CLASSIC DINNER THEATRE: Premieres in Perth June 5

Every Tuesday evening this summer, the 2018 Classic Dinner Theatre and Michael’s Table present the hilarious G.B. Shaw comedy, Overruled – about two couples confronted by an unconventional challenge – along with a sumptuous three-course, home-cooked meal.

Classic Dinner Theatre and Michael’s Table present the G.B. Shaw comedy, Overruled every Tuesday from June 5 to Aug. 28, 2018.

Performed by some of Lanark and Renfrew Counties’ most talented up-and-coming performers – including Mallory Brumm, Katie Irvine, Connor Lyon, and Connor Williamson – the brand-new dinner theatre experience represents an extension of the annual summertime Classic Theatre Festival, which already features three mainstage professional productions, as well as a morning walking play and an evening ghost play.

“Our mandate period of performing classics from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage is perfectly suited for dinner theatre,” explains Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. “I also think it’s something that’s primed for a comeback in an age when there’s only so much binge-watching people can do at home before they start to long for the connection of a live performance experience like this one.”

While dinner theatres sprung up across North America after World War II and reached their heyday in the 1960s and 70s, they have been enjoying a resurgence as companies like the Classic Theatre Festival and Michael’s Table come together around shared values of artistic and culinary excellence. “It’s a great opportunity to tickle your funny bone, please your palette, and create a memory you’ll enjoy long after the final curtain,” Smith says.

The Classic Theatre Festival decided to launch the new dinner theatre based on audience feedback about additional activities they would like to enjoy while attending a mainstage show. Given that 80% of audiences are tourists, a key request was getting home before sundown, and with a running time of 5 to 7 pm from June 5 to August 28, that should pose no problem for travellers coming from as far as two hours away.

The Michael’s Table menu will be offering four special entrees, with soul and salad and dessert and coffee or tea. Tickets for the experience will be $48 (which includes all box office charges, taxes and gratuities.)

With limited seating and strong advance word of mouth, seats are already selling fast. To reserve dinner theatre seats – and to enjoy the Festival’s early bird offers, which expire May 15 – contact 1-877-283-1283 or visit ticketsplease.ca

VIOLENCE PREVENTION EDUCATOR: Shares Timely Message with Lanark Youth

One of Canada’s leading women’s rights educators and advocates, Julie Lalonde (upper left), visited Perth last week to meet with members of the Burning Passions Theatre youth troupe, including (clockwise from top left) Ryan Kreissler, playwright/director Laurel Smith, Mary Cowan, Lu Williams, Ruby Davidson, and Winston Mavraganis.

One of Canada’s leading women’s rights educators and advocates, Julie Lalonde, visited Perth last week to meet with members of the Burning Passions Theatre youth troupe. Lalonde is acting as a primary consultant for a new play on the #MeToo movement exploring the aftermath of sexual assault, Every Friday, that tours Lanark County schools and youth centres for the last two weeks of April.

As someone who for 15 years has been active on the front lines of ending violence against women, the Governor General’s Award-winning advocate, who frequently appears in the national media as a go-to person for her expertise on such violence, shared important lessons with members of the youth troupe.

Lalonde chronicled a remarkable history that included leading a seven-year effort to establish the first sexual assault centre at Carleton University. It was an uphill battle, she recalled, because the administration refused to recognize the extent of rape culture on campus, claiming that to acknowledge the problem might hurt the school’s reputation znd discourage prospective students.

In response, Lalonde and a group of like-minded colleagues wrote petitions, held a town hall where the need to provide such a service was made obvious, and started an 18-hour-a-day support line that existed for years as the political struggle went on. While Carleton brought in a football team and built a new arena, it always claimed there was no funding available for a sexual assault centre.

“We heard horrible stories,” Lalonde says, often from women who had never before had their experiences framed within the context of naming the violence done to them as sexual assault. “We were hearing stories like ‘my abuser goes to the same class, what do I do?’ and “my teaching assistant is abusing me.’” In the era before Facebook and Twitter, the group got the word out about their hotline by placing flyers on car windshields and putting up posters at 4 am that were quickly taken down by staff. Each individual staffed the phone for four-hour shifts, 365 days a year.

