(Gananoque – March 29, 2021)
All the world’s a stage, and the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque has found a COVID-19 safe way to get that stage filled with players and the seats with an in-person live audience to create a brand-new season for 2021.
“So many people reached out by phone or e-mail or text to say how much they missed us,” said Brett Christopher, managing artistic director of the Thousand Islands Playhouse in a presentation live-streamed on social media. “The last year has been an extremely challenging one for Canadian live performing artists. Music, dance, theatre canceled around the globe and many of the wonderful people that you see on the stages that work behind the scenes of the Playhouse productions have found their life’s work wiped out.”
Although CERB and other programs were there to provide financial and other assistance, what these artists really wanted to do was put on plays on a stage in front of a live audience. The Playhouse spent the past year coming up with a plan that could bring live theatre back in a safe way.
“Because of our rural location, this incredible community that we live in, and the very strong support of our board of directors, the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Government of Ontario, the Playhouse is ready to help lead the sector back into its venues,” said Christopher. “This season we’ve made the health and safety of our artists, staff and the audience our top priority.”
The Playhouse will only use one of its venues this year – the Firehall Theatre – and will restrict in person audience sizes to a maximum of 50 people all socially distanced in pairs. Masks are required on Playhouse property and must be worn at all times. A new, outdoor “lobby” has been created under a large open-air tent.
“Follow the arrows and the signage to the host at the entrance,” he said. “To limit contact, we will not be using printed tickets this year. Instead, the host will check you in using our online box office system. We will complete a COVID-19 pre-screening assessment either prior to your arrival or we will be happy to take you through the assessment when you arrive on site. When you are checked in, you’ll sanitize your hands and make your way to the designated waiting table where you can relax and enjoy table service from our outdoor bar.”
Safety protocols include ushers seating the audience by section, mandatory hand washing, and no one leaving their seats during the show.
“Every play this season has either been selected or tailored to suit a one act experience meaning that there will be no intermissions. Once the play has ended, ushers will help guide you safely out of the theatre. I’m excited to announce that with the safety protocols that we’ve planned and in consultation with our Regional Health unit we feel confident that we can produce Theatre in our smaller venues this year.”
Four plays are on tap for the 2021 season. The first, running from July 8-31, is “Miss Caledonia” by Melody Johnson, about an Ontario farmgirl who believes her ticket to Hollywood is the regional pageant circuit. The one-woman show is filled with love and laughter, reminiscent of the Wingfield Farm series.
Running August 5-28 is the ever-popular Canadian classic, “Sexy Laundry” by Michelle Riml. Henry and Alice attempt to rekindle the heat in their marriage and while so doing take us on a trip through their 25-year relationship, examining all that was and that was not.
“Sexy Laundry is at times funny, touching, sad, joyful, and very familiar, especially if you’ve just spent the last year locked up with your spouse,” said Christopher.
“Back in ‘59” by Thom Currie will bring all the music and joy of the ‘50s and ‘60s to the stage from September 9 – October 2. Featuring all that great feel-good music including hit songs like “Let’s Twist Again”, “Leader of the Pack”, and “It’s My Party”, it is led by director choreographer Stephanie Graham who was responsible for the 2019 smash hit Ann of Green Gables.
The season will finish in a truly royal way with “Serving Elizabeth” by Marcia Johnson. Described as a “fresh, funny and smart new play about colonialism, monarchy, and whether or not the TV series ‘The Crown’ really got it right”, it was developed through the Playhouse Playwrights Unit. It runs October 7-31.
The Young Company will be doing Paula Wing’s adaptation of “How to Code a Sandcastle”. The play will be presented at the Firehall and beamed into classrooms to stay within safety protocols.
“As an organization we’ve always aimed to make outstanding Theatre, but it’s also time to recognize that we can do a lot better when it comes to providing opportunities for artists who are black, indigenous, Asian, and other people of colour,” said Christopher. “We’re going to be working with Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop and Toronto’s Native Earth Performing Arts to develop a new Playwrights Unit for Emerging Black and Indigenous Creators. I urge you to check out our website and read more about the antiracism goals that we have set for ourselves. I think they will enrich this company and build a much more dynamic, more conscientious, and much more welcoming theatre.”
For those who are part of the patron program or are considering becoming a patron, ticket sales have already started. Subscription sales begin April 6 and single tickets become available on April 27. Information on all of the Playhouse’s available programs, ticket sales, and more can be found at www.1000islandsplayhouse.com/ .