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

GAMBLES’ MYSTERIOUS CHARACTER: Ignites Classic Theatre’s Mystery Thriller

Chandel Gambles likens her character Laura to a fascinating boa constrictor in the rollercoaster of a ride that’s I’ll be Back Before Midnight at Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival until September 10. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

In the Classic Theatre Festival production of the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight, running at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth until September 10, Toronto-based performer Chandel Gambles takes on the role of Laura, a sister-in-law whose unexpected appearance at a spooky old farmhouse sets off a chain of events that leads to the show’s stunning conclusion.

The production has garnered strong audience response, while the Capital Critics Circle writes that  “together, director, crew and the well-integrated cast deliver a funny and even sometimes scary production that keeps audiences laughing and gasping.”

Audiences may not be sure what to make of Gambles’ character when she first appears. “Laura is a very interesting character because although she comes across as a powerhouse of a woman, in control of all aspects of her life, she is also incredibly vulnerable,” Gambles says. “Every character seeks love. It is a central need that drives the character to be accepted and, eventually, happy. When we get to see the hidden, and vulnerable moments of Laura, we are confronted with the reality that she too has an internal battle going on, just like everyone watching. Maybe we don’t agree with all of her choices, but those moments help us understand why she is making them.”

Gambles says she enjoys the role because Laura’s “mercurial personality keeps you on your toes, wondering what she could do at any turn. It’s a bit like having a pet boa constrictor in the room. It is magnificent to consider her switching from a slithering smoothness to a powerful attacking strike at any moment, depending on if she’s feeling threatened or sensuous at that time.  She could be resting, or about to slither across the room and squeeze all the power out of her opposition, before comfortably coiling herself across her environment. That behaviour is natural in a snake, and equally natural in her.”

Like many a performer, Gambles’ fascination with the theatre springs from an early age, playing dress-up with a wardrobe full of costumes. At the age of 8, she won her first role in a community children’s theatre production of Tom Sawyer.  “The excitement of making people laugh, cry, and gasp was such a delight that from that first live production, that I became utterly hooked by the acting bug!”

Gambles received formal theatre training at the University of Guelph in a program designed to focus on Canadian theatre “and developing new works that speak to our unique cultural experiences.” She focused on acting and directing, as well as physical theatre. “I found it exciting to work with masks and see how live actors could use silence, space, and movement to fill the story before a single word is spoken. Physical theatre seems to be the realm where the spoken word and the dancer’s body collide and it’s a fascinating area to explore.”

That background helped her score her first professional role at Ottawa Odyssey Theatre’s production of The Financier. “The show looked like a beautifully balanced dance beneath the main story, held by dynamic characters that I fell in love with every night,” she recalls. “It was an utter gift to have been brought into the professional masked theatre world with such a memorable production.

Equally adept at theatre and television and film work, Gambles says theatre offers the “thrill of the unknown moment. In the theatre, anything can happen, and no two shows will ever be the same. The actors feed off the energies of the audience finding a rhythm to match their pace, while driving the story along to match the viewer’s wonder and horror. There is a thrill in the possibility of a free, unknown element, which could step off the stage at any moment and suddenly shift the show from the presentational to the dangerously intimate and unexpected interaction.”

A busy performer, Gambles has also spent the past four years teaching theatre in high schools across Ontario and Quebec, singing and entertaining on cruise ships in Australia, organizing charity financial aid for professional artists in extreme emergencies across Canada, managing tours for children’s theatres, and administering special events for a large Opera company.

For now, though, she remains intensely focused on a show that’s described as kin to a rollercoaster ride. “I hope audiences leave this show with a lot of laughter, a few nervous twitches, and a couple of lingering questions. The excitement of this thriller lies in the fact that you don’t know who is out to stir up trouble, how they’ll do it, and when it will happen. Does anyone deserve what happens to them? Was anyone justified in their actions? Or reactions? And was it fair? I’d be quite pleased to hear audiences say that they have mixed feelings about everything they witnessed and how the end played out…because isn’t that what make rollercoasters so much fun?”

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, which has been drawing viewers aged 9 to 95, runs Tues. to Sun., at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wed. & Sat. Tickets at www.ticketsplease.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

LOVE’S QUIRKY FARMER: Anchors Mystery Thriller at Classic Theatre

Alastair Love plays the quirky farmer George in the spellbinding mystery thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, which plays at the Classic Theatre Festival at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth until September 10. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Following a star turn in the Classic Theatre Festival’s award-winning production of Arms and the Man, Toronto actor Alastair Love has returned to Perth to play the role of a mysterious farmer in the “comedy-thriller,” I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, the annual nail-biter that plays at the Festival’s mainstage until September 10 at 54 Beckwith Street East.

