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“ No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. ”
Eleanor Roosevelt




Julia Williams as Myrtle and Frank MacKay as Myrtle’s husband Jacob share a tender moment in Daniel Lillford’s new play The Mystery of Maddy Heisler opening the Ship’s Company Theatre’s 23rd season June 30 in Parrsboro. (TINA SMITH)




Chester Playhouse opens its summer season July 7 with Berlin To Broadway: The Musical Voyage of Kurt Weill, directed by Mary Lou Martin, and starring, from left, Kirstin Howell, pianist Gus Webb, Réjean Cournoyer, Martha Irving and Cliff Le Jeune. (ERICK BICKERDIKE)




Genevieve Steele and Jan Filips star in Festival Antigonish’s production of Willy Russell’s award-winning comedy Educating Rita, opening the repertory company’s 19th season on July 7. (IAN PYGOTT)




Sherry Lee Hunter and Graham Percy will star in a six-week run of Michael Frayn’s hit Noises Off, when the doors reopen at the Atlantic Theatre Festival in Wolfville on July 21.(Gordon Delaney / File)




John Beale returns to Peggys Cove with his show Peggy! It begins Wednesday and runs to Sept. 4. (Contributed)




Andrea Norwood as Hero and Kevin Curran as Claudio in a proposal scene in Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, opening July 1 at Cambridge Battery, Point Pleasant Park. (Ingrid Bulmer / Staff)

Your guide to summer theatre

16th ANNUAL ATLANTIC FRINGE FESTIVAL

Where: Downtown Halifax.

When: Aug. 31 to Sept. 10.

What: 45 shows including drama, comedy and dance in six downtown Halifax venues. Application deadline is July 7. Call 435-4837; www.atlanticfringe.ca

ATLANTIC THEATRE FESTIVAL

Where: Festival Theatre, Wolfville.

When: July 21 to Sept. 3.

What: Noises Off, Michael Frayn’s London hit, originally written in 1982. Made into a movie with Carol Burnett and Michael Caine in 1992, the comedy about a theatre company that the audience sees both on stage and back stage has been revived dozens of times, returning to the West End and Broadway in 2002. Artistic associate Nigel Bennett directs Patricia Zentilli, Graham Percy, Sherry Lee Hunter, Stacy Smith, Linda Goranson, Doug MacLeod, Stephen Sparks and Bill Fisher. Runs July 21 to Aug. 20, and Aug. 26 to Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. with weekend matinees at 2 p.m.

Summer Laughter! Series:

Cabaret Surprise!, a feast of fun and music, Aug. 22 to 25, 8 p.m., Old Orchard Inn.

Appearances at the Festival Theatre by stand-up comedians Craig Lauzon, Aug. 7; Steve Patterson, Aug. 14, and Bette MacDonald, Aug. 28, all at 8 p.m.

Readings of comic writing at the Festival Theatre by Michael Bawtree, reading from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat, July 29, 10 a.m., and July 30, 8 p.m.; Richard Donat reading from Stephen Leacock, Aug. 5, 10 a.m., and Aug. 6, 8 p.m., and Nigel Bennett reading from Mark Twain, Aug. 12, 10 a.m., and Aug. 13, 8 p.m.

Subscriptions and single tickets on sale now.

Call 542-1515; 1-800-337-6661; www.atf.ns.ca.

CHESTER PLAYHOUSE SUMMER FESTIVAL

Where: Chester Playhouse.

When: July 7 to Sept. 2.

What: Berlin to Broadway: The Musical Voyage of Kurt Weill, directed by Mary Lou Martin with Réjean Cournoyer, Cliff Le Jeune, Martha Irving, Kirsten Howell and Ann Doyle, July 7 to July 21.

A Pitiful Ambition, a new Lorne Elliot comedy, directed by Chris Heide, about Aiden Purcell, a man of the theatre who dreams of fame and fortune. Outraged by a bad review, he pursues a conflict with the critic. Starring Tom Gallant and Singalong Jubilee’s Catherine McKinnon. Runs July 25 to Aug. 5.

Marion Bridge, Daniel MacIvor’s play about sisters re-connecting and fighting at a time of their mother’s illness, directed by Anthony Black with Amanda Jonz, Jennifer O’Brien and Samantha Madore, Aug. 8 to 12.

Chester Theatre Summer School’s production of Cheaper By The Dozen Aug. 16 to 19.

SHROOM! The Last Musical, book by Malcolm Callaway and Jan Morrison, music by Dawn Harwood-Jones and Konrad Pluta, a Chester Drama Society/Ruby Shoes production, Aug. 22 to Sept. 2.

