show, the theatrical walking plays that continue to animate the streets of downtown Perth, as well as the Festival’s annual mystery thriller, Angel Street (Gaslight), call 1-877-283-1283 or visit

FAR FROM HOME: Brings 40’s-style Dancing in the Streets to Perth

There’s plenty of singing and dancing in the outdoor musical tribute to 1940s war brides, Far Frome Home, running Thursdays and Fridays at 7 pm in Perth until the end of August, 2018. It features, left to right, Connor Lyon, Katie Irvine, Mallory Brumm, and Connor Williamson (photo: Jean-Denis Labelle).

It’s not every day that the streets of Perth turn into a scene from a classic musical like Singing in the Rain or On the Town, but that’s exactly what happens this summer every Thursday and Friday from 7 to 8 pm with the Classic Theatre Festival production of Far From Home.

Passersby and drivers alike have done double takes as they see individuals wearing 1940s costumes singing and dancing their way down Gore Street. Far From Home is set in 1945 as the war winds down and people try to adjust to the major changes they experience in civilian life.

This music-filled tribute to the war brides who arrived in Perth after the Second World War is a family-friendly show that enlivens the sidewalks and alleyways next to Perth’s award-winning architectural facades. Indeed, they turn loading docks and assorted alleyways and courtyards into impromptu stages for dance numbers like Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning, a comic song that many a soldier applauded when thinking of the dreaded early bugle calls in the armed services.

The show’s characters also illustrate the uninhibited joy that often marked homecomings from the war (and which was celebrated in many movies of the era too). Indeed, people were ready to party after five years of food rations, air raid sirens, and long waits for letters home that were often cut up by the military censors. Young people who had had to cut short their teenage years and assume adult responsibilities embraced one last opportunity to be kids again, and that exuberance comes through in Far From Home.

The show will appeal especially to fans of swing music and dancing, with songs like I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo, In the Mood, For Me and My Gal, and Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) given vivacious renditions by the talented troupe that also performs the morning walking play, The Prisoner of Petawawa: Mallory Brumm, Katie Irvine, Connor Lyon, and Connor Williamson. The show was directed by Joanna McAuley Treffers.

Playwright  Laurel Smith notes that war brides often found that their adjustment to new lives was not as easy as one would think, given that there were still significant cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and Canada. Those differences make for some very funny moments, while tender renditions of torch songs like White Cliffs of Dover bring to life the heartfelt emotion that made putting a nickle into the jukebox at the Perth Tea Rooms such a romantic moment.

The Classic Theatre Festival is continuing to run on its mainstage the hit Shaw play, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, about the gradual reveal of a family secret, and is also planning the final mainstage show of the season, Angel Street (aka Gaslight), a riveting psychological thriller.

Tickets to all Festival shows are available at or 1-877-283-1283.

REDISCOVERED COMIC GEM: Opens Classic Theatre Season June 22

The Classic Theatre Festival’s 9th season offers something for everyone, from walking plays and dinner theatre to mainstage comedies and mysteries. Returning for his 8th season is veteran performer Scott Clarkson, seen here with his co-star Victoria Houser. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

The Classic Theatre Festival in Perth opened its 9th summer season June 22 with a rediscovered comic gem, John Van Druten’s There’s Always Juliet. Playing at its wheelchair accessible, air conditioned 54 Beckwith Street East venue, the play embodies much of what makes unique the Festival’s mandate to produce hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage.

“We pick plays that bring back fond memories and sensations, like the feeling you  get when you watch the film It’s A Wonderful Life every December with your friends and family, or you hum along to a wonderful Ella Fitzgerald song,” says Artistic Producer and Director Laurel Smith.

There’s Always Juliet asks whether love at first sight truly exists. Sparks fly after a British woman meets an American man at a London tea party, but how far will things go in this charming, cross-border romantic comedy set in 1927 London, England? “If you love the charming romantic comedies of the 30s and 40s (think Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard), this one’s for you,” says Smith.

There’s Always Juliet features an ensemble of Festival veterans including Scott Clarkson, who returns for his 8th season after a star turn in last year’s audience favourite, Same Time, Next Year; Festival newcomer Victoria Houser, a Toronto actor and singer originally from Halifax; Catherine Bruce (last seen here in the award-winning Arms and the Man); and Fraser Elsdon (from the Festival’s An Inspector Calls and Candida).

Over 80% of the Festival’s summer audience is tourists, thousands of whom arrive in Perth annually to take in plays, as well as eat, shop, and stay overnight, boosting the local economy. The Festival also books some of Canada’s top theatre and film/television talent, with actors who have performed across the country and been seen on screens around the world.

Over the past two years, the Classic Theatre Festival has also garnered a record-breaking nine Capital Critics Awards nominations for artistic excellence (more than any other company in Eastern Ontario, including the National Arts Centre), clearly putting Perth on the must-visit destination itinerary of many travelers.

“One of the pleasures of an Ottawa Valley summer is Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival, which has an impressive track record for mounting quality fare,” enthuses Jamie Portman, one Canada’s most respected veteran theatre writers and a member of the prestigious Capital Critics Circle.

Smith points out that while the Classic Theatre Festival’s award-winning shows regularly receive critical praise and audience raves, they are also proud to “serve as a cultural hub and gateway to the many wonders of Ontario’s Highlands, where authentic experiences, unrehearsed days, and unexpected moments await (see for details).”

The Festival’s summer season officially kicked off June 5 at Michael’s Table restaurant, where the Classic Dinner Theatre is staging the Shaw comedy Overruled. Seats for the brand new dinner theatre experience, which runs Tuesdays until August 28, are already 90% sold out, so those looking for “a most entertaining meal” should book soon.

The summer will also feature two more classics on the mainstage – the mother-daughter conflict and gradual reveal of a family secret in Mrs. Warren’s Profession and the gripping tale of an unsolved murder, Angel Street (aka Gaslight). The annual historic walking plays return as well, with two World War II-era shows: The Prison of Petawawa runs at 11 am, Wednesday to Sunday from June 27, while Far From Home, a tale of Perth war brides, runs Thursdays and Fridays at 7 pm, starting July 5.

Tickets to There’s Always Juliet (which runs June 22 to July 15, Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wednesday and Saturday) as well as all other Festival shows are available at 1-877-283-1283 or