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.

 

CANDIDAMANIA ARRIVES: At Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival July 21

Candida plays to August 13, 2017, starring (L to R): Fraser Elsdon, Anna Burkholder, Dana Fradkin, Jeffrey Aarles, Sean Jacklin and William Vickers (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle).

British cultural exports to North America have often earned monikers that suit the temperament they inspire. The adulation greeting four lads from Liverpool who crossed the pond in 1964 inspired Beatlemania, but long before that landmark Baby Boomer phenomenon, another “mania” was inspired by a play opening July 21 at Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival.

“Candidamania” was an early 20th century sensation inspired by the first New York production of Candida, George Bernard Shaw’s warm and witty comedy that skewered Victorian notions of love, marriage, and friendship.

As Americans entered a new era marked by technological change and breaking with restrictive social and moral conventions, Candida fit the bill for a sophisticated, new kind of theatrical experience that was overwhelmingly applauded both because it was very funny but also thoughtful and provocative. Candidamania was described by the New York Sun as “a contagious disease, frequently caught in street cars, elevated trains, department stores, restaurants, and other places where people talk about what they did the night before. ‘Have you seen Candida?’ is the question of the hour. Thousands are dragging their friends to see Mr. Shaw’s play.”

The story revolves around Candida, the wife of a famous clergyman, the Reverend James Mavor Morell (played by Jeffrey Aarles). Played by Festival newcomer (and Ottawa-raised) Dana Fradkin, Candida’s good works, charm, and grace have certainly helped Morell in his career, and she is loved by one and all. That love so many feel for her becomes translated into a romantic obsession on the part of a passionate young Morell protégé by the name of Eugene Marchbanks (Perth-born Sean Jacklin), whose loving entreaties create a connubial crisis for the married couple.

As with all Shaw plays, Candida is peopled with unforgettable comic characters, who in this case include the prickly but dedicated Morell secretary Miss Proserpine (played by Anna Burkholder), the fawning Reverend Alexander Mill (Fraser Elsdon), and Candida’s father, Burgess (William Vickers), described as only Shaw could write as “a man made coarse and sordid by the compulsory selfishness of petty commerce, and later on softened into sluggish bumptiousness by overfeeding and commercial success.”

That comic trio were last seen on the Festival stage in the gripping thriller An Inspector Calls.

Those familiar with the history of the person voted Canada’s greatest Canadian, medicare founder Tommy Douglas, will also recognize something of Rev. Morell. As a Christian socialist who, in ministering to the poor and socially isolated in northeast London, Morell’s character reflects a significant social movement that made its mark on this country through the ideas and programs first introduced to Canada by the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. The CCF (forerunner to today’s NDP) took to heart the social teachings of Jesus, especially the invitation from the Sermon on the Mount to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless, and tend to those in prison or sick beds.

Director Laurel Smith, who worked at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake after staging a successful Toronto series of “Shaw in the City” productions (including an earlier production of Candida), says “Shaw continues to offer us so much given his understanding of human dynamics and how we relate to one another as acquaintances, friends, lovers, and spouses. Anyone who has ever been married or just deeply in love, with all the conflicting emotions that produces, will identify with many of the characters in this wonderful play.”

Smith points to the Classic Theatre Festival’s award-winning production of Shaw’s comedy Arms and the Man from last summer’s season as proof that Shaw still has “a great deal of resonance with today’s audiences, who appreciate not only his incredible wit and memorable turn of phrases, but also his ability to create very human situations that are universal and accessible for audiences everywhere.”

Discounted preview tickets for Candida, which begins July 21, are still available, and the play will run until August 13, Tues. to Sun at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows every Wed. & Sat. To see what inspired Britain’s first “mania” export of the 20th century, visit classictheatre.ca or call 1-877-283-1283.

 

BERNARD SLADE’S DAUGHTER: Recalls Same Time, Next Year Success

Newborn Laurie Newbound is raised up by her mother, Canadian actor Jill Foster, who often inspired the female characters in husband Bernard Slade’s work.

Los Angeles writer Laurie Newbound remembers well the sensational buzz that accompanied the Broadway premiere of her Canadian father Bernard Slade’s legendary hit comedy, Same Time, Next Year (which is currently playing to much enthusiastic applause until July 16 at the Classic Theatre Festival, 54 Beckwith Street East, Perth.)

