MORE MATINEES & GHOST PLAYS: CTF’s 2017 Season

The Classic Theatre Festival's 2017 summer season returns with comedy, history, and mystery, with a holiday sale on until December 31 that offers 25% discounts.

The Classic Theatre Festival’s 2017 summer season returns with comedy, history, and mystery, with a holiday sale on until December 31 that offers 25% discounts.

The Classic Theatre Festival has announced its upcoming 2017 season, one whose programming will dovetail with Ontario and Canada 150th anniversary celebrations while building on the strengths of seven successful summer seasons. In addition to adding a Tuesday matinee at the mainstage, the Festival will also be doubling the number of ghost plays. The Festival’s annual holiday sale allows early buyers to save 25% off season passes before December 31.

A professional company that produces hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage (a period roughly from the 1920s through the 1970s), the Festival will highlight the two most successful Canadian playwrights during its mandate period, opening the mainstage season with Canadian Bernard Slade’s comedy Same Time, Next Year (June 23 to July 16). Slade, from Beamsville, Ontario, played a significant role in the development of the post-war Canadian theatre, radio, and television scenes before hitting Hollywood, where he developed The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family before penning his epic Broadway hit. Same Time, Next Year ran three years and became an Academy-Award nominated film starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.

It’s the story of two people, each married to someone else, who get together for an annual weekend over 26 years, sharing the ups and downs of their lives from the early 1950s through the mid 1970s as the world rapidly evolves around them.

midnightThe other Canadian work is the season’s annual closing thriller mystery, by Peter Colley, an acclaimed Canadian playwright whose latest work, a musical about Terry Fox, opened this fall. I’ll Be Back Before Midnight (August 18 to Sept. 10), originally produced at the Blyth Festival in 1979, has since played in 30 countries, become a Hollywood film, and was celebrated by The Globe and Mail as the most successful Canadian play ever. It’s a Hitchcock-styled thriller about a young Toronto couple who purchase an isolated country farmhouse with a mysterious history.

Sandwiched in-between will be another production of a George Bernard Shaw classic, the romantic candida1comedy Candida (July 21 to August 13). Building on the applause for the Festival’s celebrated 2016 production of the Shaw comedy Arms and the Man (which won a Best Actress Award from the Capital Critics Circle for Lana Sugarman, in addition to nabbing a Best Director nomination for Laurel Smith as well as a Best Production nod), Candida will remind audiences of how fresh and fun Shaw’s stories can be. In this instance, the title character must choose between the affections of a passionate young poet and her clergyman husband in this skewering of Victorian notions of love and marriage. When first produced in London, the show generated such audience enthusiasm that the press coined the phenomenon “Candidamania.”

Mainstage shows will run Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows every Wednesday and Saturday. The very popular Pre-Show Talks will continue to occur a half hour before every performance.

ptta-2017-logoThe Festival’s highly praised theatrical walking plays will returns in 2017 as well, focused onghostwalkingtourlogo_3colour characters and stories from Perth around the time of Confederation. Perth through the Ages will run Wednesday to Sunday at 11 am, beginning June 21 at Matheson House Museum and winding up August 27. Given the number of sellout performances in 2016, The Lonely Ghosts Walk will expand to run Thursdays and Friday at 7 pm, running June 29 through August 25.

The Festival’s annual holiday sale is on until December 31. Purchasers of a season flex pass can save 25% and pick their dates next summer. For more information call 1-877-283-1283 or visit www.classictheatre.ca

CTF ACTOR: Wins Best Acting Award

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The Capital Critics Circle awarded its Best Actress Award to Lana Sugarman (shown here with Catherine Bruce in the 2016 Classic Theatre Festival production of Arms and the Man). The Festival’s annual holiday sale, with savings up to 25% off for the 2017 season, is now on until December 31. Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle

The Classic Theatre Festival, the Ottawa Valley’s only professional theatre company, last week picked up a Best Female Lead Actor Award at the prestigious Capital Critics Circle Awards, which annually recognize outstanding artistic achievement in the National Capital Region.