Call 275-3933; 1-800-363-7529; www.chesterplayhouse.ns.ca.

EASTERN FRONT THEATRE

Where: Neptune Studio Theatre.

When: through July 1.

What: The Satchmo’ suite, Eastern Front Theatre’s jazz musical by Hans Boggild and Doug Innis, in which Jeremiah Sparks stars as Louis Armstrong and Andrew Moodie portrays cellist Hubert Clements in a story about Hubert’s struggle with a piece of music and his life. Also performing are jazz pianist Paul Simons, classical cellist Colin Matthews and trumpeter Rick Waychesko.

Call 429-7070; www.easternfronttheatre.ca.

FESTIVAL ANTIGONISH

Where: Bauer Theatre, St. Francis Xavier University campus, Antigonish.

When: July 7 to Sept. 3.

What: Educating Rita, the award-winning comedy by Willy Russell about a hairdresser who dreams of a better life and selects a cynical English literature professor for her tutor, directed by Jean Morpurgo, starring Genevieve Steele and Jan Filips, opening July 7.

The Woman in Black, Stephen Mallatratt’s spine-chiller about a ghost seeking vengence on Victorian lawyer Arthur Kipps and his family for the death of her young child, directed by Ed Thomason, with Jeremy Webb, Andrew Musselman and Shelley Thompson, opening July 14.

Good Things, by Liz Lochhead, in which Shelley Thompson plays a Cinderella figure for 40somethings in a comedy about love the second time around, directed by Ed Thomason, with Jan Filips, Genevieve Steele and Jeremy Webb, opening July 21.

Automatic Pilot, an award-winning comedy by Erika Ritter about a woman who writes a soap opera and moonlights as a stand-up comic but misses out on the reality in between, directed by Ed Thomason with Genevieve Steele, Jan Filips, Andrew Musselman and Mark Uhre, opening Aug. 16

Family Stage: Bluenose Billy’s Magical Button Box, opening July 18 in the Bauer Theatre, by Ian Pygott, Shelley Thompson, Sheldon Currie and Anne Simpson, with Richie Wilcox and Courtney Lancaster, a blend of comedy and fantasy in which the audience chooses the stories.

The Hobbit, based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, adapted by Glyn Robbins, opening Aug. 18 in the St. F.X. Auditorium. Director Jeremy Webb works with over 30 young people studying theatre.

(Look for an upcoming announcement on the remodelling of the late-night second stage series.)

Call 867-3333 or 1-800-563-PLAY; www.festivalantigonish.com.

FOGHORN THEATRE

Where: Killam Brothers building, 90 Water St., Yarmouth, on the waterfront.

When: July 7 to Aug. 27.

What: Much Too Munsch, three classic Robert Munsch stories, Mudpuddle, Mortimer and The Paperbag Pringcess. alternating with The Three Little Fairytales as matinees and evening shows, July 7 to Aug. 25.

Comedy Tonight!, Aug. 1 to 13, 8 p.m.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, performed outdoors depending on the weather, as both matinees and evening shows, Aug. 18 to 27.

Call 223-5380; www.foghorntheatre.org.

4 MEN IN A TUB

Where: Capri Club, Sydney.

When: July 6 to the end of August.

What: 4 Men In A Tub’s fourth year of music and comedy. The boys cover everything from jazz to folk, and then they all put on lipstick and dresses to show you they have a sense of humour. Characters include fishing buddies, Diggy and Stewie, and Mister and Missus Mucky Martin. The show is written, directed and performed by Duncan Wells, Brian Martin, George MacDonald and Shawn MacDonald.

Call 539-6165; www.duncanwells.ca/4men.

LIVE BAIT THEATRE

Where: Sackville, N.B.

When: now to Aug. 27.

What: Rock ‘N’ Roll High, by Charlie Rhindress and Karen Valanne, running through Sunday.

Rise Again (aka Death of a Fisherman), a premiere by Charlie Rhindress and Karen Valanne, July 18 to Aug. 6, in cabaret style and dinner theatre, in which the family of Great Uncle Burpee’s holds a traditional East Coast wake that turns into a séance.

Sexy Laundry, by Michele Riml, Aug. 15 to 27, about a middle-aged couple coming to terms with their lacklustre sex life by going on a naughty two-day retreat (comic but with mature subject matter).

Up Close and Personal Series: June 30, John Gracie; July 15, Cathy Jones, star of This Hours Has 22 Minutes, and Tom Wilson, lead singer of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, and Aug. 7, The Best of Broadway by Live Bait’s dinner theatre cast.