Speaking by phone from L.A., Newbound, who in 1975 was a student at Sarah Lawrence, says “it was just electric. The response at that time was incredible,” as a four-block-long lineup outside the Brooks Atkinson Theatre the day after opening night signaled the start of a three-year run on Broadway. “When I saw the musical Hamilton, it reminded me of a small handful of plays I’ve attended, like my father’s play, where it really felt like an event, where the audience was really excited to be there.”

Newbound recalls her father wrote Same Time, Next Year very quickly following a weekend getaway that Slade enjoyed with his wife, Jill Foster (who was born Florence Hancock). He had been inspired by the beautiful, rustic surroundings of a cottage in Mendocino, California, and thought it was the perfect location for a romantic comedy which, in this case, is about two people (George and Doris) who gather there annually for a weekend despite being married to other people.

“Doris to me is such a remembrance of my mother,” Newbound says. “That character is so like my mother. I always loved it for that.”

Slade himself wrote that “There is a great deal of Jill in Doris, as there is in most of the women I write. During an intermission of a performance in Boston a woman archly asked Jill, ‘Which one are you, the mistress or the wife?’ Jill said, ‘I’m both.’”

Newbound says she has not seen the play in 15 years, but that she did take her kids to see it in New Haven, and it continues to enjoy cross-generational appeal. She grew up in Hollywood, attending school with the daughters of Gregory Peck and Lloyd Bridges, among other actors, and began a career in television working as a script assistant on the program Barney Miller.

She recalls Slade being unhappy during the last four or five years of writing for television, when he was cranking out scripts for everything from Bewitched (which featured Jill in the role of Darrin Stevens’ secretary, Betty) and The Flying Nun to The Partridge Family (the latter two were series he actually created as well). As many writers lamented at the time, there was only so much character and plot development that could be squeezed into 22 minutes, sandwiched among commercials for antacids and toilet tissue.

“I even remember as a kid asking why television isn’t better,” she laughs, noting that most viewers are now enjoying a golden age of TV shows with great variety and depth. “The Partridge Family was adorable,” she admits, noting that Susan Dey’s character, Laurie, was named for her, and Newbound’s first boyfriend Keith earned a certain notoriety as the namesake for the David Cassidy role.

“My dad had an unusual style when it came to writing,” Newbound recalls. “He wrote long-hand and he liked writing with people around. He would write around the pool or with the TV on. Our family life was going on and he would be writing on his yellow pad, he didn’t even have an office at home. It was never like, ‘Shhhh, your dad is writing.’”

While their family was part of a large Canadian diaspora that migrated to Hollywood in the 1960s, Newbound says her parents never had a strong sense of national identity. “He felt like his country was the theatre. The collegial atmosphere of being with other actors and directors and producers in that world, that is where he found his sense of family and belonging.”

Slade is now 87, and sadly lost his lifelong spouse Jill this past spring. Newbound currently writes a blog called the Panini Press (www.thepaninipress.net) that details what it is like to be squeezed between the concerns of aging parents and maturing children. “It’s such a common story but in a weird way it’s almost untold,” she says.

The Classic Theatre Festival production of Same Time, Next Year, which has generated much buzz among audiences and theatre reviewers, closes on Sunday, July 16, followed by the opening of George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Candida on July 21, and the mystery thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight on August 18. The theatrical historic walking plays Perth through the Ages and The Lonely Ghosts Walk continue to run 7 times weekly as well through the end of August.

For tickets call 1-877-283-1283 or visit ticketsplease.ca

SUGARMAN SHINES: Delightful Classic Theatre Festival Comedy

Lana Sugarman stars in the hit Classic Theatre Festival comedy “Same Time, Next Year,” in a performance that is winning praise from audiences as well as some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Fresh off her award-winning performance as Raina in last year’s Arms and the Man at Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival, Lana Sugarman has returned to star in the Bernard Slade comedy Same Time, Next Year, about a couple – Doris and George – who get together for an annual weekend over 25 years despite being married to other people.

Sugarman’s performance, along with her co-star Scott Clarkson, has already won applause from audiences and some of the nation’s top theatre reviewers, Iris Winston and Jamie Portman of the Capital Critics Circle. Winston hailed the production  as “A delightful opener for this year’s Classic Theatre Festival.”