The winning performer, Lana Sugarman, who played Raina in the Festival production of Arms and the Man, was unable to attend the ceremony, as she was performing in a Toronto benefit that evening. Nevertheless, she says, “The win was delightful! It feels very rewarding to be recognized for a role that allowed me to grow and expand as a performer. To be able to work on such strong classical text is a gift, and the award is a reflection of the talent of my cast mates and creative team.”

Sugarman’s victory was a fitting follow-up to a highly-praised show that also won nominations for Best Director (Laurel Smith) and Best Production, which Sugarman says is a tribute to fellow performers Catherine Bruce, Scott Clarkson, Rachel Fischer, Alan Lee, Alastair Love, and Lindsay Robinson, as well as a production team that included set designer Lois Richardson, costume designer Renate Seiler and lighting designer Wesley McKenzie, with stage manager Alison Muir and assistant stage manager Emily Richardson.

”I loved playing Raina in all her feisty, stubborn, romantic, and vulnerable glory,” recalls Sugarman. “And I loved being in Perth last summer, because it offers such a sweet reprieve from the city. The environment feeds creativity and allows for a real immersion in the world of the play.”

The Festival also received a Best Actor nomination for William Vickers in the role of Herb in the production of Neil Simon’s comedy I Ought to Be in Pictures.

“It is great to receive this kind of recognition from some of the country’s most respected theatre critics,” says Smith, who notes that other companies included in the annual awards gathering included the National Arts Centre, the Great Canadian Theatre Company, and St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival. “It is also great for the Town of Perth, because the Festival plays such an important role as a summertime destination for people seeking quality, professional entertainment along with all that complements seeing a show with us, whether that’s a great meal and an overnight stay at one of our heritage accommodations or the unique shopping opportunities and natural attractions that bless this area.”

The Festival is currently running its annual holiday sale, with savings of up to 25% on 2017’s shows, with the option to pick dates later. The Festival’s mainstage shows next year, in keeping with the Canada and Ontario 150 celebrations, will feature a majority of Canadian playwrights who made it big on Broadway and beyond: Bernard Slade, who penned the beloved comedy Same Time, Next Year (which ran over 3 years on Broadway) and Peter Colley, whose thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight is considered the most successful play ever staged in Canada, with performances in over 30 countries abroad. The season also features George Bernard Shaw’s romantic comedy Candida, which pokes fun at Victorian notions of marriage and romantic triangles.

Vouchers for the 2017 season can be purchased with savings of up to 25% before December 31 at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

VALENTINE’S SPECIAL: For the one you love

“I would not wish any companion in the world but you” – Miranda, Shakespeare’s The Tempest

For 7 years, the Classic Theatre Festival has been producing shows well-loved by sweethearts, best friends, families, girlfriend getaways, and large groups.

To mark the annual celebration of love, we have a Valentine’s Special just for you and those you love.

You can save 20% off regular prices when you order a Full Season Flex Pass, which allows you to enjoy the savings now and the flexibility of choosing your dates later this year when your calendar is firmed up. You will also save 15% if you order one or two shows as well.

Our 2017 lineup features three shows that play with the comedy and mystery of love. Sparkling writing, unforgettable characters, and unique plots have made them classics of the modern theatre:

Canadian Bernard Slade‘s classic comedy Same Time, Next Year, the Tony- and Oscar-nominated story of two people, each happily married to someone else, who annually get together for a weekend over 26 years, sharing their lives, dreams, hopes and challenges from the early 1950s through the mid 1970s. It ran for 3 years on Broadway and became a beloved Hollywood film starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. (June 23 to July 16)

George Bernard Shaw‘s Candida, a witty skewering of Victorian notions of love and marriage in which the title character must choose between her clergyman husband and a passionate young poet. It’s the kind of play that makes you both laugh and feel all warm inside as Shaw gently pokes fun at our collective foibles. (July 21 to August 13)

Canadian Peter Colley‘s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, a Hitchcock-styled psychological thriller that is the most successful play ever staged in Canada and the most produced Canadian play abroad (in over 30 countries!). A young couple from Toronto buy an old country farmhouse, and that’s when apparitions start to appear, strange noises are heard, and every moment that draws you to the thrilling finish keeps you on the edge of your seat. (August 18 to Sept. 10)

We will also return with new theatrical historic walking plays for the Wed. to Sun. morning Perth though the Ages and Thurs. and Fri. evening Lonely Ghosts Walk. Stay tuned for those details.