The tireless Lalonde has also worked for seven years on a provincial campaign to end violence against women, training over 10,000 people while speaking in different communities some 200 days of the year. She has also, unfortunately, been the focus of repeated internet trolling and harassment, including death threats, many of which amplified after she spoke to cadets at the Royal Military College on recognizing and ending such violence. For a number of years afterward, she could not speak publicly without a police presence, which she said was supremely ironic given the national “awakening” then unfolding on sexual violence in light of allegations brought forward by a group of women against former CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi.

Lalonde has also played a key role in working to improve safety for riders of OC Transpo while also shepherding a group called Hollaback Ottawa, which challenges street-level catcalls and harassment. A lot of people have yet to come to the terms with the fact that, she says, “social media is the new sidewalk,” a place where women are still not free to exist in a violence-free space.

While she garnered a national profile as a leading fighter against such violence, Lalonde says she was dealing with her own personal nightmare, being “brutally stalked” by a former boyfriend for over a decade. “I would be on the news talking about these issues, but I couldn’t talk about what was going on in my own life because it just wasn’t safe,” she says. The man who stalked her died in a car accident, but the damage he did – including Lalonde’s post-traumatic stress – remains, as documented in a new video she created with Montreal artist Ambivalently Yours, Outside of the Shadows (https://outsideoftheshadows.ca/).

“I broke my silence and took the social justice movement to task for ignoring criminal harassment. We talk about sexual violence. We talk about intimate partner violence. Why don’t we talk about stalking? I was tired of waiting for people to do it. I was tired of screaming into the void.”

Reflecting on the #MeToo movement, Lalonde says “If we’re waiting for survivors to just come forward, it won’t happen. We need to create the conditions for it to be safe enough to come forward. You have the right to decide if and when you tell your story.” She also rejects the Hollywood notion that simply telling one’s story of abuse will result in healing.

“There’s no guarantees, so as a counselor, I have often asked, ‘What does healing look like to you?’ The answer does not always come easily or clearly because most people do not know what options exist outside of calling the police or going to the hospital.”

Lalonde views the Burning Passions Theatre play, Every Friday, as an opportunity to continue spreading the word not only about the issue, but also the resources that, limited though they may be, are available in Lanark County.

Every Friday plays in Perth on Tuesday April 17 at 5pm at YAK (1 Sherbrooke Street East), at the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre (134 Main Street East) on Thursday April 19 at 5pm, at Lanark Community Youth Centre (61 Princess Street) on Friday April 20 at 6pm, and at the Smiths Falls Community Centre (71 Cornelia Street) on Friday April 27 at 4:30pm. Admission is by donation, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

For more information on the project or to arrange a school booking, contact burning[at]web.ca or call (613) 264-8088.

#ME TOO PLAY: Tours Lanark County in April

The #Metoo and #TimesUp movements receive a local interpretation with the new play, Every Friday, touring Lanark County in April, starring (clockwise from top left) Ryan Kreissler, Winston Mavraganis, Ruby Davidson, Mary Cowan, Lu Williams and Felix Evangelho. Locations and times at burningpassionstheatre.com

The global #Metoo and #TimesUp movements receive a local interpretation in April as Burning Passions Theatre presents a new play, Every Friday, that will tour local youth centres and schools in Lanark Highlands, Perth, Smiths Falls, Carleton Place, and Almonte.

The play, written and directed by Laurel Smith, based on stories created by Mary Cowan, Ruby Davidson, Felix Evangelho, Ryan Kreissler, Winston Mavraganis, and Lu Williams, is an exploration of the experiences of a group of youth who come together to share their stories of survival in a violent world. Given the mature subject matter, it is recommended for ages 14+.

“For lots of reasons, many people still have trouble understanding concepts like trust and consent, which are at the heart of so many ##Metoo stories. We want to show how these issues play out in real situations,” explains Smith, who notes that the play, Every Friday, is the fourth installment of the annual Listen Up! touring theatre project that addresses issues affecting rural teenagers. “To hear terms like assault, abuse and harassment without their full context can be alienating. By presenting characters who share their own journeys of survival, we hope to reconnect audiences to the very real emotions and effects of these terms.”

Each performance will be followed by a talkback session in which audience members can dialogue with the actors and playwright.

“This play is very important to me because it’s a huge problem, and is becoming even more relevant today as social media and people in power are portraying victims as liars,” says Grade 12 student Mary Cowan. “I believe everyone has a right to be believed. This play also gives the message to adults and teenagers alike that there is help, but it is also okay to not be okay.”