Portman, meanwhile, enthused that “there are only two characters on stage, but thanks to the performances of Scott Clarkson and Lana Sugarman, we are conscious of other lives at play — unseen lives, yes, but ones that assume their own reality in Laurel Smith’s beautifully modulated production. These two performers take full advantage of Bernard Slade’s crackling comic dialogue. They trade the funny one-liners  with an ease indicative of the potent on-stage chemistry existing between them. But there’s also genuine tenderness in the relationship we’re seeing.

“Sugarman, a delightful actress, gives us a Doris with a readiness to accept the funny side of life, but she also reveals a woman with the strength and resilience to respond to change and challenge within the emerging feminist culture of the day. Clarkson, a nimble comedian, finds an unusual depth of character in George. He also is quite astonishing in giving us a man who is gradually getting older as the evening progresses. It’s an achievement that goes beyond adding a moustache to the upper lip or pencilling a bit of grey into the sideburns.”

Scott Clarkson as George and Lana Sugarman as Doris in CTF’s 2017 production of “Same Time, Next Year.” (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Playing Doris has been a fun experience for Sugarman, who says it’s especially rewarding because we get to grow up with her. She is very earnest and naive at the beginning of the show. As time goes on we see her come into her own, going back to school, speaking her mind, running a successful business and raising four children. There is both sweetness and strength. I can relate to a lot of her characteristics.”

Sugarman sees similarities between the work of George Bernard Shaw and Slade, because both playwrights create characters who are trying “earnestly to find their way in the world. I think both of them comment on the times – examining the cost of war, falling for people who may not be deemed ‘appropriate’, all the while maintaining a fun, light tone.”

Part of the challenge and charm of Same Time, Next Year is both characters always being on stage for the length of the show. Sugarman sees a beauty in this challenge, because “you are always ‘in the world of the play,’ in a zone with no distractions. I think it can be more challenging at times for the characters who pop in and out, or enter late in the show, and have to keep the energy/continuity going.”

Scott Clarkson and Lana Sugarman in the CTF’s 2016 producton of Shaw’s “Arms and the Man.” (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Working with her co-star Clarkson – with whom she also performed in Arms and the Man – has been a gift. “A trust is built, and I think that is essential for a show like this,” she explains. “When you feel safe as an actor you can really play, expand, and create strong, heartfelt work. I think Scott and I have a great chemistry onstage (and great boundaries offstage!), and I’m excited to take this journey with such a talented actor and fabulous fellow.”

Director Laurel Smith has been pleased with the strong audience reaction and terrific critical reception for the show. “People leave the theatre with big smiles on their faces, and they’ve had a truly rewarding experience,” she says.

Same Time, Next Year runs until July 16, Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wednesdays and Saturdays. It’s followed later this summer by Shaw’s comedy Candida and the thriller I’ll Be Back before Midnight. The Festival’s theatrical walking plays, Perth through the Ages (Wed. to Sun at 11 am) and The Lonely Ghosts Walk (Thurs. & Fri at 7 pm) round out a very full Festival summer.

Tickets are available at www.classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

CLARKSON RETURNS: Seventh Summer Season in Legendary Comedy

Scott Clarkson and Lana Sugarman, seen here in last year’s award-winning Arms and the Man, return to star in the Classic Theatre Festival’s opening show, the popular Bernard Slade comedy Same Time, Next Year. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

When the Classic Theatre Festival’s mainstage season opens June 23 with the legendary Bernard Slade comedy Same Time, Next Year (sponsored by CogecoTV), many audience members will recognize the performer playing George, a married man who gets together for an annual weekend with a married woman named Doris, played by Lana Sugarman.

The longest running Canadian comedy in Broadway history is the brainchild of a Canadian writer who, in addition to penning many a CBC show during the 1950s and 60s, also created the TV series The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family.

Clarkson says his character is “the same mass of walking contradictions that we all are. He describes his life as a mess, but he became an accountant because figures don’t lie, and he takes comfort in that.”

Clarkson notes that among George’s conflicted feelings is the fact that “he considers himself happily married, but falls in love with Doris and carries on a yearly tryst with her for decades. He feels terrible guilt, but doesn’t want to stop. He alternates between self-centred obliviousness and being aware enough to know when he’s made a mistake, and to apologize for it.”

The veteran Festival performer – now appearing in his 7th consecutive summer season – says “the scope of playing a person over the span of a quarter century is what makes it tricky. Each scene is set in a distinct era, five years apart, and George and Doris clearly reflect the changes of the society in which they live. Lana and I can’t play symbols though, and Slade walks the line between letting the characters suggest the times outside their never changing hotel room, and being the messy human beings in love that they are.”

