Tag Archives: theatre

Love Letters: Signed, sealed & delivered at Blyth Festival

26 Apr

loveletters

karenstewartBy Diva Karen Stewart

BLYTH – The Blyth Festival is my favourite place to escape to and last night was another enjoyable evening at the theatre. The new plays they present are always engaging and they have another great season opening up in a few weeks, but on this evening they were presenting a special fund-raising event. The play was Love Letters by A.R. Gurney.

Over five performances, this production will feature five separate couples. On this night, Jodi Kuran, who is the principal of St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School, and Phil Main, a well-known radio personality from CKNX, played the parts of Melissa Gardner and Andy Ladd.

Melissa and Andy began corresponding in second grade with thank you notes and postcards from summer camp. Their correspondence is evocative, and often funny. They establish a deep relationship through letters that chronicle humorous observations and their feelings from age seven through high school then college and beyond.

Andy loves to write. He talks about how letter writing is a dying art and how he feels most alive when writing letters. However, when he tells Melissa details of his everyday life story, she is not terribly interested, telling him to write about his feelings. When she suggests the telephone might be not only be a more modern way to connect, but also much more efficient, Andy disagrees stating “telephone calls are dead as soon as they’re over” while letters are “alive” and can live on.

Kuran brings Melissa alive through not only her voice, but also her timing and befitting facial expressions. She crafts a cheeky Melissa who has privilege of wealth but lacks the richness of deep family bonds.   She fights to expose the hypocrisies of the times, preferring to be a little rebellious even though it spins her in dangerous directions at times. Lost for most of her life, she becomes more vulnerable throughout the play showing, she is real and down-to-earth.

Main’s portrayal of Andy is reserved and low-key. He is the mature one, continually living up to his parents’ expectations of who he should be. In doing so he manufactures an artificially perfect family life. He is inflexible when it comes to deviating from respectability – a trait that emotionally devastates him.   But, through his relationship with Melissa he admits to himself that she is the only one who truly loves him for who he is.

Letters are vital lifelines for Andy and Melissa. Their correspondence through the decades – like many love stories – includes silences and reconciliations, marriages, divorces, children, career adventures, and deaths. They share intimate details of love, relationships and opportunities missed because of ego and pride.

Kuran and Main make the characters of Melissa and Andy their own. They share a long enduring friendship that brings a sweet chemistry to the stage. Kuran brings a bit of sass and Main remains stalwart throughout the production.

Love Letters is a lovely theatre piece,” says the director, John McHenry. “There’s no elaborate set or special effects, the focus is on the words; it’s heart-warming, poignant, and funny.”

I wish I could see all five performances as I can only imagine how real-life couples Bruce and Margaret Whitmore and Duncan and Lynda McGregor will each bring vastly different personalities to the characters. I don’t doubt Lisa Hood will bring a little sass to Melissa too while Quinn Ross and Shawn Van Osch will each bring an intensity to Andy in their performances.


If you get a chance to go:

Where: Blyth Festival

When:

Thursday, April 30 at 8 p.m. features Shawn Van Osch & Lisa Hood

Saturday, May 1, at 8 p.m. features Lisa Hood & Quinn Ross

Sunday, May 2 at 8 p.m. features Duncan & Lynda McGregor

Cost: $25. Order tickets by calling 519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984 or visit online.

Unnecessary Farce draws necessary laughs

9 Apr
The cast takes a much deserved bow at the end of the dress rehearsal.

The cast takes a much deserved bow at the end of the dress rehearsal.

rachellynnBy Diva Rachel Lynn

GODERICH – Tuesday evening, I attended what’s referred to as the soft opening of Unnecessary Farce, the final “practice” before opening night of this Goderich Little Production on April 9.

There were many in the audience and the cast treated it as a true performance.

Written by Paul Slade Smith and directed by local Goderich-ite Nina Reynolds, Unnecessary Farce is being staged at The Livery Theatre in Goderich. The play is about two cops who are undercover in a cheap motel, trying to catch the mayor in a $16-million embezzlement scheme with the help of one “HOT” accountant. Add in Agent Frank (Jordan Henry), and “Big Mac,” you have one perfect recipe for suspense and laughter.

But it’s so much more than that. From the beginning, I was laughing and sometimes covered my

Confusion leads to hilarity in Unnecessary Farce, which opens tonight, April 9.