I’ll Be Back before Midnight, the most produced play in Canadian history, is an Alfred Hitchcock-styled psychological thriller about a young Toronto couple who leave the big city to get away from it all, only to encounter weird happenings in their rented spooky old country farmhouse. Penned by prolific Canadian writer Peter Colley, who also recently opened a new musical about the life of Terry Fox, Marathon of Hope, it combines the spine-tingling building of tension and quirky humour of a Hitchcock film.

Anyone who has ever appreciated the unexpected chill from listening to a ghost tale around the campfire will enjoy the compelling tale in which not everything is as it first seems. Questions immediately arise: who can be trusted as a friend, and have those you think you know best been putting on a game face while working behind your back to undermine your stability?

In the middle of it all is Love’s portrayal of George, a quirky fellow whose dime-store philosophies and mistrust of city slickers combine to create a curiously endearing character whose decisions will play a key role as the mystery builds to a stunning conclusion. For the gravelly-voiced Love, every moment on the stage is one he seizes with profound passion, a professional performer still inspired by his very first appearance on the stage as a six-year-old in a production of The Muffin Man.

“I always remember and get revisited every time I am on stage by that special feeling of connection in a special place with the other actors, and there’s really nothing else like it that I know of,” Love says. That connection with his fellow performers in Midnight – Lauren Horejda, Lindsay Robinson, and Chandel Gambles – creates a tight ensemble whose work has been applauded by sell-out houses as well as theatre reviewers alike.

Love originally hails from Sarnia, where his family helped found a major music theatre company that staged three large-scale musicals a year, often with casts of up to 80 community members. While he held down a day job in the area’s oil industry, his dream was always to pursue a professional acting career, and so after 15 years of 12-hour shifts, he took the bold step of moving to Toronto.

His former workmates were incredulous that he would give up the security of steady pay and a pension for a life in the theatre, but it’s what Love wanted more than anything. He recalls a “local boy does good” interview in which, from Toronto, he told his Sarnia hometown newspaper that working in the oil industry was like working in the mines, “which took people in young and spit them out old with a guaranteed retirement.”

Despite the challenges, Love says the journey has been worth it, especially when he can spend his summers in Perth, a town he loves for its community spirit and friendly welcome.

Tickets to see I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, a family-friendly show that has welcomed audience members aged 9 to 94, are available at ticketsplease.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

AWARD-WINNING ROBINSON: Returns for Classic Theatre’s Annual Mystery Thriller

Lindsay Robinson, seen in last year’s Arms and the Man as the vainglorious soldier Sergius, returns to the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth to star in the mystery-thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, which opens August 18 at 54 Beckwith Street East and runs until September 10. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

If living life passionately is a sign of success, then Lindsay Robinson is a successful person.  Robinson is currently in Perth to play the role of an archeologist in the “comedy-thriller” I’ll Be Back before Midnight, the annual nail-biter that opens at the Classic Theatre Festival’s mainstage August 18 at 54 Beckwith Street East.

I’ll Be Back before Midnight, the most produced play in Canadian history, is an Alfred Hitchcock-styled psychological thriller about a young Toronto couple who leave the big city to get away from it all, only to encounter weird happenings in the spooky old country farmhouse they decide to rent. Penned by prolific Canadian writer Peter Colley, who also recently opened a new musical about the life of Terry Fox, Marathon of Hope, it combines the spine-tingling building of tension and quirky humour of a Hitchcock film.

For Robinson, it represents another in a long series of roles that have won him award nominations from the likes of Broadway World, Spirit of the Industry Awards, and the Calgary Theatre Alliance. His star turn in the comedy Arms and the Man last year at the Classic Theatre Festival helped snag that show a Best Production nomination from the Capital Critics Circle.

Robinson is a multi-talented individual who, in addition to being a skilled performer, personal trainer, singer-songwriter, and video producer, is also studying to become a medical physician. In a twist on the line “is there a doctor in the house?” Robinson recently provided medical assistance to a distressed theatre patron at BC’s Blue Ridge Repertory Theatre.