Playing George recalls Clarkson’s first role at the Festival in the Jan de Hartog play The Fourposter, which similarly charts a marriage’s ups and downs over 40 years. “Though written a generation apart, I remember being so impressed with how The Fourposter felt fresh and true, and that’s also true of Same Time, Next Year.”

Being on stage the whole time is a challenge that Clarkson likens to running a marathon that, while testing his endurance, benefits from the fact that “there’s really no opportunity to let your guard down, to be distracted backstage as you wait for 15 minutes for your next scene. You get to live in the world you’ve help create, for the duration of the show.”

While the play and film of Same Time, Next Year (with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn) were hugely popular with baby boomers, Clarkson notes “the characters are actually older than boomers, so if anything, this is an opportunity for a boomer to get a glimpse of what life may have been like for their parents. But for all that, Slade doesn’t write Doris and George as bland 1950s stereotypes.

“Slade made his name as a TV writer in the 60s, but this play allowed him to go so much deeper than a sitcom would. It’s kind of the best of both worlds to me: there’s a rhythm to the writing that calls to mind all the great sitcoms I watched from the 60s and 70s (like Barney Miller) but the story has depth and we get to see these characters develop over more than the 22 minutes a sitcom would afford. The foibles of these characters, the mix of neuroses and heart, will probably feel familiar to anyone who’s seen a Neil Simon play or even Seinfeld.”

Same Time, Next Year runs until July 16, Tuesday to Sunday at 2 pm, with 8 pm shows Wed. & Sat. It’s followed by the Shaw comedy Candida and the Peter Colley thriller I’ll Be Back Before Midnight. All mainstage shows take place at 54 Beckwith Street East (at Harvey). Historic walking plays are also running 7 times a week, with Perth through the Ages’ Confederation-themed story Wed. to Sun at 11 am (meeting at the Perth Museum) and the Thursday and Friday evening Lonely Ghosts Walk (an 1867 meets Expo67 time travel comedic romp) begins at 7 pm.

For tickets to the 2017 summer season, call 1-877-283-1283 or visit ticketsplease.ca

 

 

 

CTF SHOWS: Look Back in Laughter and Reflection

The Classic Theatre Festival is gearing up for two major openings later this month, as its 8th summer season heats up in sync with significant anniversaries being marked across the land.

With Ontario and Canada both marking sesquicentennials, the Festival plans to present a number of works that both reflect where Canada was in 1867 and also to celebrate the most successful Canadian playwrights to hit Broadway during the company’s mandate period (the 1920s through the 70s).

On June 21, Laurel Smith’s new historic walking play, A Nation Lost and Found, opens the 4th season of the Perth through the Ages series of shows, highlighting key characters, stories, and themes in the town’s heritage history. Directed by Joanna McAuley Treffers, it features four members of the Festival’s youth theatre training program: Keegan Carr, Emma Houlahan, Garrett Pipher and Connor Williamson.

In this historical re-creation, audiences will observe Perth residents as they go about their daily lives at the time of Confederation. What were they thinking and talking about with respect to the birth of a new country: the forced dispossession of Indigenous peoples’ traditional territories, the dynamics of the 1837 rebellion, the debates over the Fenian Raids? How did they handle the always tender terrain of courtship, love, and marriage? The hour-long, family-friendly historic walking play introduces viewers to the conflicts, challenges and everyday dreams of people who once lived inside the fabulous architecture that won the town the Prince of Wales heritage preservation prize.

“These plays remind us that it’s a myth to say that Canadian history is boring,” says Smith. “We get to dig a little deeper and find out that those who came before us dealt with major issues that, in many ways, still reflect a lot of the problems we still face today.”

Smith felt it was important to point out that not everyone was celebrating the birth of a new nation in 1867, especially given the attempts – then as now – to destroy nations that have inhabited this land for tens of thousands of years.

“As a company, we feel it is vitally important to acknowledge that we live and operate on unceded, traditional Algonquin territory, and that the scars of centuries of abuse must be part of the conversation we have around the Canada and Ontario 150 events this year.”

Smith points out that while the history of settler-Indigenous relations is often painful and shameful, there were non-Indigenous individuals who did speak up about the dispossession of Indigenous lands, pointing to the work of 19th-century whistleblower Peter Henderson Bryce, a medical officer who tried to expose the appalling conditions faced by Indigenous children forced into residential schools. Bryce is buried in Ottawa’s Beechwood cemetery.