To order your discount vouchers for 2017, simply visit www.ticketsplease.ca OR call us toll-free at 1-877-283-1283 ext. 1

In the meantime, don’t miss this great opportunity to save money on next year’s entertainment, with tickets that make great gifts anytime.

If theatre be the food of love, then play on!

PS: Don’t forget! In 2017, we have 6 matinees a week, Tuesday to Sunday, as well as 8 pm shows every Wednesday and Saturday night.

2017 AUDITIONS: I’ll be Back before Midnight

The Classic Theatre Festival in Heritage Perth (an hour south of Ottawa) is the Ottawa Valley’s only professional theatre company. We are seeking applicants for auditions for two roles for our production of “I’ll be Back before Midnight” by Peter Colley:

Jan – Age 20-30, delicate and vulnerable, a very trusting soul, recovering from a nervous breakdown but essentially a rational, functioning human being with a spunky spirit.

Laura – Age 25-35, sister-in-law of Jan, cool and distant, but charming. She is a businesswoman who hides her vulnerability.

Rehearsals start August 1, 2017
Previews Aug. 18 at 2pm; Aug. 19 at 2pm
Opens Aug. 19 at 8pm
Closes Sept. 10 at 2pm

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

Auditions will be conducted on Friday, Mar. 3, 2017.

Please submit your headshot and resume by Tues. Feb. 28 to:
laurel@classictheatre.ca

CAEA members will be seen first. 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.

FOUR AWARD NOMINATIONS: For 2017 CTF Season

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The Capital Critics Circle has nominated Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival for four major awards, with three awards for Arms and the Man: Best Director (Laurel Smith); Best Actress (Lana Sugarman); and Best Production (left to right: Lindsay Robinson, Rachel Fischer, Lana Sugarman, Scott Clarkson, Alastair Love, Catherine Bruce, and Alan Lee). The Ottawa awards ceremony takes place on November 14.

The Classic Theatre Festival, the Ottawa Valley’s only professional theatre company, last week garnered four nominations in the prestigious Capital Critics Circle Awards, which annually recognize outstanding artistic achievement in the National Capital Region. The awards ceremony takes place in Ottawa on November 14.

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Best Actor nominee (William Vickers) is seen swinging for a home run in I Ought to be in Pictures.

William Vickers received a Best Actor nomination for the role of Herb in the Festival’s 2016 production of Neil Simon’s comedy I Ought to Be in Pictures (in which he co-starred with Alison Smyth, who was nominated for a similar honour the previous summer for her role in the thriller Wait Until Dark). In addition, the Festival received three nominations for George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Arms and the Man: Best Director (Laurel Smith), Best Actress (Lana Sugarman, who played the role of Raina), and Best Production. Arms and the Man also featured a stellar collection of veteran Classic Theatre performers including Catherine Bruce, Scott Clarkson, Rachel Fischer, Alan Lee, Alastair Love, and Lindsay Robinson. The production team included costume designer Renate Seiler and lighting designer Wesley McKenzie, with stage manager Alison Muir and assistant stage manager Emily Richardson.

“We had a terrific summer with our expanded 7th season of three shows,” says the Festival’s Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. “We were able to draw thousands of tourists to town who enjoyed the accessibility and flexibility of our staging shows in June, July, August and September, with the consequent economic benefits that flow to local restaurants, accommodations, shops, and other attractions.”

The Capital Critics Circle is a distinguished panel of some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers, including the prolific reviewer,  playwright and journalist Iris Winston, Alvina Ruprecht (veteran theatre reviewer including CBC Radio), Jamie Portman (a long-time writer with the CanWest chain of newspapers), radio station CKCU’s arts reporter Barbara Gray, and the Ottawa Citizen’s Patrick Langston.

Nominee for Best Actress, Lana Sugarman

Nominee for Best Actress, Lana Sugarman, sings an ode to her beloved in Arms and the Man

“Since we began, we have dedicated ourselves to bringing the top professional talent in Canada to Perth every summer, and audiences and critics agree that it is a very successful venture,” says Smith. “The golden age of Broadway and the London Stage produced so many plays that continue to appeal to a wide range of audiences, and we plan to continue producing those shows that still speak to us, inspire laughter, and provoke stimulating discussions.”

