The Ottawa Valley’s only professional theatre company, we feature some of Canada’s top theatre artists, whose work has been seen on the finest professional stages, as well as on TV, in film, and over the radio. Our award-winning artistic team, friendly staff, and accessible box office services combine to provide the perfect summer afternoon or evening’s entertainment experience. The mandate of the Festival is to produce the classic plays from the golden age of Broadway and the London stage.
The Classic Theatre Festival is a project of Burning Passions Theatre, a registered charity governed by a volunteer board of directors. The management team is comprised of Laurel Smith, Artistic Producer, and Matthew Behrens, Associate Producer.
The Classic Theatre Festival has been honoured to grow with a wide variety of community and regional partners to become a marquee event, the longest running festival each year in Lanark County. From our humble beginnings with two shows per summer to a season that now boasts 17 performances a week on three separate stages, we have been rewarded with loving, engaged and enthusiastic audiences whose feedback is invaluable. We are especially proud of our work with scores of young people in cooperative mentorships and paid employment, our engagement raising over $100,000 for local charities, and our opening up of 2,600+ free seats for low income and socially marginalized community members through the Save-a-Seat program. By drawing thousands of tourists to Perth and Lanark County each summer, we also act as an important contributor to the local economy, with millions of dollars in annual spin-off benefits at restaurants, accommodations, local shops, and more. We’ve also been blessed with five-star reviews, and 15 Capital Critics Circle and Ottawa Theatre Awards nominations for Best Production, Best Direction, Best Design and Best Actor, with Catherine McNally winning the Best Actor award for her portrayal of Mrs. Warren in 2018’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession. The Festival has also been nominated for the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, as well as Ottawa Tourism’s Best New Company, and has been a recipient of the OHvation Customer Service Excellence designation.
Past Productions & Events
For our 10th Anniversary Season, we produced three mainstage shows, our historic walking play, and added performances for our Classic Dinner Theatre. To open the season, we staged John Van Druten’s The Voice of the Turtle, the 9th-longest running play in Broadway history, and a remarkable comedy about the passions and excitement of World War II-era New York City that shone a bright light on gendered double standards of the era. Following was Bernard Shaw most popular play, Pygmalion, a battle of wits across class and gender lines. The mainstage season closed with the longest-running comedy thriller in Broadway history, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, a stinging indictment of America’s obsession with fame, fortune, and violence. The streets of Perth came alive with our annual walking play, The Forgotten Ones, a look back at the challenges and rural resilience of Perth during the Great Depression. Our dinner/lunchtime theatre featured a new adaptation of Shaw’s classic take on mercy during the Roman Empire, Androcles and the Lion.
In 2018, we staged a rediscovered comic gem (John Van Druten’s There’s Always Juliet) that audiences fell in love with immediately for its sincere take on the uninhibited joy of love at first sight. It was followed by the razor-sharp mother-daughter confrontation of Bernard Shaw’s classic Mrs. Warren’s Profession, a well-attended show that showed once again a string interest in the works of this most prolific playwright. The mainstage season closed with a tension-filled thriller, Angel Street (aka Gaslight) that had audiences on the edge of their seats right up to the stunning conclusion. The Streets of Perth were alive with our annual walking plays. The Prisoner of Petawawa brought to life the stories of World War II veterans and the unsavoury history of arbitrary detention based on one’s country of birth, while Far From Home saw singing and dancing down the main drag as we celebrated the stories of British war brides featuring songs and dances of the era.
Our 2017 season continued our exploration of the classic hits of yesteryear, with the addition of a Canadian theme. In recognition of the Canada and Ontario 150th anniversary, we presented two works by Canadian playwrights: Same Time, Next Year by Bernard Slade, and I’ll be Back before Midnight by Peter Colley. As well, two new walking plays were created and performed with a Canada/Ontario 150 theme: A Nation Lost and Found and The Beat Goes On. The Festival also featured one of G.B. Shaw’s most beloved plays, Candida.
In 2016 we expanded to include three shows per season, returning once again to our new home at 54 Beckwith Street East with two comedic hits and a classic thriller: I Ought to be in Pictures by Neil Simon focused on a father-daughter reconciliation; Arms and the Man by Bernard Shaw was a satire on the vagaries of war; and An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley dealt with the death of a young woman and the question of who is to blame. Once again we presented our Perth through the Ages historic walking play and the Lonely Ghosts Walk, both with our youth theatre training troupe, with new stories exploring Heritage Perth’s history.
In 2015 we returned to our new home at 54 Beckwith Street East with two hits from the same playwrights that were so popular in 2014: Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon explored the perils and triumphs of the early years of marriage, while Wait until Dark by Federick Knott thrilled audiences with its eerie plot and nail-biting suspense. Once again we presented our Perth through the Ages historic walking tour with our youth theatre training troupe, and added for 2015 the new Lonely Ghosts Walk, exploring Heritage Perth’s ghostly history.
In 2014 we celebrated our 5th anniversary season with Come Blow Your Horn by Neil Simon, and our first ever mystery thriller, Dial M for Murder. Also new for this anniversary season was our first youth theatre training program, Perth through the Ages, which presented a theatrical historic walking tour throughout the summer. We also celebrated the move to our new venue at 54 Beckwith Street East in Perth, where we transformed the auditorium inside St. James Anglican Church into a professional theatre space.
In 2013 we presented the comedy Star-Spangled Girl by Broadway legend, Neil Simon, followed by the comedy of marital mayhem, The Marriage-Go-Round by Leslie Stevens.
Our 2012 summer season presented two of the longest-running shows in Broadway history: the quirky, comic love story Two for the Seesaw (a Tony Award winner for Best Play by William Gibson) , and the hilarious romp about second chances, Mary, Mary, by the ever-popular Jean Kerr.
In 2011, the Festival won critical praise and audience raves for its production of two timeless romantic comedies Bell, Book and Candle by John van Druten, followed by The Fourposter by Jan de Hartog.
The Festival’s inaugural 2010 season featured Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward, and The Voice of the Turtle by John van Druten.
The Festival is a project of Burning Passions Theatre, a registered charity (#89076 7924 RR0001) which since the late 1990s has produced a variety of new works, traditional favourites, and cutting-edge youth-centred works. As a registered charitable organization, Burning Passions Theatre believes strongly in supporting the communities in which we work. A major focus of our work is audience engagement and support for civic and community groups, as well as the mentorship of community youth.
The Festival chose beautiful Heritage Perth, Ontario for its home after a year-long research and consultation effort to determine the best place for a new professional summer theatre company. This heritage community’s “Aged to Perfection” theme fits perfectly with the plays we are producing, as does its location as part of the Rideau Heritage Route, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. Add to these factors Perth’s stunning architecture (for which the town won the coveted Prince of Wales Prize for architectural preservation), and its choice in a TVO poll as “the prettiest town in Ontario,” and you have the perfect combination for a fantastic summer entertainment experience.
Part of that experience is what you do before and after the show. Find out all there is to see and do by visiting Plan Your Trip.