A Nation Lost and Found runs June 21 to August 27, Wed. to Sun at 11 am, starting at Matheson House Museum.

Classic Theatre Festival

The Classic Theatre Festival, which on its mainstage produces hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage, opens the most successful Canadian comedy ever to play Broadway on June 23: Canadian Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year, starring award-winning Lana Sugarman and Festival veteran Scott Clarkson.

“Audiences will savour the sights, sounds, and sensations of the post-war ‘good years,’ 1951-1975,” says Smith. Written by the creator of TV shows including The Flying Nun and The Partridge Family, Slade’s story about two people – each married to someone else – who meet for an annual weekend getaway over 24 years was a Tony-Award winner, and also nominated for numerous Oscars when it was filmed with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.

“This show will not only appeal to folks who grew up as baby boomers, but also younger people who look back at this age of groovy music, wild clothing, and major social changes with a sense of awe, bewilderment, and fascination,” she says. “It always amazes me to see teenagers who know the songs of the 60s sometimes better than people who lived through that time period. So the whole family will certainly enjoy this one.”

The Lonely Ghosts Walk – which is expanding to Thursday as well as Friday nights – opens June 29th with a new show, The Beat Goes On, about two battling female store owners teleported to 1967 Perth – where two friends try to manage the fraught countercultural divide during the year of Expo67 – will open June 29.

The Festival’s other shows – Shaw’s comedy Candida, and Canadian Peter Colley’s legendary Hitchcock-styled I’ll Be Back Before Midnight – will round out a season that runs until September 10.

For tickets and more information, contact www.ticketsplease.ca or 1-877-283-1283.

 

CTF 2017: Broadway Hits, Heritage Shows, Stellar Casts

Coming off a season which garnered more Capital Critics Circle Awards nominations than any other company in Eastern Ontario, Perth’s Classic Theatre Festival opens its 8th summer season June 21 with a combination of brand new historic walking plays and a collection of hits from the golden age of Broadway and the London Stage.

The Classic Theatre Festival returns for its 8th summer season, running June 21 to September 10 in Perth. Last year’s Arms and the Man, featuring Lindsay Robinson and Lana Sugarman, garnered Capital Critics Circle wards nominations for best show, best director, and best female performance (Sugarman went home with the award). Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle

Located at 54 Beckwith Street East (at Harvey) in Perth, the 2017 season opens with the most successful Canadian comedy ever staged on Broadway, Bernard Slade’s Same Time, Next Year (June 23 to July 16). It stars Festival veterans Scott Clarkson and Lana Sugarman (who won the 2016 Best Female Performer Award for her portrayal of Raina in Arms and the Man.) Slade’s story about two people – each married to someone else – who meet for an annual weekend getaway over 24 years, was a Tony-Award winner.

Following is George Bernard Shaw’s romantic comedy Candida (July 21 to August 13), which will appeal to anyone who remembers the powerful pull of a first love that burns in their soul. The play features a stellar cast including Festival veterans William Vickers, Jeffrey Aarles, Fraser Elsdon, Sean Jacklin, and Anna Burkholder, while introducing Dana Fradkin in the title role.

The mainstage season closes with an Alfred Hitchcock-styled psychological thriller, Peter Colley’s I’ll Be Back before Midnight (August 18 to September 10), a “gaslighting” tale of a young couple who rent an old, spooky country farmhouse. It features Festival favourites Lindsay Robinson and Alastair Love while introducing first-time performers at the Festival, Chandel Gambles and Lauren Horejda.

All mainstage shows run Tuesday to Sunday matinees at 2 pm, and Wednesday and Saturday evenings at 8 pm at the wheelchair accessible, air conditioned space.

The Classic Theatre Festival’s family-friendly historic theatrical walking plays and ghost walks, which recreate characters and stories from Perth’s past during an hour-long stroll through town, return with Confederation themes as Canada and Ontario mark their respective 150th anniversaries. This year’s cast features features Keegan Carr, Emma Houlahan, Connor Williamson and Garrett Pipher.

The Festival’s popular theatrical historic walking plays return this year with expanded performance times. Perth through the Ages (June 21 to August 27, Wednesday to Sunday at 11 am) presents a new, hour-long story, A Nation Lost and Found, focused on the daily lives, concerns, and conflicts of Perth and area residents at the time of Confederation.