The Festival is currently running its annual holiday sale, with savings of up to 25% on 2017’s shows, with the option to pick dates later. The Festival’s mainstage shows next year, in keeping with the Canada and Ontario 150 celebrations, will feature a majority of Canadian playwrights who made it big on Broadway and beyond: Bernard Slade, who penned the beloved comedy Same Time, Next Year (which ran over 3 years on Broadway) and Peter Colley, whose thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight is considered the most successful play ever staged in Canada, with performances in over 30 countries abroad. The season also features George Bernard Shaw’s romantic comedy Candida, which pokes fun at Victorian notions of marriage and a romantic triangle.

Vouchers for the 2017 season can be purchased with savings of up to 25% before December 31 at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

ANNOUNCING: CTF 2017 Summer Season

You can SAVE 25% off regular prices when you order a Full Season Flex Pass, which allows you to enjoy the savings now and the flexibility of choosing your dates next year when your calendar is firmed up. You will also SAVE 20% if you order one or two shows as well.

Here’s the 2017 lineup, one that features a majority of Canadian playwrights who made it big on Broadway during our mandate period (just in time for Canada’s and Ontario’s 150th!)

sametimeyear

Canadian Bernard Slade‘s classic comedy Same Time, Next Year, the Tony- and Oscar-nominated story of a two people, each happily married to someone else, who annually get together for a weekend over 26 years, sharing their lives, dreams, hopes and challenges from the early 1950s through the mid 1970s. It ran for 3 years on Broadway and became a beloved Hollywood film starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. (June 23 to July 16)

 

candida1

George Bernard Shaw‘s Candida, a witty skewering of Victorian notions of love and marriage in which the title character must choose between her clergyman husband and a passionate young poet. It’s the kind of play that makes you both laugh and feel all warm inside as Shaw gently pokes fun at our collective foibles. (July 21 to August 13)

 

midnight

Canadian Peter Colley‘s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, a Hitchcock-styled psychological thriller that is the most successful play ever staged in Canada and the most produced Canadian play abroad (in over 30 countries!). A young couple from Toronto buy an old country farmhouse, and that’s when apparitions start to appear, strange noises are heard, and every moment that draws you to the thrilling finish keeps you on the edge of your seat. (August 18 to Sept. 10)

 

To order your discount vouchers for 2017, simply visit www.ticketsplease.ca

We will also return with new theatrical historic walking plays for the morning Perth though the Ages and evening Lonely Ghosts Walk. Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, don’t miss this great opportunity to save money on next year’s entertainment, with tickets that make great gifts anytime.

The 25% discount savings sale runs only until December 31, 2016. May you enjoy all of the coming seasons until we see you again.

 

ELANA POST: Prime Spot in Mystery Thriller

Sybil2As the final week of the Classic Theatre Festival production of An Inspector Calls comes to a close (the last show is on Sept. 11 at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth), Elana Post – who shines in the role of the imperious Sybil Birling – has been reflecting on the terrific ensemble with whom she is currently working.

“Right from the beginning everyone was open and trusting and giving and hard working,” says Post, who hails from southern Ontario. “That list could go on and on. And the humour! What a joy to have light hearts to counter-balance this sometimes intense and exhausting play. It’s been nice to spend a lot of time with them outside of the theatre too. Not all casts are like that. We’ve been on road trips, we’ve been canoeing, some of us went to the fair…. I’m with a group of people who care, and I think that shows on stage.”

Post says she has been blessed to work with similar ensembles throughout her career, which began in earnest when she appeared in the 1993 Stratford Festival production of The Mikado as an acrobat and, later, as a swing with the women’s chorus. Additional roles followed at Kitchener’s Theatre & Company, including as Felicity Cunningham in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound. Favourite roles that followed included Helen in George F. Walker’s Problem Child at Theatre & Company, which she viewed as a “milestone in my career. It was the first time I felt like I was holding my own, that I was strong in my craft. I had matured.” Other roles included Gillian Holroyd in John Van Druten’s Bell, Book & Candle at Touchmark Theatre.