For Ryan Kreissler, who has acted in previous Listen Up! projects, Every Friday is “a great opportunity to learn about topics that aren’t often discussed anywhere else. The plays we create are always informative, and they’re great for spreading awareness of an issue and explaining how to get help.”

Grade 11 student Ruby Davidson agrees, noting “it is my goal for our shows to help in the community and spread awareness for the important issues that are not talked about enough in Lanark County.”

“This is a great opportunity to spread a positive message,” says PDCI student Winston Mavraganis. “Access to a platform where people’s voices can be heard is a luxury not everyone is afforded.”

As part of the play’s creation, group members will be meeting with renowned Governor-General’s Award-winning anti-violence consultant Julie Lalonde, a frequent media source on issues of violence against women whose work has appeared on Al Jazeera, CBC’s The National, TVO’s The Agenda, Vice, WIRED magazine and FLARE, among others.

Every Friday plays in Perth on Tuesday April 17 at 5pm at YAK (1 Sherbrooke Street East); at the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre (134 Main Street East) on Thursday April 19 at 5pm; at Lanark Community Youth Centre (61 Princess Street) on Friday April 20 at 6pm; and at the Smiths Falls Community Centre (71 Cornelia Street) on Friday April 27 at 4:30pm. Admission is by donation, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

For more information on the project or to arrange a school booking, contact burning@web.ca or call (613) 264-8088.

CTF 2018: Hiring Performers for Walking Plays, Dinner Theatre

While previous seasons of the Classic Theatre’s Walking plays have focused on stories from the time of the town’s founding through Confederation (such as this scene featuring Sean Jacklin, Meaghan Brackenbury and Jasmine Bowen), the 2018 shows are set during the Second World War. The Festival is inviting applications from young performers interested in acting for this summer’s shows, with a deadline to submit resumes of March 15. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

As part of the annual theatrical historic walking plays that enliven the streets of Perth each summer, the Classic Theatre Festival is looking to hire a group of young people with an interest in acting, singing, and dancing for its brand new 2018 street-level shows. Resumes will be accepted until March 15, 2018 at info@classictheatre.ca.

While no prior experience is necessary, the Festival’s youth theatre training program hires and provides full-time paid work for students aged 15 to 29 during the summer months. Performers will also take part in the company’s inaugural Classic Dinner Theatre experience, which will take place Tuesdays from June 5 to August 28 at Michael’s Table, 110 Gore Street East in Perth.

“It has been great to provide paid summer employment and co-op placements for young people who are interested in the arts,” explains Classic Theatre Festival Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. “Not only do they get training with professional theatre artists, they also help draw thousands of tourists to town who learn about Perth’s history in an entertaining fashion, and who also shop in local stores, eat locally, and stay overnight too, which is great for the economy.”

While past walking plays have largely dealt with early Perth history – last year’s Perth through the Ages and the Lonely Ghosts Walk dealt with the town at Confederation – this year’s shows will feature more recent stories set during the Second World War.

“The morning show will look at how local residents dealt with wartime tensions on the home front, including fears about escaped spies from the nearby prisoner-of-war camps in Kingston and Petawawa,” explains Smith, who will be writing the script. “It’s also an opportunity to remember that even though the war was pitched as a battle between democracy and fascism, the civil liberties of thousands of Canadian citizens were eliminated, including the jailing of hundreds of labour organizers without charge, as well as the internment of thousands of people of Japanese, Italian, or German heritage.”

This year’s Perth through the Ages play (running Wednesday to Sunday morning at 11am beginning at Matheson House Museum on Gore Street) will bring back memories of Big Band swing music and popular dances of the day.

Also on tap will be the annual Lonely Ghosts Walk (running Thursday and Friday evenings at 7pm), which will feature the spirits of British war brides who often faced their own challenges once they arrived in this country. Both walking plays are family-friendly.

Students who sign on to the summer program will also be appearing in the Classic Dinner Theatre production of George Bernard Shaw’s connubial comedy Overruled, about two married couples facing a rather unconventional challenge. Smith, who worked at the Shaw Festival before founding the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth, is excited about bringing this hilarious take on married life to a brand new setting at Michael’s Table.