“I have a passion for helping people, and I think a combined career as an actor and emergency room doctor allows me that chance,” says Robinson, who has also appeared in Perth as the philandering central character in Neil Simon’s debut Broadway comedy Come Blow Your Horn.

Since 2007, the Vancouver Island born-and-raised Robinson has been working non-stop in professional theatre, television, and film, from recent spots on the Food Network’s Giving You the Business and a pilot for the E1 Network called Mergers and Acquisitions to commercials for Samsung and Sears and a new web series called Sweet Jayne. Robinson eagerly grabs every moment as an opportunity to express himself artistically, as the recent web series “Mini Series” attests: a road trip from Vancouver to Toronto inspired a daily episode of a web series that was written, edited, and posted each night along their journey.

Robinson is not shy about taking on new and heavy-duty challenges. His professional training is extensive, from the New York-based American Academy of Dramatic Arts to the intensive program at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, which entailed six days a week of choreography, directing, singing, acting, and dancing for two years. During the third year, he joined a cooperative theatre company of 12 who spend three months working on and offstage for three productions. He also recently just completed the Banff Professional Theatre training program in conjunction with the Citadel Theatre.

He is also busy completing a libretto and composing music in conjunction with the Vancouver Island Symphony, putting together a show for two singers, one of whom is a member of the original Three Canadian Tenors, and composing the music for a 60-piece orchestra.

Tickets to I’ll Be Back before Midnight, which runs Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, and 8 pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, are available by calling 1-877-283-1283 or online at ticketsplease.ca. Ticketholders receive a discount on the Perth Through the Ages historic theatrical walking play, which runs until August 27, and The Lonely Ghosts Walk, which closes August 25.

 

 

CANDIDA’S CONFLICTED MINISTER: A Role to Relish at Classic Theatre

Jeffrey Aarles and Dana Fradkin play a conflicted husband and wife in the warm and witty Shaw classic Candida, playing at Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival until August 13. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

For Toronto performer Jeffrey Aarles, who returns to the Classic Theatre Festival stage in Perth this summer to take on the role of the conflicted minister Rev. James Morell in Shaw’s warm and witty classic, Candida, playing the role a second time around has been a very different experience from the first.

Candida, which plays until August 13 at 54 Beckwith Street East, has won warm reviews from theatre reviewers and audiences alike for its take on Victorian notions of love and marriage, and also the unique characterization with which Shaw infuses each role he creates.

Aarles first played the role at Toronto’s Shaw in the City series, directed by Laurel Smith. Teaming up with Smith again in Perth has been a great experience, though, as he explains, also a new one. “A play is all about human interactions: change the humans, and you change the interactions,” he says. “Add to that the different venue, different stage management, different designers, different everything. A play is a communal effort. It isn’t like a painting that is completed and framed and remains more or less static for the course of its existence; every production is blessed with many minds, and will emphasize different elements of what the playwright consciously or unconsciously included.”

Aarles is especially fond of Shaw’s language, full of wit and wisdom. “What’s most amazing about Shaw is that he finds ways to make the political the personal for his characters,” he says. “He wraps his words around ways that people see the world, and he lets those perspectives be presented honestly, and without it feeling at all pedantic, and he somehow manages to do this while retaining great respect for each of them. Shaw creates a framework that doesn’t allow for ‘bad guys’.”

Indeed, Aarles continues, in a Shaw play like Candida, “Everyone is honest to his or her own standards, whatever the other characters (or the audience) might think of them. Everyone is granted their dignity and a kind of honesty, even if we consider the character a total hypocrite. This is what makes  Shaw so wonderfully contemporary; the audience will know the characters they meet in his plays. They may speak in unfamiliar ways, but they aren’t strangers. They live next door, or run the corner store, or are in the news on a regular basis.”

Aarles came to performing because, as he recalls it, one of his acting teachers used to say that “people choose acting because they like to feel. That now feels like kind of a generalization, but there’s truth in it for me anyway. A character presents opportunities to explore not only one’s own feelings, but to attempt to step into a stranger’s skin and understand the world from his perspective, which is often going to be quite different from one’s own. To feel and react to events not as oneself, but as someone else – doing that makes one look at the whole world a little differently.”

Candida has certainly provoked a good deal of discussion about Shaw’s worldview. It’s also provided an entrée into a world not so different from today’s contemporary gender relations. As part of a storytelling tradition, Aarles is pleased that a special connection can be made with each audience member.