Although she has appeared in many farces, Post was particularly fond of Judy from Robin Hawdon’s Perfect Wedding (at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre). “There was something about that character that I loved, and even though she helped cause a major problem, there were redeeming qualities in her that one couldn’t help but love her for. She is a sincere character.”

atgthefireplacePlaying Sybil Birling in An Inspector Calls poses its own unique challenges. “It’s tough to play an unlikable character,” Post says. “I always look for ways of opening a door that allows the audience to relate and empathize with the person I am playing. In a quality play, even the worst villain will be appealing in some way.”

Post combines a number of roles in her career, including producer, performer and director. As someone who plays both on stage and on film, she notes the differences between the two media. “There is an interesting element to film that takes a performance out of the hands of the actor. With the guidance of the director, the actor shapes their character, but then the director, and editors, and sound engineers, and sometimes several other technical people, take that performance and manipulate it, and shape it into something that fits perfectly with all of the other elements of the film. It is a ballet of many variables that can seem disjointed at first, but comes together as one. It can be quite incredible.”

A first-time performer at the Classic Theatre Festival, Post will leave with precious memories of Perth. “Perth is stunning,” she enthuses. “I am a big fan of architecture, and historical building preservation. I continue to be amazed by not only the sheer number of historical buildings, but by the fact that they are in terrific shape. The park, the river system, the friendly people. What a wonderful place to spend time in. I’m so glad Classic Theatre Festival is here in Perth. The two complement each other so well.”

To see Post’s critically praised performance in the 5-star production of An Inspector Calls, tickets can be purchased at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283. The show closes September 11.

GREG CAMPBELL: Highly Praised Character Role

The Classic Theatre Festival production of the mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, in which a body has been found and everyone is a suspect, has been generating a very strong

Greg Campbell's performance as Arthur Birling (seen here with his onstage wife, played by Elana Post) in the gripping mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, now playing at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth (54 Beckwith Street East) has won praise from some of Canada's top theatre reviewers. The show runs until September 11, with tickets at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Greg Campbell’s performance as Arthur Birling (seen here with his onstage wife, played by Elana Post) in the gripping mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, now playing at the Classic Theatre Festival until Sept. 11 in Perth, has won praise from some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers.  (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

audience response, in addition to winning critical praise from some of the top theatre reviewers in the country.

Indeed, Jamie Portman, one of Canada’s most respected veteran reviewers, calls the show an “excellent, compelling production, another winner from Perth,” while Iris Winston of the Capital Critics Circle hails the show’s edge-of-your-seat qualities.

Among the actors singled out for kudos is Toronto’s Greg Campbell, whom Portman says “is outstanding as the self-satisfied, self-preening Arthur Birling,” a family patriarch who feels his ship has come in with the engagement of his daughter to the son of a business rival. The hoped for ensuing merger of companies and families will raise the Birlings’ status in the community. As the play opens, everyone is celebrating when a knock is heard and an Inspector enters, proceeding to begin his intensive round of suspenseful questioning.

For Campbell, the role of Birling follows on playing truly villainous characters in prior Classic Theatre seasons in Wait Until Dark and Dial M for Murder.

“I usually get cast as good-doers and sincere guys, so these roles have been a great opportunity for me to play,” says Campbell. “What fascinates me is that these people are very familiar. We know people with the traits that these men have. And they have very human qualities too, that we can’t help admire while we are repulsed by them. I like playing Birling because he has some pretty biting comebacks, gets to fire off a lot of angry rants, and because he is quite funny in his transparent attempts to hang on to his position and avoid scandal. He is somewhat of a buffoon, though he is completely unaware he is. And I do think he has redeeming qualities.”

Campbell has worked as a performer for 32 years, first inspired by seeing such musicals as Mary PoppinsOliver!, Fiddler On the Roof, and The Sound of Music. He also saw his mother in a pantomime of Cinderella (in which she played Prince Charming because she was quite tall).  His passion for theatre took off when he emceed, at age 9, the Montreal Allion School Saint Patrick’s Day Concert in 1969. “I was chosen as the best reader in the class and the theatre bug started there. I had a piping soprano at the time, and introduced each act with cue cards. I was stoked the night of the concert. On my way home after school, I tripped and dirtied the knees of my dress pants, and ran into the house in a complete panic, yelling to my Mum that I couldn’t go on looking like this. It was my first opening night panic attack!”

