This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

If you have parked in Market Square, or been to the Farmers’ Market during the last week, you will have notice a scaffold tower against the Opera House. The roof is being replaced and restored with slate, as it would have been back in the day.

If there is any justice in the world, some day after the roof is declared a clean slate, I’ll be reporting with photos, someone managed to climb up there and do a chalk drawing on it, maybe leave a pithy sentence, something borrowed from a Leacock tale.

A the same time, new gear is being installed to give the Opera House the permanent ability to do internet streaming, and I presume video production. Our recent struggles to be entertained have introduced us to a new way of enjoying concerts and theater, which the Opera House has provided. As general manager Wendy Fairbairn says, the likelihood audience demand for livestreamed events in the future won’t go away, so they are getting with the program.

Speaking of programs, there are few coming up you need to know about. Starting September 24, Barrie’s Theatre By the Bay is presenting a play by Ziigwen Mixemong called Mno Bimaadiziwin, which is a collection of stories about local Native people. It runs to October 3.

Rhythm of the World, a concert headlined by Brassworks with guests Jazzamatazz and others happens October 16. The Stampeders are bringing their 50th anniversary show to town October 19 and Second City performs October 22. You can get tickets for any of these shows online.


The Orillia and District Arts Council is having its annual general meeting September 23 at Creative Nomad Studios. Members are encouraged to attend, and new members are welcome. To find out more email

ODAC is also one half, with the Orillia Museum of Art and History, of the presenters of the annual 2021 Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards. The nomination period has started and you can find out how to nominate a person or group online.

There are 5 categories:

  • Education in Arts, Culture and Heritage
  • Emerging Artist
  • Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication
  • Event in Arts, Culture and Heritage
  • Qennefer Browne Achievement Award

You can look at last week’s column for some ideas and reminders of who you can nominate. I don’t make nominations, for obvious reasons, but there’s no reason why I can’t remind readers of what’s happened in the last year or so.

This week I want to talk about one specific category, the Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication award. As the title suggests there is a distinct historical connotation involved.

I’ve already suggested Marcel Rousseau has been doing some exemplary work on his Orillia Past & Present Facebook page and  Creative Nomad Studios/Anitta Hamming for the renovation and restoration of the old Bi-way building as a couple of deserving nominees.

However, it occurred to me just after I thought of Creative Nomad there are several projects that also qualify on my mind. Nomineees are inspected by a jury panel for awards, so those people will have the burden of figuring out whether any of these ideas, or yours, actually fit the category. 

Right next door to Creative Nomad is the Swinton Building, which is where Common Stove is located. The owners wanted to restore the exterior look to as close as is used to be, while using modern materials and most obviously better window technology.

Looking elsewhere downtown there are a few other restoration projects I think might qualify. The storefront where Makers Market was located, which I believe is owned by Mariano Timpano, and their new location, have been renovated and some of the historic features restored.

For something completely different, Matchedash Lofts exterior design was made in consideration of what surrounds it. It’s new, but it was meant to feel old. At the same corner, Couchiching Craft Brewing Company’s building made some changes, but unlike some other building renovations downtown, they at least tried to fit in with the neighbourhood. Across the street the building Sarahannedipity is in has had some fantastic renovations. There are probably others that aren’t coming to mind at the moment, but my point is, there is no shortage of potential nominees for this category as I thought two weeks ago.


OMAH has Welcome Home to Orillia., which tells the story of 11 people who now call Orillia home, but didn’t always. It’s fascinating to read each person’s story and to see some of the things they included in their exhibit space. Also see Will McGarvey’s exhibit, Sticks and Stones. You can also check out the opening with Will and Jill Price online.

There’s an interesting workshop with Jill Price happening September 18 and 25. Some of you have fur coats hanging around you don’t want to wear, but you also don’t want to get rid of them. Make them into something else. You need to register and theirs is a fee to participate.


This week the world lost what comics of great stature around the world have called the best. Norm MacDonald died of cancer on Tuesday. It was a shock, no one knew he was sick, and had been for close to ten years. No one else could milk the awkwardness of silence after dropping a punch line he knew nobody would get or laugh at, save for a few. It’s like he loved to confound an audience into silence sometimes. Fortunately those times were recorded and review later on revealed the genius of what he was doing. He didn’t seem to care you might not laugh at the moment, but eventually you would. He specialized in standing at a microphone and daring you to laugh. Once in a while the joke wasn’t an individual joke within a performance, or any of the jokes in a performance, but the totality of the performance.