“It’s a very intimate responsibility, this theatre thing,” he concludes. “Most audience members will only come once, and so each performance, we have just the one opportunity to tell this story to this very particular group of people who have come to hear it. I love that responsibility.”

Candida runs Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is followed August 18 to September 10 by the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight. The Festival’s historic walking plays continue to run 7 times weekly throughout August as well.

For tickets and more information visit www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

FRADKIN FEELS THE LOVE: With the Classic Theatre Festival’s Candida

Dana Fradkin stars in the title role of Candida, the warm and witty Shaw classic that is capturing the hearts of audiences and theatre reviewers alike at the Classic Theatre Festival, 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth. It runs Tuesdays to Sundays at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows every Wednesday and Saturday (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle).

At the heart of George Bernard Shaw’s warm and witty play Candida, now playing at the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth, is a clergyman’s spouse who is truly loved by everyone. But when one passionate young poet declares his obsessive love with her, it sparks a connubial crisis that forms the basis for one of Shaw’s most memorable pieces, a reflection on Victorian notions of love and marriage as relevant today as when it was first written.

Starring in Candida is Ottawa-raised Dana Fradkin in a performance praised by the Capital Critics Circle as “all charm and warmth” in a show that “as directed by Laurel Smith is breezy and fast moving.” With a full-stage set and mural that depicts Candida’s northeast London home and neighbourhood, the play has also been praised as a visual delight thanks to Renate Seiler’s costumes, Roger Schultz’s set, and lighting by Wesley McKenzie.

Fradkin is a busy theatre, film, television, and stunt performer (she can be seen in recent work including including Reign, Fatal Vows, Haphead, Cold Blood, Crimes of Passion, Unleashed, Out There with Melissa DiMarco, Satisfaction, and Little Phoenix and the Reign of Fists) who discovered acting in grade 8 “when I was desperate not go to the high school in my neighbourhood. I didn’t have a lot of other choices except the high school of performing arts (Ottawa’s Canterbury).  I didn’t have any artistic skills but I was determined to get in.  The drama program looked fun, so I started getting into drama classes and then auditioned.”

Once accepted, she set her course for a performing arts career. Her first role was playing the dog and crocodile in the musical Peter Pan with JCC Theatreworks at Centrepoint Theatre.  “It was thrilling,” Fradkin recalls with a laugh, “except for that one time when I couldn’t see through the crocodile mask and I walked into the wall and then almost off the stage.”

Following intensive training at Toronto’s George Brown Theatre School,  Fradkin’s first professional role was as Queen Jadis in The Magician Nephew at Stage West Mississauga.

As someone who works in numerous media, Fradkin says there is nothing quite like the experience of live theatre. “The journey of a stage show is irreplaceable and the collaboration of theatre is so unique,” she says. “Film acting is much more separate from the big picture. I love film, though, because it demands that you are truly honest and genuine in your work.  My film work has definitely made me grow as an actor and has made my stage work much more honest and specific.”

Fradkin makes her own short films, where “putting  everything together is a great challenge and it’s great to have a final product of your work.  I miss that in theatre.  Once it’s done, it’s gone. That always makes me sad.”

Theatre fans who venture into Ottawa will recall Fradkin’s turn last summer as Smeraldina in Odyssey Theatre’s The Servant of Two Masters, one of her favourite roles. “I loved playing that character, full of flirtation and also a feminist: such an absolute joy.  I also loved playing Maryke, the lead in the short film I wrote, Satisfaction.  I wrote it because I felt her journey and it was so thrilling to be able to play it out.”

Fradkin says she loves playing Candida because of “her true confidence, sense of play and deep love for people in her life.  It feels great to play that. She loves so deeply, and my challenge in the next few weeks is to continue to open my heart, to feel all her emotions deeper and deeper everyday.”

It’s a challenge well met, given the reactions of audiences who are leaving the theatre with big smiles on their faces. “I have the privilege of being at the door every time the show ends and receiving feedback, and Candida is one of those shows where people feel renewed and refreshed, given a shot of hope and optimism, which is in such short supply these days,” says Associate Producer Matthew Behrens.

Tickets to Candida, which runs until August 13, are available by calling 1-877-283-1283 or visiting www.classictheatre.ca. The final show of the Festival’s season, the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight, opens August 18 and runs until September 10. The theatrical walking plays – A Nation Lost and Found, and The Beat Goes On – continue to run mornings and evenings until August 27 as well.