Campbell took theatre training at Concordia University in Montreal. “It was an academic program, but I had two teachers who made a great impression on me, “ he recalls. “Terry Donald had just started teaching acting, but he used Uta Hagen’s book, Respect For Acting, and he instilled in me a strong desire for authenticity and integrity that I still carry today. Joe Cazalet focused more on big plays, by the likes of Shakespeare and Brecht, and on creating spectacle. He directed me in Equus, where I played Alan Strang, the boy who blinds the horses, and it was the first time that I felt the power of acting, of being completely inside a role, and of giving everything I had to it. It was an amazing experience.”

His first professional show was a production of Peter Colley’s You’ll Get Used To It: The War Show, at Barrie’s Gryphon Theatre. It was directed by James B. Douglas, who’d had a part in the Robert Altman film, M*A*S*H.  “I auditioned with a song I found in the reference library, When Der Fuhrer Says Ve Is De Master Race, and James loved it so much, he put it in the show,” Campbell recalls, fondly remembering performances when audiences members who had lived through the war often sang along to the songs performed on stage, such as White Cliffs of Dover.

Campbell is especially excited as a character actor when he can play more than one role in the same play. “I love being able to alter myself physically and vocally so that I am very different in two or more roles in the same play,  but still, always, being entirely convincing as each character. I believe in theatre, how it can move and change many minds all at the same time. It can make people think and feel, and it can be totally entertaining.

He is also an avid theatre-goer. “I’m always hoping for that moment when an actor will stun me with his authenticity, or when a musical number will make me roar with laughter (like in the musical The Book Of Mormon) or just beam with joy. I go to see movies to escape. I go to the theatre to be amazed.”

Campbell is enjoying his third summer in Perth, which he loves for its “down-home feeling. The historic buildings are gorgeous: Toronto seems bent on tearing down anything that’s old. And Stewart Park is truly beautiful, on a par with the river walk in Stratford. When I come to Perth, I lower my gears, and am able to take a break from the pace of the city. And I can see the stars!”

To see Campbell and the excellent acting ensemble work through the mystery behind An Inspector Calls, tickets can be purchased at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283. The show runs until September 11, Wed. to Sun at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wed., Thurs. & Sat. at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth.

 

PERTH-BORN PERFORMER: In Compelling Role

 Sean Jacklin plays the troubled Eric Burling (in white, confronting his parents, played by Elana Post and Greg Campbell, as the Inspector, William Vickers, watches) in the gripping mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, on until September 11 at the Classic Theatre Festival at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth. Tickets at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283. (Photos: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Sean Jacklin plays the troubled Eric Birling (in white), confronting his parents, (played by Elana Post and Greg Campbell), as the Inspector (William Vickers) watches. in the gripping mystery thriller An Inspector Calls. (Photos: Jean-Denis Labelle)

In the Classic Theatre Festival production of J.B. Priestley’s mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, playing until September 11 at 54 Beckwith Street East, Sean Jacklin gives a compelling performance as the troubled young man Eric Birling, who battles demons and drink as he, along with his family, all become suspects in the death of a young woman.

This gripping story is a very different role from Jacklin’s comic appearance as an overweight telephone repairman battling six flights of stairs in the Neil Simon comedy, Barefoot in the Park, at last year’s Festival. “I love playing Eric because I can identify with a lot of what he’s going through,” Jacklin says. “He’s suddenly becoming socially aware in a time that is completely controlled by the generations above him who don’t think anything like he does, for the most part. There’s a frustration there, a genuine desire to do good but a complete inability to do so faced with the stagnation and repression around him. It’s not all that different today.”

Jacklin points out that the play, written in 1912, features a younger generation that will soon bear the wounds and scars of the First World War.  He knows Eric is likely to “be part of the first wave of British soldiers sent into the machine gun fire two years later when war breaks out across Europe.”

Local audience members who recognize the man playing Eric Birling are not mistaken, as Jacklin has been a regular fixture on Perth stages for two decades, beginning with a role at the age of 7 as Ricky, the son of the main character in The Seven Year Itch. “I got to run around the stage with one of those horses on a stick things, firing a cap gun and wearing a cowboy hat. I guess that pretty much sold the whole acting thing for me. I’d love to be able to do that on stage again someday, but somehow I don’t think it would be as cute as a 26-year-old.”