Call 506-536-2248

LYRICS AND LAUGHTER

Where: Louisbourg Playhouse.

When: Monday, June 26, to Sept. 1, every week night.

What: The Cape Breton music and comedy show, starting its 50-night run Monday, features Colin Grant, Meaghan Grant, Michelle Mills, Andrew Tyne, Eric Angus Whyte, and Adam Young. On Monday’s opening night Lyrics and Laughter is releasing a CD, a best-of album featuring songs the group has done over the last four summers and songs it will be doing this year.

Call 733-2996; www.lyricsandlaughter.com.

MARITIME MARIONETTES

Where: throughout Nova Scotia

What: Molly and the Oak Island Treasure, July 10, Alderney Landing; July 15, Antigonish; July 22, 2 p.m., Osprey Arts Centre, Shelburne, following a two-hour workshop on building marionettes, 10 a.m. to noon; July 24, Alderney Landing, and Aug. 3, Mahone Bay Wooden Boat Festival. The Land of the Little People is on July 29 at Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro. Website: www.maritime-marionettes.com.

METAMORPHIC THEATRE COMPANY

Halifax’s new theatre company takes its production of Marion Bridge to Chester Playhouse and also to the Evergreen Theatre, Margaretsville, Sunday, Aug. 13.

PEGGY!

Where: Old Red Schoolhouse, Peggy’s Cove.

When: Wednesday to Sept. 4, Wednesdays to Sundays, 2 and 4 p.m.

What: Peggy!: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Peggy From Peggys Cove (a multi-media history) is a 40-minute theatre performance created by John Beale and Graham Percy. Having grown up in Peggys Cove in a quagmire of stories about the origins of the name Peggys Cove, Beale figured he should take his own, albeit satirical, crack at re-visioning the romantic myth, and who better to play the dear shipwrecked girl than he himself. Complete with a live reenactment of Peggys shipwreck, video clips, a slideshow and a 30-second (complete) history of Peggys Cove, Beale’s work is full of slapstick and bouffant comedy and is steeped in the comic traditions of Buster Keaton, Peter Sellers and Fawlty Towers.

Call 823-2099; www.thepeggyshow.net.

SHAKESPEARE BY THE SEA

Where: Cambridge Battery, Point Pleasant Park.

When: July 1 to Aug. 27.

What: Much Ado About Nothing. The war is over and the men are coming home; it’s time for young love to blossom. Sparks fly as the hot-tempered Beatrice, played by the company’s new co-artistic director Jennie Raymond, spars with Tony Nappo’s sworn bachelor Benedick. Also starring Nathan Bender, Rhys Bevan-John, Marty Burt, Kevin Curran, Kevin MacPherson, John O’Keefe and founding general manager and co-artistic director Elizabeth Murphy as Ursula.

The Wizard of Uh-Oz, an all-new adaptation of The Wizard of Oz created under the direction of Kevin MacPherson (the Sheriff of Nottingham in last year’s Robin Hood), a collective creation with Jo Williamson as Dorothy, opening July 15.

Call 422-0295; www.shakespearebythesea.ca.

SHIP’S COMPANY THEATRE

Where: Parrsboro, in a waterfront theatre incorporating the old M.V. Kipawo ferry boat.

When: June 30 to Oct. 1.

What: World premiere of The Mystery of Maddy Heisler, Daniel Lillford’s play about Jacob Meisner (Frank MacKay), a washed-up writer of not-very-mysterious mysteries. His most recent slump is interrupted when a childhood friend arrives, still haunted by the long-ago disappearance of Maddy Heisler around the time of the Second World War. A mystery, a search for identity and a love story that crosses time, history, and racial divides, it is directed by Pamela Halstead and stars Matthew Walker Stephenson, Ingrid Rae Doucet, Michael Chaisson, Frank MacKay and Julia Williams and runs June 30 to July 23.

Lillibet, world premiere, written and directed by Glenda Stirling, about an elderly woman who thinks she is Princess Margaret’s younger sister but not the Queen of England, with Matthew Walker Stephenson, artistic producer Pamela Halstead and Caroline Hetherington as Lillibet, Aug. 4 to Sept. 3.

Mulgrave Road Theatre’s award-winning production of Lauchie, Liza and Rory, by Sheldon Currie, directed by Mary-Colin Chisholm, with Burgandy Code and Christian Murray, Sept. 14 to 24.

Second Stage:

Amazing Gracie, a P.E.I. hit featuring the music and humour of 1940s British radio sensation Gracie Fields, Aug. 27 to 29.

Kids’ Stage:

Maritime Marionettes’ Land of the Little People, July 29.