Confusion leads to hilarity in Unnecessary Farce, which opens tonight, April 9.

mouth I was laughing so loud. A word of advice, don’t cover your mouth. Laugh out loud. For me, it’s one of the best sounds on this planet. Now and then, the actors had to wait until the laughter died down to deliver their next line. Officer Dwyer (Eric Lubbers) and Sheraton (Shawn Van Osch) have a great back and forth banter as the incompetent cops who keep messing up. Ms. Brown (Jenna Leifso), the accountant, keeps taking her clothes off, but it’s not what you think. Agent Frank arrives to protect the mayor and search the room for “bugs”. Is Agent Frank who he says he is?

By the end of the show, I was laughed out and my cheeks hurt.

Bring a friend or family to see this wonderfully hilarious comedy.

A caution, there is some mild swearing so it may not be appropriate for a younger audience.

“The Livery itself has a grand history. Records indicate that the rear portion of The Livery was erected

The audience can watch events at The Livery in added comfort, now that the new seats are installed.

The audience can watch events at The Livery in added comfort, now that the new seats are installed.

during the 1840s as a harness shop by Samuel Seegmuller, trader in hides and whiskey along the Huron Trail between Guelph and Goderich.” In 1978, the building was almost demolished but, with the help of council and a private citizen, The Livery was saved. For more information on the history, please visit online.

Unnecessary Farce opens tonight, Thursday, April 9, at 8 p.m.

Additional dates: April 10,11,16,17, 18 at 8 p.m.; April 12 at 2 p.m.

For tickets, please visit The Livery’s box office at:
35 South St, Goderich or phone (519) 524-6262.

The Livery is also a venue for live music, film festivals and rentals. For more details, visit online.

A Night of Gnocchi, Galleries and Good Theatre 

17 Aug

Part 2 Bistroby Diva Calista Powell

It has been a very long time since I walked through the doors of Blyth Memorial Hall, and upon walking out last Wednesday I vowed to return soon. A friend and I came down from London to see the Blyth Festival’s preview show of St. Anne’s Reel a new play written by Gil Garratt and directed by Marion de Vries. Starting with an absolutely amazing dinner by Chef Peter Gusso at Part 2 Bistro, my friend Pravin and I chose the vegetable gnocchi pasta in a brandy rosé sauce, and the mushroom stuffed chicken supreme. I am a huge gnocchi fan, and not many restaurants can make it right, but as always, Peter Gusso did not disappoint. Pravin chose the chicken supreme, and as he is originally from Toronto, he was amazed that the ingredients were from our local Huron County agricultural belt. I was definitely proud to show someone from a busy metropolitan area how we do things in rural Ontario. Resisting the temptation of dessert, we then headed over to the Hall and had a couple moments to browse through Kelly Stevenson’s art installation at the Bainton Art Gallery. It was amazing to see the fine details in the geometric patterns of her work and it interested me that she used india ink on a variety of mediums.

A couple onlookers view Kelly Stevenson’s exhibit at the Bainton Gallery.

A couple onlookers view Kelly Stevenson’s exhibit at the Bainton Gallery.

Doors open at Memorial Hall.

Doors open at Memorial Hall.


After perusing Kelly’s captivating work, we settled into our seats amongst a full house of eager theatre-goers. The performance started off with old man Walter in his farm house struggling to play his fiddle. He is then joined by a young and beautiful woman with a ghost-like presence who disappears when a travelling cowboy, Daniel shows up at the door. Quite quickly, the character roles fell into place and it was established that Daniel was returning back home for his mother’s funeral and Walter was in the midst of dealing with his recent widower status. Through heated bickering and passionate fiddling, the two wove a story of love, loss, and life’s regrets with the ghost of St. Anne hovering over them with a watchful eye. David Fox, Emily Lukasik and J.D. Nicholsen received a well deserved standing ovation at the end of their performance. I made a point to not read any synopses before St. Anne’s Reel and, as always, the Blyth Festival put on a deeply moving and unforgettable production.

St. Anne’s Reel plays until September 6th, 2014.

For tickets and other information about the Blyth Festival visit: http://www.blythfestival.com

Blyth Festival
P.O. Box 10, Blyth, ON  N0M 1H0
519-523-9300 | 1-877-862-5982

Photo 1: Come visit Peter Gusso and try his amazing gnocchi!