Jacklin came by his profession honestly, as his parents, David and Janice Jacklin of Barn Door Productions, have a lengthy history as the producers of over 100 community theatre shows in Perth.

Jacklin recalls a production of Hamlet his parents produced on the grounds of Perth Manor over a decade ago, “playing about four roles in total while also running around backstage opening trap doors and doing little technical things. I love the rush of playing one character and switching over to another. I played Johnny Frazier and Corky the Clown in Circus Gothic for our Sears Festival show in grade 12. That’s a pinnacle show for me; one of those shows where everything you’ve been learning and feeling over a set time culminates in something really special.

drunksean copy“When I got to high school (PDCI), I had the great fortune of working with Carolee and Geoff Mason in their last 4 years at the school running the drama department and extra curriculars,” Jacklin says.  “Suddenly theatre was this great bastion for relieving the stress of the classes I didn’t really give two shakes about. They also really instilled in me a drive and discipline that I’ve never forgotten. I then spent 4 years at the University of Guelph, a beautifully supportive community where I could live and learn with people living and learning the same things I was going through. I focused a lot on tech while at university, which came in handy when I found myself working for the Classic Theatre Festival in their second and third seasons. Earlier this year, I finished my acting training at George Brown College, where I again found a group of wonderfully supportive peers to grow with. It’s the people you’re with that really stand out, because they become your support group when the institutions feel like they aren’t giving you what you need at that moment. You can turn to your friends and seek the motivation from them instead.”

Jacklin feels especially supported by his fellow cast members in An Inspector Calls. “This group is incredibly open and caring and ready to jump in and make things happen. Eric has to go to some dark places, and I’ve always felt able to go there with this cast; nobody is giving the fresh, green theatre school grad the side eye wondering what the heck he’s doing, and that means the world to me.”

Jacklin has had a busy summer in Perth, also directing the two historic walking plays that close this weekend, River of Memory and A Taste of Perth.  In September, it’s back to Toronto with a focus on Canada’s 150th anniversary. He’s conceived The Re-Confederation Project, which will involve travelling the country with a group of fellow theatre creators “to as many cities, towns, hamlets, indigenous communities, and other places where humans live and ask them questions about their identity. Not ‘Where did your family come from?’ but specific questions like, ‘When you wake up what is the first thing you have do?” or ‘What is something that makes you mad?’ or ‘What is something that makes you happy?’ I’m hoping through these questions we can gather a lot of material that the people of this country (or randomly assigned lines and borders) have created that will give us an idea of what day to day life is on the personal scale.”

In the meantime, he’ll be part of the compelling crew performing one of the 20th century’s most talked about and produced mystery thrillers, one whose message continues to be debated by audiences and critics alike each time it’s produced. “Ultimately I think Priestley’s goal was to make at least half of the audience leave the theatre and give the cab driver or restaurant server an extra big tip at the end of the night to hopefully brighten their day a bit. Perhaps carry some groceries for someone who is having trouble. I think he wants us to make sure we’re always looking for small ways to make other people’s lives and experiences better. If we all do that then the collective human experience is raised to a better standard. The problem, though, is that everyone has to agree to do it all the time. It can’t be just one person here or there. It’s that Do Unto Others thing.”

Tickets to An Inspector Calls are available at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

FINAL WEEK FOR 2016: Features Dynamic Duo

Anna Burkholder and Fraser Elsdon are part of a new generation of talent making their debut at the Classic Theatre Festival’s production of the mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, playing until September 11.

Anna Burkholder and Fraser Elsdon are part of a new generation of talent making their debut in the Classic Theatre Festival’s production of the mystery thriller An Inspector Calls, playing until September 11 at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth.

As the final week of the Classic Theatre Festival production of An Inspector Calls comes to a close (the last show is on Sept. 11 at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth), among those

who have won critical kudos from the country’s top theatre reviewers are Anna Burkholder and Fraser Elsdon, who play a young couple about to be engaged as the gripping mystery thriller begins.

Burkholder and Elsdon are part of a new generation of Canadian talent who made their debuts at the Classic Theatre Festival this season in an edge-of-your-seat thriller in which a body has been found and everyone is a suspect.