The show will run from 5 to 7 pm and feature a three-course meal at the popular Perth dining spot. “When Michael’s Table was recently renovated, they created a perfect, intimate spot for dinner theatre” says Smith. “Reaction so far has been very enthusiastic. People should book early because seating will be limited.”

Anyone interested in applying for the Festival positions should submit a resume to info@classictheatre.ca no later than March 15, with interviews scheduled the third week in March. Those interested in purchasing discounted Early Bird tickets to the walking plays and the Classic Dinner Theatre, as well as for the Festival’s mainstage season, can visit ticketsplease.ca or call 1-877-283-1283.

 

LISTEN UP! 2018: Sexual Assault, Healthy Relationships Focus of New Youth Play

Connor Williamson and Felix Evangelho appeared in a touring show about youth homelessness in 2017, The Invisible Boy, as part of the annual Listen Up! theatre project. A new show on healthy relationships and sexual violence is seeking applications from interested teenagers.

Now entering its 4th season, the Burning Passions Theatre’s Listen Up! youth project will be touring Lanark County later this spring with a new play whose message is perfectly in tune with the #MeToo and #TimesUp phenomena. The company is currently seeking applications from teenagers who would like to be part of the play, as well as schools that would like to have the troupe perform for their students.

“Before #MeToo even sprang up in its current form, we were planning to do a play about what constitutes healthy relationships,” explains Laurel Smith, the Artistic Producer of the company, which also runs the summertime Classic Theatre Festival.

“Unfortunately, it should come as no surprise that we are seeing all this, given the amount of sexual violence directed against women and children around the globe, which the World Health Organization has deemed a planetary epidemic,” Smith says. “We look forward to working with teenagers as we develop a script built around their own perspectives on the issue, whether that’s dealing with workplace harassment, mistreatment in school hallways, or inter-generational violence, which is far more common that most people would like to admit. This isn’t just a problem for teenagers.”

Since 2015, Listen Up! has created plays that speak not only to teenagers but adults as well, spurring dialogue on how best to bridge the generational gap on a range of issues from anxiety,  depression and teen suicide to gender fluidity and youth homelessness. Each performance is followed by a facilitated talkback in which the performers discuss issues with audience members, addressing not only the roots of the problems, but focusing on solutions as well.

Burning Passions Theatre has toured its shows in schools, youth centres, and at a national conference in Ottawa.  Each year, the company has seen positive results inspired by their shows, from improved self-esteem of participants to change sin the community. For example, its show on teen suicide, Jessie’s Song, inspired the YAK Youth Centre to offer a two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Training (ASIST) course for the public. Each of the staff and placement students at YAK are now certified in ASIST as well as Mental Health First Aid.

Similarly, last year’s show, The Invisible Boy, helped raise awareness of youth homelessness in a rural context, and was accompanied by a United Way representative sharing resources for young people at risk of finding themselves with no roof over their heads.

“The fact that the youth were so involved in creating the storyline and in fact the very essence of the play added to the overall impact,” said Lanark County United Way regional director Fraser Scantlebury. “At each performance, I marveled at the attentiveness of the audience. The actors’ passion was not only evident in their portrayal of the story, but in the very revealing discussion sessions with audiences after the performances.”

Anyone interested in being part of this year’s play, which begins development and rehearsal in February and will tour towards the end of April – can send email to burning@web.ca or call (613) 264-8088.

SAVE-A-SEAT PROGRAM: Continues to Grow

The Classic Theatre Festival’s Artistic Producer, Laurel Smith, looks back fondly on her company’s 8th successful season while praising the role of the Save-a-Seat program in opening up over 2,000 free seats to low-income and socially marginalized community members since 2010. Individuals wishing to support the program receive charitable tax receipts. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Since the Classic Theatre Festival opened its doors in Perth in 2010, staging award-winning productions of hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage, over 2,000 people have enjoyed shows courtesy of the Save-a-Seat program, which provides free tickets to low-income and socially marginalized community members who would otherwise never be able to attend.

“It’s a program that we’re particularly proud of, because live theatre with some of Canada’s top professional performers should be accessible to everyone regardless of income,” says Classic Theatre Festival Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. “Save-a-Seat recipients can come to the theatre in dignity because their tickets look just like everyone else’s, so they never feel any social stigma.”

