As summer slides to fall, like back to school, the professional theatre season switches from summer playhouse offerings in cottage country to urban stages. It’s time to organize your calendar, make some pre-theatre dinner reservations and anticipate being entertained.
The Arts Project in downtown London kicks off the fall season with an eye-opener: The Porno Play, written and directed By Nick Regan. This show comes with a viewer discretion advisory as it deals with “extreme subject matter.” It is billed as a visit to a pornography/sex shop where “our friendly staff will be more than willing to assist you in whatever questions you may have about your porno needs. And hey, come check out our fantastic air conditioned private viewing booths.” The show runs September 20th to the 23rd with matinees and evening performances.
Old East Village in London is home to the 350-seat Palace Theatre, which has undergone renovations over the past two years, including a new roof and walls. The Palace is the stage for the London Community Players, which has been producing shows since 1974. The season kicks off September 29th with Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas, directed by Martha Zimmerman. It runs until October 9th. “After a whirlwind courtship, Rita and Peter marry. Following their storybook wedding, an elderly man congratulates Rita with a kiss. This is no ordinary kiss. It is a kiss that will test Peter’s love in unimaginable ways. A beautiful story of soul mates.”
Rehearsals are underway in September at The Grand Theatre in London. Amateur young actors get the stage on Saturday October 1st at 2 pm and 8 pm for the Fall High School Project. This year’s production is Les Miserables School Edition. This is the 20th anniversary of The High School Project, which brings local teenagers from secondary school drama clubs and programs to the big stage as a combined group.
Meanwhile, actors being students will also be at The Grand in October. A local London theatre company, Calithumpian, presents The History Boys by Alan Bennett downstairs at The Grand in the McManus Studio Theatre October 5th to 15th. Artistic Director John Gerry is excited to bring this story of eight history students preparing for their entrance exams to Oxford and Cambridge to our London. “It’s extremely well written, plain and simple, a good story. And isn’t that what it is all about, telling (and from the audiences’ perspective, being told) a great story. And the journey of the eight young men and their teachers has something for everyone,” he says. “Bennett’s writing can be as valid now as it was when he first penned the piece,” adds Gerry.
The History Boys was the winner of the Laurence Olivier Award For Best New Play (2005) and of the Tony Award for Best Play (2006).
The Grand Theatre kicks off the 2016-17 season under the new leadership of Dennis Garnhum with some classic Canadian folk music presented in Joni Mitchell: River. It is conceived and directed by Allen MacInnis with the music arranged by Greg Lowe. The highly regarded Mamma Mia! star (and London native) Louise Pitre will take on the lead role. She will be joined on stage by Emm Gryner and Brendan Wall and accompanied by a four-piece band. The production promises to deliver 27 songs that covers the span of Mitchell’s life as a performer. Joni Mitchell: River opens on October 18 and runs to November 5th.
The Stratford Festival is a foodie dream town but it is first and foremost a destination for theatre-goers. The Festival season has been extended to November 5th (limited shows) — check www.stratfordfestival.ca for listings. Foodies may get a little kick from the banquet scene in Macbeth or the Newfoundland cook-out in As You Like It. Of course, there are so many options to combine food and theatre in Stratford. Whether it is your own fall picnic or fine dining, Ann Swerdfanger of the Stratford Festival is proud of the way the arts and culinary scene merge in her town.
“After a performance of A Chorus Line or A Little Night Music, people can stroll along the picturesque Avon River, wander through the Victorian downtown and then dine at some of the best restaurants you’ll find anywhere. Stratford has a well-established farm-to-table movement, a Slow Food market, a renowned chefs school and some wonderful food shops where you can find local artisanal cheese, bread, charcuterie and organic fruit and veg. In the fall, when the harvest is at its peak, Stratford is paradise — a perfect getaway for theatre and food lovers,” says Swerdfanger.
Jane Antoniak is a regular contributor to eatdrink magazine. She is also Manager, Communications & Media Relations, at King’s University College in London.