Christian Murray’s Fool’s School, Aug. 21

Concert Series: Charlie A’Court, July 10; Kendra McGillivray and Bruce Rainnie, July 17; Frank MacKay, July 24; Songwriters of Country Generations, Aug. 7; Paul Cram Quintet, Aug. 14; Susan Crowe and the Tenderlies, Aug. 21: Gordon Stobbe, Kelli Trottier and Greg Simm, Aug. 28; Celtic Ceilidh, Sept. 9; Man in Black: A Tribute to Johnny Cash, Sept. 29 and 30; I Saw The Light: The Gospel Music of Hank Williams, Oct. 1.

Call 1-800-565-7469; www.shipscompany.com

TANTRAMAR SUMMER THEATRE FESTIVAL:

Where: Dominion Public Building, Amherst.

When: July 3 to Sept. 3.

What: An original show concluding the children’s theatre workshop, first two weeks of July.

World premiere of Head Games, a new comedy about beauty shops, by Amherst playwright Don Miller, July 19 to Aug. 6.

World premiere of Three Cents a Pound, a new musical and romantic comedy set in the blueberry fields of Cumberland County, by resident playwright Valerie Fahey, Aug. 23 to Sept. 3.

Call 667-7002; www.tantramartheatre.com.

COMMUNITY THEATRE:

CentreStage Theatre, Kentville: June 24 to July 29, Oklahoma!, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical; The Three Little Pigs, a musical fairy tale, Aug. 11 to 12; 18 and 19, 25 and 26, and Aug. 30 and 31, An Evening To Remember, presented by CentreStage Theatre and Glooscap Curling Club at the curling club, dinner and theatre with The Queen of Bingo with Chérie and Ernest Zinck, George and Nancy Henry.

Call 678-8040; www.centrestagetheatre.ca.

Dartmouth Players, through Saturday, 8 p.m., 1967 multiple Tony award nominee and musical comedy, Walking Happy.

Call 465-7529; www.dartmouthplayers.ns.ca.

Theatre Arts Guild, Halifax: July 6 to 22, Dial "M" for Murder, a mystery by Frederick Knott, directed by Bill VanGorder.

Call 477-2663; www.tagtheatre.com

DINNER THEATRE:

Grafton Street: The Winner Takes All, to Oct. 1, inspired by televised game shows; Rock the Ceilidh, June 29 to Oct. 8. Come for Grampie MacTavish’s 75th birthday party.

Call 425-1961; www.graftonstdinnertheatre.com.

Halifax Feast: Cape Breton Idle: Season II, to Aug. 19; White Bucks and Saddle Shoes, Aug. 22 to Nov. 11, a show with 1950s music that in 1990 took Cape Breton and Halifax by storm.

Call 420-1840; www.feastdinnertheatre.com

Hot acts to follow
From Peggys Cove to the rebirth of ATF, summer theatre is heating up across N.S.
By ELISSA BARNARD Arts Reporter

IT’S the best summer job I’ve ever had," says actor John Beale.

Beale, who grew up in Peggys Cove, is poised to re-launch his popular 40-minute multi-media show, Peggy!, a satirical revisioning of the romantic myth of Peggys Cove. He starts this Wednesday performing two shows a day until Sept. 4 in a 50-seat theatre in the Old Red Schoolhouse in Peggys Cove.

"There’s been a great response from the Halifax crowds and everyone local," says the actor who trained in clowning with Philippe Gaulier in Paris and for five years worked at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass. "Halifax and all the way down to St. Margarets Bay. People are coming and bringing their guests from out of town and there are tourists who are not expecting to see anything except craft shops and they come in off the street."

"It’s exciting because it’s not static. I’ve already invited lots of surprise guests," says Beale, who did 85 sold-out shows last year.

He is not the only theatre artist in Nova Scotia excited about summer theatre. Despite the negative factors of high gas prices, declining tourism, poor roads, iffy weather and static or shrinking funding, the people producing summer theatre are excited.

"We’re very excited. I’ve said that about five times now," says Nigel Bennett, artistic associate of the Atlantic Theatre Festival in Wolfville.

"We’re excited to be back for a season. It’s a real step forward. We’ve got a play to do, the money to do it and a company to do it."

The Atlantic Theatre Festival returns after its financial collapse two years ago with a six-week run of Michael Frayn’s comic hit Noises Off.

"This is a make or break season," says Bennett, directing Noises Off. "We’ve managed to get back and resurrect ATF in an abbreviated form and what happens this season will determine the future but people thrive on pressure. We’re happy."

