Donald DISHES on Theatre

Written by Donald D'Haene


“You should be ashamed of yourself.” The recent comment to yours truly was not meant as a compliment, but such lines are music to my ears. I’m a producer; I have no shame.

I’m not a natural born producer but I was a quick study. If you want to survive, let alone thrive in the theatre world, you had better be. I get asked all the time, “How does one do it?” Well, we’ve already established that I’m shameless – something one is, not a trait that can be taught. Nevertheless, I suggest one’s best bet is to study the publicity strategies of established theatres.

After reviewing for five straight years, I still usually have to search for information on amateur productions. Since my website ( is the place for reviews for one hundred percent of those productions, you might think sending me info would be a priority. Think again.

When I put out the call for info on shows for my debut here at eatdrink I heard from five amateur companies over a period of weeks. When I put a call out to professional theatres to send me info for this issue, I heard from every one of them within 24 hours – 55 pages worth of material! Food for thought, no? Pro theatres appreciate the gift that is free publicity. New companies often are unprepared and wait until a week or two before their production hits the boards before announcing their shows.

With that in mind, and months ahead of schedule, here follows just a hint of what professional theatres in our area will be offering in ’14:

Petrolia Fiddler 2Victoria Playhouse Petrolia’s new season will rely on the dynamic combo of laughs, fiddling and Canadian music – from Church Basement Ladies to Fiddler on The Loose to Canada Sings The Greatest Music from Eh! to Zed. You’ll find yourself saying, “I didn’t know that was Canadian!” Expect a tribute to the late, great Stompin’ Tom Connors.

Drayton Entertainment’s Artistic Director Alex Mustakas tells us their ambitious new season playbill is all about expansion to new territory and audiences, on stages throughout Ontario: Dunfield Theatre (Cambridge), St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre, Drayton Festival Theatre, King’s Wharf Theatre (Penetanguishene), Huron Country Playhouse and Playhouse II (Grand Bend). From chart-busting Broadway hits to spectacular kid-friendly shows, exhilarating musical tributes to laugh-out-loud comedies, and some dramatic murder mysteries, there is something for everyone.

Blyth Festival’s 40th season is a milestone, their ruby anniversary, and new Artistic Director Marion de Vries promises it will be, “a rich colour of commitment, loyalty, creativity, and love.” She is recommitting the theatre to its original mandate: to create and produce professional Canadian theatre that reflects the stories, culture, and concerns of its community, region, and beyond. Included is the world premiere of the musical Kitchen Radio which Marion de Vries wrote while Canada Council Playwright in Residence at Blyth.

Port Stanley Festival’s Artistic Director Simon Joynes helped to set the theatre’s record for a second year in a row last year. The professional Equity theatre welcomed 15,420 patrons and sold out more than half its 119 performances. ’14 will once again witness a debut of a new musical (Bingo Ladies by Grant Tilly) as well as several comedies, including the old Norm Foster gem The Melville Boys.


Shaw Festival and Obsidian Theatre in Toronto will collaborate on ‘The Mountaintop’

Shaw Festival’s new season “positions The Shaw as a theatre of contemporary ideas,” remarks Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell. “Our upcoming season continues to explore a unique mix of works from both The Shaw’s original mandate, and modern works that not only embody Bernard Shaw’s spirited legacy, but look at the world through a Shavian lens.”

On Shaw Festival's mainstage this year - 'Cabaret'

On Shaw Festival’s mainstage this year – ‘Cabaret’

Shaw’s Studio Theatre continues to be home for contemporary Shavians, and the Court House Theatre playbill will include a Lunchtime production. Shaw Festival and Obsidian Theatre in Toronto will again collaborate this year with The Mountaintop, a daring re-envisioning of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s last night on earth in Room 306 of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Finally Maxwell promises to repeat the hat trick of 2013’s three acclaimed and popular productions on the main Festival Stage. The program will feature a re-envisioning of Cabaret and the Festival’s namesakes’ original version of The Philanderer.


Colm Feore as King Lear, at Stratford

Colm Feore as King Lear, at Stratford

And what about the granddaddy of them all in our area,Stratford Festival? Last year saw the largest jump in attendance since ’99. Their biggest coup this year will be the return of Colm Feore after a five-year absence, to play the title role of King Lear. Under the guidance of Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, Lear will open the new season.

Cimolino promises ’14 will be a thrilling year onstage. “We have in our leading roles a number of actors who are at the height of their powers. This extraordinary ensemble will give us moments of both cathartic sadness and giddy joy as we explore the many faces of madness presented through this playbill.”

Each of these Artistic Directors is promising the moon. And why not? As Mel Brooks tells us, “If you’re quiet, you’re not living. You’ve got to be noisy and colorful and lively.” Mel’s right! You want bums in the seats; make some noise!

Happy New Year everyone!


Donald D’Haene is Editor of Twitter @TheDonaldNorth and email:

About the author

Donald D'Haene

Donald D’Haene is Editor of Twitter @TheDonaldNorth and email: