Every summer when the curtain goes up at the Classic Theatre Festival (54 Beckwith Street East, at Harvey) hundreds of free seats are made available to residents of Perth and surrounding communities who otherwise would never be able to enjoy live professional theatre. Those seats are made available courtesy of the Deborah Cass-Bernard Behrens Save-a-Seat program.
This year marks the second in a row that the Festival is collecting used books that will be on sale in the theatre lobby all summer long to raise funds for the program. With spring cleaning on many people’s minds, those who have books to donate can contact the Festival by calling (613) 264-8088 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save-a-Seat was named in honour of two veteran Canadian performers who, following the Second World War, made their mark coast to coast to coast with the travelling Canadian Players (a group made up of Stratford Festival performers who took the shows on the road during the fall and winter months on a rickety chartered bus), as well as with the CBC, the Shaw Festival, the Crest and Neptune Theatres, among others. Through the Classic Theatre Festival, almost 1,000 tickets have been shared with everyone from food bank clients and women’s shelter residents to seniors, young people, social assistance recipients, and more across Lanark County, in North Frontenac, and in Kingston and Ottawa.
“Poverty socially marginalizes people, because most things people do when they get together involves spending money, whether that’s going for a donut and coffee, visiting a friend with the expectation that you bring food or a beverage, or hosting a party,” says Festival Associate Producer Matthew Behrens, whose parents bear the name of the Save-a-Seat program. “When you live on a fixed income, it’s hard to get out and enjoy a lot of the stuff many of us take for granted, and this is one way that we can help people reintegrate into the community because it costs them nothing.”
Some Save-a-Seat recipients have gone on to volunteer with the Festival as well, bringing their special talents as ushers, painters, or carpenters to the Festival, which this year features two mainstage Broadway classics (Neil Simon’s comedy “Barefoot in the Park” and Frederick Knott’s thriller “Wait Until Dark”) as well as a brand new Perth through the Ages walking tour and a Friday night Lonely Ghosts Walk.
“And if you don’t have books to donate, we can issue charitable receipts for cheques and online donations because we are a charitable organization,” Behrens says.
Individuals who would like to donate books or make direct contributions to the Save-a-Seat Fund can contact (613) 264-8088 email email@example.com, or visit www.classictheatre.ca and hit the donate now button.