Norm MacDonald (Photo by Greg2600, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Norm in a sense did dad jokes, but they were a lot cleverer in the telling than any cleverness a typical dad joke could hope to have. Many people have had the gift of an uncle like Norm, an uncle who could murder the language in a unique way, tell a tale which seemed to diverge in many directions and go on forever, and when it’s over leave you laughing.

If you are a reader of Leacock, or a good rememberer of Leacock’s stories, you will recognize there is a similarity with Leacock’s homey and twisty style of telling a funny story; the payoff was at the end, but along the way there were other laughs, big and small, which if taken out would diminish the story, maybe even cripple it.

The other thing about Norm’s brand of comedic storytelling is you can’t repeat them. Sure you can, but no one will ever be as spellbinding and get the laughs with the same material as Norm could. Anyone else could try to copy the jokes or Norm’s way of telling them, but we’d just think they were a bad comic. And that’s the thing about Norm, those who only take a superficial read of Norm, listen with half an ear, get stuck on the roundabout way he gets to the grand punchline, think Norm is a bad comic. In the earliest days before we caught on to what he was doing, we did think he was a bad comic. But, we watched him again, drawn to him like a moth to the light, we couldn’t help ourselves, and with time and repeated exposure come to understand the depth of what he was doing, and then we couldn’t get enough of him.

To gauge the true place Norm has in life one only has to see the outpouring of grief from the people we also think of as being the funniest, greatest comedians of our time. Dave Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Howard Stern, Seth Meyers, Marc Maron and many others have made tributes to Norm and they are all shattered and have one voice saying Norm was the greatest comedian of the day. This is almost like when George Carlin died, the way the reverence, respect and rejoicing to have crossed paths with him is given.

We lost a national treasure we didn’t know we had until he died. On the day of, I said I hope flags fly at half staff in his honour. We have produced more than our fair share of truly funny people for country of 34 million, way beyond a typical capacity or ability for any country. But no place on earth in no time in history can say they had a comic like Norm MacDonald. The flags have always been lowered for national figures and heroes, and I was disappointed to find there were no reports from anywhere in the country this honour was given to him.

The reason no one from the prime minister, to the premiere of any province, or mayor of any city made such a tribute is because flags are already at half staff because of the residential school issue – as they should be. But, this puts light on two tragedies simultaneously, that we have a case of such national importance flags have to be a half mast to remind us of and honour the victims of a collection of historic events that shouldn’t have been, and because of that we can’t as a country pay tribute to a fellow we will always be able to say – you know, he was Canadian.

Short Takes

The Orillia Youth Centre has a benefit concert for Green Haven Shelter For Women and Youth happening September 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Creative Nomad Studios. There is room for 40 to see Sean Patrick, Sam Johnson and Roger Harvey (who is sticking around after the previous Saturday’s Youth Centre concert). You can get tickets for this concert online.

Sustainable Orillia is having an art show featuring work submitted for it’s two environmentally themed contests, Renewal and Trees. It’s happening this week at Orillia Square Mall in the old Smithbooks store, and then it hits the road. It will be at Hibernation Arts September 21 to 25 and then Creative Nomad Studios September 27 to October 2. Works by Lisa Rowlandson, MJ Pollak, Marlene Bulas, Molly Farquharson, Mary Ann Tully, Douglas Porter, Gayle Schofield, MJ Pollak, Dani Magder, Brenda Smallwood and Heather Campbell are featured.

Art by Murray Van Halem

One of our favourite artists, Murray Van Halem, has a show at Double Door Studio in Anten Mills from October 2 to 12. Murray will be on hand October 3 from noon to 4 p.m.

Jakob Pearce is playing at Kenzington Burger Bar Friday night

Mike Bailey at Opening night at Creative Nomad

Mike Bailey’s is still selling posters of the Hippy Vans. They’re available in two sizes (24×36 – $65, or 16×24 – $55) and you can order one by emailing There will likely be some program booklets still available at Jack & Maddy A Kids Store too.

Creative Nomad Studio has an exhibition happening. See Mike Bailey’s Catching Light photo exhibit. It will be in the main gallery, which has been housing Cloud Gallery. Cloud isn’t going away, there’s still other works to see in other parts of the building.

Hibernation Arts has cancelled the concert with Alex Andrews and Marta Solek, but Molly Farquharson said there will others. This month’s guest artist is David Kennedy. There will also be a Sustainable Orillia show from September 20 to 25.

Aaron Mangoff has put out 5 EP’s and 3 singles in the last year and you can hear them here.

Check out Stuart Steinhart’s excellent new album, It’s About Time, on Bandcamp.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)

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