Photo 2: Doors open at Memorial Hall.

Photo 3: A couple onlookers view Kelly Stevenson’s exhibit at the Bainton Gallery.

HCP’s Les Miserables blew this Diva away!

15 Aug

by Diva Christine Harris

It was an amazing treat to be able to see Les Miserables on opening night in our own backyard, Grand Bend.  This was my first visit to the Main Stage at the Playhouse and I really enjoyed being up on the balcony.  The view was great from above; and it was also really neat being able to see the conductor throughout the night.  The evening started out with an introduction by Alex Mustakas, the Artistic Director of Huron County Playhouse (Drayton Entertainment).  He told us how long and how hard he had been working at bringing this musical to his theatre and welcomed us for the evening.

Cast of 2014 production of Les Miserable at Huron Country Playhouse Photographer, Hilary Gauld-Camilleri

Cast of 2014 production of Les Miserable at Huron Country Playhouse Photographer, Hilary Gauld-Camilleri

I really don’t know where to start, I was completely blown away.  The set was ingenious with how it moved and how they were able to quickly and easily change the feeling from a small quaint room to a large battlefield.  Props for the set like tables were easily slid into place with the system they used, so it took very little time and very little attention away from what was going on.  The costumes were beautiful pieces from the era that took you back in time, so you were able to get completely lost in the story.  The music and the singing by far was the most spectacular part of the evening.  A seven piece orchestra lead by conductor Robert Fraser did not disappoint.  With cello, keys, bass, percussion, reed and french horn the orchestra sounded beautiful together and complemented the amazing voices on stage.  I enjoyed the duo played by Eddie Glen and Kristen Peace as Madame and Thenardier who were both comical and crude; they lightened the mood and brought laughter to the audience.  Lee Siegel who played Javert had a strong and commanding voice; he was one of the performers I enjoyed the most.  My very favorite of the evening was “On My Own” by Ma-Anne Dionisio playing Eponine, that one will be in my head for days.

David Rogers in Drayton Entertainment's Les Miserable, playing at Huron Country Playhouse until Aug.30/14

David Rogers in Drayton Entertainment’s Les Miserable, playing at Huron Country Playhouse until Aug.30/14

At the end of the evening we were treated to a meet and greet in the lobby with the full cast and a midnight buffet.  Fans were able to talk to their favourite actors, and some even got autographs.  I was very happy that I was able to enjoy this whole experience and be a part of such a big production coming to such a wonderful theatre.

Les Miserables runs at Huron Country Playhouse until August 30th.

Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse

RR 1, 70689 B Line, Grand Bend, Ontario N0M 1T0
GPS coordinates: N 43° 18.834 W 81° 43.549
Box Office: 519-238-6000

 

Huron County Playhouse II – Run for Your Wife

30 Jul
David Leyshon, Michael Lamport and David Talbot Run For Your Wife, 2014 SeasonPhotographer, Scott Williams  Photo taken from the website - http://goo.gl/6KUiIl

David Leyshon, Michael Lamport and David Talbot
Run For Your Wife, 2014 Season Photographer, Scott Williams Photo taken from the website – http://goo.gl/6KUiIl

by Diva Christine Harris

After having a wonderful time at the Huron County Playhouse II in June, I was really looking forward to my visit this month in July.  This time I would be seeing a British Farce by Ray Cooney called “Run for Your Wife”.  David Leyshon stars as a taxi driver named John Smith who has been successfully keeping two marriages a secret until he has an accident at work and bumps his head.  This throws off his entire schedule that has been keeping things running smoothly, and now he has to try to pick up the pieces to keep each of the wives from finding out about each other.  The set was brilliantly crafted by David Antscherl who has separated a large room by colour so that the actors could either use both sides at once to simulate both wives at the same time, or use the whole set at once as one of the homes.  Once the wives Mary and Barbara played by Susie Bernett and Stacy Smith realize that John is not home on time from work (because he keeps a precise schedule), they fret and worry.  Complications ensue when police Sergeants played by David Talbot and Anthony Bekenn become involved even when neighbours played by Michael Lamport and Aidan deSalaiz try to help out.   Find out if John Smith can keep his double life a secret by booking your tickets today!