The popular program is supported by individual charitable donations, often provided by audience members, as well as the sale of used books in the Festival’s lobby, and a 50-50 raffle. Tickets are made available through partnerships with a variety of social service agencies across Lanark County and other parts of Eastern Ontario.

“Often when people purchase tickets, they buy an extra one for Save-a-Seat, or they add Save-a-Seat to their list of year-end charitable donations since we can provide a tax receipt,” says Smith.

The Festival’s Save-a-Seat program is fully in sync with the findings of a Community Foundations of Canada study from last April that found the arts remain an important cohesive force in communities, promoting social inclusion and a sense of belonging while enhancing the quality of life.

We’ve seen individuals get so excited at the theatre, often a first-time experience for them, that they contact us to volunteer, which is one way of helping people re-connect to the community,” Smith says. “Some of them receive job skills and training, and others have received employment with the Festival as well.”

As Smith reflects back on the 2017 season – which received a record five nominations for artistic excellence at the Capital Critics Circle Awards – she points to numerous studies that highlight the socially beneficial outcomes of arts in the community. When the Perth & District Foundation released its landmark Lanark County Vital Signs 2017 report, it took special note of the region’s creative economy, pointing out that arts, entertainment and recreation make up six percent of the labour force and the fastest growing segment of the employment sector, growing by 41 per cent since 2012.

“We are a major employer for young people during the summer, often providing a first-time job and an excellent reference on a resume,” says Smith, who also points to a provincial economic analysis of the Classic Theatre Festival that found theatre-related tourism pumped over $1 million into the Perth economy last summer.

What we are seeing is that partnering with the Festival is a great way to increase traffic in your business, from restaurants and accommodations to downtown shopping,” Smith says, adding that in 2018, a number of new special packages will allow tourists (who make up 81% of Festival audiences) as well as local residents even more opportunities to enjoy discounted entertainment experiences.

The Festival’s parent company, Burning Passions Theatre, is also planning its 4th season of a youth theatre training program called Listen Up!, which allows at-risk teenagers an opportunity to come together in a safe place, discuss issues of importance in their lives, and create and tour a play based on those topics. Last year’s show, The Invisible Boy, focused on youth homelessness, while the previous season’s Jessie’s Song explored the impacts of teen suicide on a community. The 2018 production, planned in advance of the #MeToo phenomenon, will be a helpful complement to that social movement, focusing on sexual harassment and violence against women and children.

The Festival is continuing its hugely popular holiday sale through December 31 (individuals can save as much as 25% off when they order by year’s end, and pick their dates anytime in 2018). Those wishing to take advantage of the flexible savings plan can order online at ticketsplease.ca or call 1-877-283-1283.

Those looking for a charitable tax receipt to round out 2017 can donate to the Save-a-Seat program through Canada Helps or by mailing cheques to the Classic Theatre Festival at PO Box 2121, 57 Foster Street, Perth, ON K7H 1R0.

CTF ANNOUNCES: 9th Season Lineup and Early Discounts

Audiences who enjoyed 2017’s Same Time, Next Year (with Lana Sugarman and Scott Clarkson) can expect more of the same – award-winning productions of Broadway and London classics – when the Classic Theatre Festival returns for its 9th season of professional theatre in Perth. A Holiday Sale offers 25% discounts until December 31. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Coming off a record-breaking season that was honoured with five nominations at the 2017 Capital Critics Circle Awards, the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth is gearing up for its 9th season of staging professional productions of hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage.

The 2018 mainstage season will open with a rediscovered gem by the author of I Am a Camera (the basis for the musical Cabaret) and Bell, Book & Candle. John Van Druten’s There’s Always Juliet is a story rich in the dialogue and atmosphere that characterized many a 1930s comedy featuring the likes of Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and Carole Lombard. This tale of love at first sight follows the relationship of a British woman who meets an American businessman at a London tea party. Sparks fly, but how far will things go when the desire to find the perfect mate must face the obstacles of social mores, geography, and our sometimes overprotective sense of discretion?

It’s followed by an eagerly anticipated production of George Bernard Shaw’s wicked satire, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, the ultimate mother-daughter conflict story in which a young woman starts to question the source of her mother’s wealth. Filled with the warmth, humour, and unforgettable comic characters found in Shaw’s best writing, this play was banned for almost a decade by Britain’s Lord Chamberlain, but was celebrated throughout the 20th-century as an insightful and still relevant skewering of gender relations and the limited choices available to women in the workplace.