"We’re kind of quietly optimistic," says Ed Thomason, entering his second season as artistic producer of Festival Antigonish, to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. "There is something for everyone and people have already responded positively. So far our advance bookings are up over last year."

Last year box office was down but nothing like the six per cent or more drop in tourism, he says. "We had 10,000 people through here and I think that’s a remarkable achievement. The real solid audience is between Truro and maybe Sydney, the northeastern belt of the province. We do have a healthy basic support system.

With three comedies and a spine-chiller set in Victorian times" Festival Antigonish has "a high entertainment season but it’s a meaningful program as well," says Thomason.

Bette Douglas, artistic director of the Tantramar Theatre Society is also going for comedy with two premieres: Head Games, by Amherst playwright Don Miller, a play based on Douglas’s experiences over the years at beauty shops, and Three Cents a Pound, a musical and romantic comedy set in the blueberry fields of Cumberland County, written by Tantramar’s resident playwright Valerie Fahey.

"I’m always pleased to promote local playwrights," says Douglas. "These people are so well-known and their name helps to draw large crowds. I love comedy in the summer. I love to hear people laugh."

Comedy is the order of the day at Shakespeare by the Sea, returning to Point Pleasant Park’s Cambridge Battery for its 13th season after a difficult summer last year. Audiences were good in 2005 but the company’s artistic director Patrick Christopher Carter died in July shortly after he and founding company manager Elizabeth Murphy had been married at the company’s annual July 1st midnight production.

Murphy and Jennie Raymond are now co-artistic directors overseeing a company of 19 including seven Equity actors and a season of Much Ado About Nothing and The Wizard of Uh-Uz, a new comic collective creation.

Murphy, who received $18,000 from the provincial government, down from a $25,000 high three years ago, had planned to direct a third show but changed her mind. "I need a kind of easy summer. Jennie and I looked at each other and said, ‘No.’ "

"The company is in transition and I love Jennie, I adore her and I’m hoping between the two of us we can reconfigure the company to make it more self-sustaining.

At Ship’s Company Theatre in Parrsboro Pamela Halstead’s biggest challenge this week was finding a rowboat. "It’s flounder season and most people who have rowboats are using them," she says, laughing at the chaos of her latest technical challenge.

The boat, which she did find, will be rowed by an actor in a large pool on stage for Daniel Lillford’s new play, The Mystery of Maddy Heisler.

"The tourism situation is a challenge as well," says Halstead, "but our early ticket sales are going well.

"I’ve been really excited and enthusiastic about the response from the community and I’m going to really try and get more of the Halifax market as well," she says. (Ship’s Company evening shows start at 7:30 p.m. to help travelers.)

"I love to have Frank (MacKay) come back and Caroline (Hetherington) doing Lillibet has just come off a tour across Canada in Daniel Brooks’ Half Life. It’s remarkable she’s willing to come here and Julia Williams, this is her first big role and she’s going to be fantastic."

Three youth from Economy, actor Matt A’Court (singer-songwriter Charlie’s younger brother) and crew members Yolande Laking and Cody Caudle are working at the company. "It’s really exciting to offer these jobs to people in the area."

Chester Playhouse’s artistic director Chris Heide is looking forward to directing Tom Gallant and Catherine McKinnon, of Singalong Jubilee fame, in the premiere of Lorne Elliot’s play A Pitiful Ambition. "It’s just ridiculously funny," says Heide.

Chester is pursuing more in-house production including three shows this summer and a fourth one, Malcolm Callaway’s take on Samuel Beckett, planned for the fall.

"The overall challenge is the amount of production for a company as small as ours. We have to go flat-out," says Heide. In each of this season’s plays, while committed to the usual mix of music and comedy, "I see something just a little more risky," he says. "We’re pushing the envelope a little."

Christopher Shore, executive director of Theatre Nova Scotia, sees a bit of growth in summer theatre in Nova Scotia despite years of static funding. "We’ve seen a lot of sustainability. We’re starting to see a little bit of momentum shifting towards growth in the sector.

"What’s really clear in theatre is the companies are under-funded. They need to be creative. Right now there is not a lot of room to take risks."

Premier Rodney MacDonald’s May budget offered some theatres small increases in funding. "This is the first time in many, many years. With these small increases . . . we’re moving ahead."

Theatre Nova Scotia is talking to Nova Scotia’s tourism, culture and heritage department about implementing the Theatre Sector Strategy, a five-year plan for growth, created in consultation with the province’s theatres. The strategy includes proposals for increased funding, marketing training to reach new audiences, a credit for university students to work in theatre and developing aboriginal theatre and companies producing work for black Nova Scotians.

( ebarnard@herald.ca)


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