Run for your Wife runs at the Huron Country Playhouse until August 2nd.

Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse
RR 1, the “B Line”
Grand Bend, Ontario N0M 1T0
GPS coordinates: N 43° 18.834 W 81° 43.549

1-855-drayton

Kitchen Radio opens Blyth’s 40th Anniversary Season

13 Jul KitchenRadioSet

by Claire Carter
I must begin this post with full disclosure.  I am a big fan of the Blyth Festival.  I love that the performances feature locally relevant topics, and exclusively Canadian plays.  I love visiting Blyth Memorial Hall, sitting in either the upper or lower balcony, and enjoying a world-class show in a Huron County village of 1,000 people.

I have been lucky enough that each of the recent productions I have attended have had bonus events.  Last year, I enjoyed a country dinner before a play (dinners take place Friday and Saturdays at different locations in Blyth, including churches, community centres and the Legion). The meal was lovingly prepared, and ended with so many different types of pie!  This year, the Huron Tourism Association was hosting the evening I attended.  Sweets and appetizers featuring local ingredients were available from local eateries and hotels, including Queens Bakery, Benmiller Inn and Samuels.

I was lucky enough to attend Kitchen Radio at the Blyth Festival on June 26.  The performance I attended was the day before the official opening, but as an audience member, I would have thought the show had been on stage for years.

Written and directed by Marion de Vries, the musical is set in 1968, and features a mainly female cast.  The play examines the relationship that women have with each other and music.  The play was captivating, and seemed to feature each of the four strong main characters equally, developing their personalities through song and dance.  The set and costumes were both fantastic.  Charming and funny, I found myself in good company with the rest of the audience, laughing and grinning at the on-stage antics.  Locally relevant tie-ins were made throughout the play, my favourite being that CKNX was the station being listened to over the radio.  Over a week later, many of the songs are still stuck in my head.  The YouTube clip below shows dress rehearsal of Kitchen Radio, and will give you an idea of the fun music and choreography you can expect in this play.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwBLniZy_PI

The Blyth Festival offers Canadian written and produced plays from late June through early September.  This season, four plays are set on the Mainstage (Blyth Memorial Hall): Kitchen Radio, Billy Bishop Goes to War, Stag and Doe and St. Anne’s Reel.  The Young Company presents Out of this World from August 27-30, and Radio: 30 is on stage at Phillips Studio from September 4-6.

Blyth Festival
Box 10
Blyth, ON  N0M 1H0
519-523-9300 / 1-877-862-5984

KitchenRadioSet

 

 

I’ll Be Back Before Midnight at the Huron Country Playhouse

10 Jul

HCPlayhouseby Diva Calista Powell
I can confidently tell you two things about myself; 1: Im no theatre buff and 2: I am terrified of horror movies. Despite this, I had an absolutely wonderful time seeing, “I’ll Be Back Before Midnight” at the Huron Country Playhouse.

Set in the 1980’s at a spooky and secluded farmhouse, the characters of this play did an excellent job of making their roles believable. I half expected as I left the theatre to see Jan, the neurotic city girl and her geeky inventor husband, Greg, doing the tourist thing out at a local flea market. I could picture Greg’s pretentious sister, Laura, clanking on the boardwalk in her stiletto’s shaded by a parasol. And I most definitely could see George, the hard working farmer stopping into Kate’s Station to meet up for some gossip with the good ‘ol boys.

It is performers like this that bring these stories to life with such vigour and passion that make it such an enjoyable experience. I must admit, it takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud, but the theatrics that these actors presented had me chuckling and I found myself jumping out of my seat as ghouls and ghosts popped out of the shadows.

This may not be a play for the faint of heart, but it is most definitely a unique blend of humour and horror that showcases the amazing talent that Huron has to offer. From the set design, to the 80’s costuming, to the comedic display of pyrotechnics and lighting, I’d recommend this production to theatre-goers and rookies alike. Be sure to check out the show playing in Plahouse II before it closes on July 12th.

For tickets, visit:
Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, RR 1, 70689 B Line, Grand Bend, Ontario N0M 1T0
GPS coordinates: N 43° 18.834 W 81° 43.549
Box Office: 519-238-6000 Administration: 519-238-8387 Fax: 519-238-6587

 

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