Burkholder got her start on stage by auditioning for a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She recalls being too scared and nervous to perform a monologue, so she tried out for a non-speaking forest creature with a movement-based audition. She was cast as Cobweb, “and I created a crazy spider walk for her. It was special because I realized I was able to create Cobweb however I wanted and I don’t think I’d experienced that type of freedom before.”

She trained in physical theatre at East 15 Acting School in England. “The first several months we didn’t speak in our training. Silent play and listening to each other was a huge foundation of the training. It was a powerful experience.”

Her first professional stage gig was a coming together of connections in British theatre’s royalty: the National Theatre production of Timon of Athens on the Olivier Stage, where she recalls she “learned a lot, especially from watching the work of such gifted actors. It was a great eye opener for me to see how a performance has the potential to be new each night. Unspoken games were played on stage between actors and this kept things unbelievably free and spontaneous. I began to see how a sense of play was so important. I was also very fortunate to witness what it was to be truly open and vulnerable and have these moments reach even the furthest of seats. It felt magical.”

Physical theatre has always held an attraction for Burkholder, who says, “I think that when I’m truly following my impulses, it’s my body leading the way. My thoughts can’t be in the way – nor my words – for me to sincerely follow my impulses. These impulses (or gut feelings) come from somewhere within, somewhere physical. That’s what interests me! As an audience member, I think the actors’ bodies on stage are so fascinating. Watching an ensemble and seeing how bodies move together, or not together at all, says so much for me.”

Elsdon was bit by the theatre bug with a Grade 5 performance of the Green Day song Basket Case, played on a recorder, that truly rocked his school’s talent show He also won the speech competition with a story about living on the moon. As a teenager, he found himself singing, playing guitar, and performing, and was then cast in his Windsor high school production of Grease, followed by the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables.

“Before one of the performances I remember standing onstage behind the curtain, and the orchestra playing the first few notes. I looked around me at the other actors, all focused, all in costume, and I thought about what I was about to do: become a 19th-century French criminal, and sing songs, and tell a sweeping, moving, epic story. It’s there that I decided that I wanted to do that for the rest of my life.”

Elsdon did most of his training at George Brown Theatre School, but the first acting class he ever took taught him that “acting is not pretending to have an experience, acting is having the experience, the interior experience.”

The musically-inclined Elsdon has also appeared in Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, a role he truly loved both because he played the title role and because “I got to be in a band, playing rock music, night after night for thousands of people. It’s so awesome!”

Another favourite role was playing opposite his wife, Kate Ross, in Mary’s Wedding, which they performed in a rural barn. “It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking, poetic show about love and loss and war. It was a gorgeous production, with live sound and music; it was very moving, especially to be acting opposite my wife.”

Elsdon also works as a writer with the Storefront Theatre Playwright’s Unit, a major hub of Toronto’s independent theatre scene. “I love writing. I think acting has informed my ear for dialogue, as well as my understanding of stage business. As a writer you need to see the whole picture, see the plot and how different personalities interact. When you’re acting, you need to know your character inside and out, and then react to the events as they unfold. You live in the moment, whereas when I’m writing I need to write the moments and then take a bird’s eye view.

His newest play, Superheroes, was developed as part of their Playwright’s Unit, and received a public reading in May.

Burkholder and Elsdon both like playing characters in a mystery where audiences might at first have difficulty relating to individuals who are suspects in a criminal case. “Sheila Birling is very sensitive and has an innate ability to detect things,” Burkholder says. “She’s passionate and I think she feels things very deeply. I believe that it’s her empathy and her desire to want to change (and change the environment around her) that is redeeming. I love playing a character who is so invested in making a huge change.”

Elsdon likes Croft because “he’s someone with a good heart who has made a big mistake and is struggling to understand what it means and what to do about it. Who among us can’t relate to that? The prospect of having to shift our entire worldview is a terrifying one, and that’s what is being asked of him by the Inspector and Sheila.”

To see these characters as they make their way to the last line of the play, before which no one is quite sure who is responsible for the death of a young woman, tickets can be purchased at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283. An Inspector Calls closes on September 11, the final show of the Festival’s expanded 7th summer season.