The Lonely Ghosts Walk (June 29 to August 25, Thursdays and Friday at 7 pm) will feature a new story featuring the unsettled spirits of Perth performing an hour-long, family-friendly romp through the town’s mysterious and haunted past. Music, comedy, and song are featured in this tale set at the time of Confederation.

This year’s walking troupe cast features Keegan Carr, Emma Houlahan, Connor Williamson and Garrett Pipher, in plays written by Laurel Smith and directed by Joanna McAuley Treffers.

Tickets to the Festival are available online at ticketsplease.ca or by calling toll-free at 1-877-283-1283.

VOLUNTEERS AND BILLETS NEEDED: For 2017 Season

As the Classic Theatre Festival gears up for its 8th summer season – following its award-winning season in 2016 – volunteers are being sought to both work at the theatre and also host visiting performers.

Billets are needed to host our troupe of actors this summer. A great way to be part of the CTF family of supporters!

While ushers and Front of House volunteers are welcome to join a team that has garnered top marks in the OHvation! customer service ranking, the Festival is also looking for anyone with a spare bedroom and kitchen and washroom access  to host one of the visiting professional actors with the Classic Theatre Festival.  Currently, the Festival has two actors who will be arriving in Perth for one six-week period, August 1 to September 10.  The Festival is hoping individuals or families with spare bedrooms and access to a kitchen and washroom are able to host one of the performers (all of whom pay for their own food). In return, host individuals and families receive free passes to the Festival all summer long as well as exclusive invites to special Festival social events.

If billets are only available for a three-week term, that could work too. In addition, a number of designers will require shorter, 14-day stays in July and August.

For Perth resident Helen Gamble, 2015 marks the 7th consecutive year she has hosted a performer.

“I’ve billeted at least one actress each year of the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth,” Gamble says.  “At first I wondered how it would work out and whether my guest room was adequate. It’s been a wonderful experience. I meet interesting, artistic people who are passionate about what they do. They are gone most of the day into the evening, busy with their work schedules. It’s fun to have someone coming and going, a bit of company, but someone I don’t have to entertain.”

Scott Clarkson, who has appeared in seven seasons with the Classic Theatre Festival, enjoys the experience of staying with local residents during his time in Perth. Seen here in 2015’s Wait Until Dark (with Alison Smyth), this year Scott will star in the comedy Same Time, Next Year. (Photo: Jean-Denis Labelle)

Gamble has gotten used to living with actors she sees turning into completely different people when they assume their characters on the Classic Theatre Festival stage. She, among other billet hosts, has also struck up close friendships with those she has hosted, and they often stay in touch via facebook, email, and reunion visits. And it’s always a nice surprise to turn on the TV or see a film in which one of the people who stayed with her has gotten a role.

“All they need beyond their room is a shelf in the fridge and one in a cupboard,” Gamble says. “They feed themselves, tidy and clean after themselves, and respect my house and routine. My friendly dog seems to be a bonus and often they practice their lines with him as their foil.

“Billeting costs me very little – really, just a bit of hot water for showers and a spare key – but I meet and interact with intelligent, outgoing people and am invited to casual get-togethers of cast, crew, other billeters, and volunteers. I’m gifted with tickets to the plays which are more interesting than ever, because I know at least one cast member. I’m glad I decided to billet that first year and look forward to meeting this year’s actress and becoming involved once again.”

Scott Clarkson, a veteran Festival performer returning for his 6th consecutive season, says “I had never been billeted for a show before my first time in Perth and wasn’t sure what to expect,” Clarkson says.  “The family I stay with is always so welcoming and cheerful that it makes a six-week stay away from home so much easier. This summer will be my sixth with them – and as much as I love Perth and the Classic Theatre Festival, this family’s hospitality is an equally large part of why I am so happy to keep coming back! I am so grateful to see such generosity to the arts.”

Even if hosts cannot provide a space for the complete six weeks, some performers may require only two or three-week stints. Individuals interested in hosting an actor should call (613) 264-8088 or email info[at]classictheatre.ca.

MORE MATINEES & GHOST PLAYS: CTF’s 2017 Season

The Classic Theatre Festival's 2017 summer season returns with comedy, history, and mystery, with Super Savings when you buy two or more shows!

The Classic Theatre Festival’s 2017 summer season returns with comedy, history, and mystery, with Super Savings when you buy two or more shows!

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.

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.

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’s mainstage shows for 2017, 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.

For more information, contact us at info[at]classictheatre.ca or 1-877-283-1283.