The season will close with the annual mystery thriller, a nailbiter called Angel Street (also known as Gaslight), by Patrick Hamilton. It’s a psychological thriller that became the source of the term gaslighting (when someone plays with your mind and tries to make you think you are going insane). A 1944 film version, directed by George Cukor, starred Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and a 19-year-old Angela Lansbury.

The Festival will also produce a new version of its morning walking play, Perth through the Ages, this time focused on tales of Perth during the Second World War. The Lonely Ghosts Walk will also return with a brand new walk through the ghostly spirits of Perth’s past.

Festival fans can also look forward to a surprise new show addition which will be announced in January.

The Festival’s annual holiday sale – theatre lovers can enjoy 25% savings and purchase vouchers now and pick their dates next year – is on until December 31, with tickets available at ticketsplease.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

CTF WINS: Prestigious Best Technical Design Award for Mystery Thriller

The Classic Theatre Festival’s Roger Schultz was honoured with a Best Technical Set Design award for his work on the Perth theatre’s professional production of the mystery thriller, I’ll Be Back Before Midnight.

At a lavish National Arts Centre gathering last week in Ottawa, the Classic Theatre Festival’s Roger Schultz was honoured with a Best Technical Set Design award for his work on the professional Perth theatre’s production of the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight.

“It could just as easily have been any of the three sets Roger designed last summer at the Classic Theatre Festival,” enthused veteran critic Iris Winston. Some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers had honoured the Classic Theatre Festival with a record-breaking five awards nominations in the professional theatre category for the 2017 Capital Critics Circle Awards.

In an emotional acceptance speech, Schultz praised the whole artistic team behind those productions – director Laurel Smith, costume designer Renate Seiler, lighting designer/production manager Wesley McKenzie, and associate producer Matthew Behrens – and saluted the Festival as “the little company that could.” Schultz’s innovative designs  for the thriller, along with his work on the Shaw comedy Candida and the Bernard Slade comedy Same Time, Next Year, produced a “wow effect” for audiences entering the theatre, which produces hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage.

For Artistic Producer Laurel Smith, the critical attention being paid to the Classic Theatre Festival – which last year racked up four award nominations – is “a tribute to the remarkable talent that puts these plays on every summer. We are so privileged to host some of this country’s finest talent both onstage and behind the scenes, and I really believe these award nominations speak to the team effort that is required to put on the shows, whether it is stage management, lighting design, costume design, set design, the front of house folks who do such a great job making our guests feel welcome and at home, and the young people in our theatre training program who are at the forefront of what it means to be a Perth ambassador.”

Smith is busy planning the 2018 summer season which, in addition to three golden age of Broadway and the London stage classics, will also include a brand new morning walking play, a new ghost walk, and a show surprise that will be announced in December.

Advance Super Savings Flex Passes are now on sale for the 2018 summer season, providing guests a 25% discount and the flexibility to pick their dates next year. Those are now available at www.ticketsplease.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

 

CTF HONOURED: With Five Award Nominations

Some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers have honoured the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth with a record-breaking five awards nominations in the professional theatre category for the 2017 Capital Critics Circle Awards, which will be announced at a special ceremony in Ottawa on November 13.

After winning a best actor award in 2016, Lana Sugarman has again received a best actor nomination with the Capital Critics Circle Awards for her role in the Bernard Slade comedy Same Time, Next Year, one of five award nominations for this year’s Classic Theatre Festival. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

The five nominations cover all three mainstage shows that ran during the Festival’s summer season, which once again drew thousands of tourists to Perth, many of whom also took in the highly-regarded theatrical walking plays that now run seven times a week throughout the summer. The Festival’s staging of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, directed by Laurel Smith, picked up nods for Best Production, Best Direction, and Best Actor for William Vickers in his performance as Mr. Burgess. (The Festival’s 2016 production of Shaw’s Arms and the Man was similarly nominated in the same categories, with Lana Sugarman winning as best female actor, while Vickers was also nominated two years ago for his role in Neil Simon’s I Ought to Be in Pictures.)

Sugarman picked up her second consecutive best actor nomination for this year’s beloved production of Canadian Bernard Slade’s timeless Same Time, Next Year, while Ottawa’s Roger Schultz was nominated for his set design in another Canadian playwright’s mystery thriller, Peter Colley’s I’ll Be Back Before Midnight.

Upon hearing the news, Sugarman thanked her director, Laurel Smith, for  “guiding me to do my strongest work in some incredible roles,” as well as “my magical co-actor, Scott Clarkson. You can’t get a Best Actress nomination in a two-hander without the best partner up there with ya!”

CTF’s 2017 production of I’ll be Back before Midnight garnered a Capital Critics Circle award nomination for Roger Schultz’s eerie and evocative set design. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

For Artistic Producer Laurel Smith, the critical attention being paid to the Classic Theatre Festival is “a tribute to the remarkable talent that puts these plays on every summer. We are so privileged to host some of this country’s finest talent both onstage and behind the scenes, and I really believe these award nominations speak to the team effort that is required to put on the shows, whether it is stage management, lighting design, costume design, set design, the front of house folks who do such a great job making our guests feel welcome and at home, and the young people in our theatre training program who are at the forefront of what it means to be a Perth ambassador.”

Smith also extended congratulations to other award nominees, including numerous National Arts Centre productions, and said that while she looks forward to the Ottawa party, she’s also busy planning the 2018 summer season which, in addition to three golden age of Broadway and the London stage classics, will also include a brand new morning walking play, a new ghost walk, and a surprise show that will be announced in December.

Advance Super Savings Flex Passes are now on sale for the 2018 summer season, with a 25% discount and the flexibility to pick dates next year. Order at ticketsplease.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

 

 

HOREJDA COMMANDS CLASSIC THEATRE STAGE: In Gripping Mystery Thriller

Lauren Horejda’s character Jan ponders her next move as she struggles to survive in the critically acclaimed Classic Theatre Festival production of I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, which plays in Perth until September 10 at 54 Beckwith Street East. Tickets at classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

A performer with frequent film and television appearances on shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Nikita, Beauty & The Beast, and The Fourth Plague has been commanding the Classic Theatre Festival stage as a woman fighting for her very survival in the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, which plays until September 10 at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth.

Born and raised in Saskatchewan – “they call it the land of living skies for good reason and believe me, it more than lives up to its name,” she says – Lauren Horejda plays the role of Jan, a woman who, recovering from a nervous breakdown, has been brought to a spooky old country farmhouse by her sometimes less than sensitive husband, Greg (Lindsay Robinson). What follows is much like a Hitchcock film, a combination of humour and horror in which the esteemed Capital Critics Circle says Horejda “delivers a fine multi-faceted characterization that balances fragility and determination.”

Horejda recalls her first performance was as an angel in a Christmas pageant, and while she cannot say exactly what drew her to acting, “I can say it always felt right where I was supposed to be.” After completing an honours undergraduate degree, she studied at some of the world’s leading theatrical training academies, including the UK’s Bristol Old Vic and Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Among some of her favourite roles along the way have been playing Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (Horejda is a major Ibsen fan) and Mercutio in The Deliverance of Romeo and Juliet. She’s also picked up best acting nominations two years in a row from My Entertainment World for her performances in Hamlet and The Changeling.

Playing Jan in I’ll Be Back before Midnight is a demanding role, as she is onstage for almost the whole show in an experience that many audience members describe as akin to a rollercoaster ride, providing thrills followed by anticipation and constant building of tension. Horejda says the role actually requires “decompression over preparation once the lights are dark and the audience has gone home. Jan is such a vessel of love and hope within the play. She wants nothing but the best and to take care of those she cares about, but she is put through so much within the play. So, it’s mostly checking in with myself and shedding the after-effects of Jan and everything that she has to go through that needs the most attention – shaking it off.”

Horejda is fond of Jan’s “unshakeable faith in those that she loves. It’s incredibly admirable, especially living in a world where people write each other off so frequently over so little.”

The Toronto-based actor says she’s loved her time in Perth this summer. “It’s been a beautiful place to come and relax and work on this fabulous play with a lovely and warm cast, a brilliant production team, and a wonderfully talented, thoughtful and insightful director. It’s been such fantastic experience for me to ride this ride with these beautiful souls.”

Those wishing to catch the final performances of I’ll Be Back before Midnight (playing Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wednesday and Saturday at 8 pm) can get tickets at 1-877-283-1283 or ticketsplease.ca