By John Swartz
Every year many people wonder if Gordon Lightfoot will show up at the Mariposa Folk Festival. When he’s not booked to play, he usually shows up and usually does a tune or two on the main stage between scheduled acts.
Pick a day, often there’s a few people who ‘saw’ him, or heard he’s in Tudhope Park even though he wasn’t. This year however, he’s being inducted into the Mariposa Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame ceremonies usually happen on Sunday evening after the first main stage act or two have finished, so don’t waste your time placing any bets whether or not he’ll be a the festival this year.
Following is the text from the MFF about the induction:
“Over the past 62 years, the number of world-class artists that have graced our stage is truly exceptional,” said Foundation president Pam Carter. “Among these, however, Gordon Lightfoot stands apart for his unique contribution and commitment. Is his enshrinement overdue? Of course, it is. And the Foundation could not be more honoured to celebrate our connection with Gordon at this year’s festival,” added Carter.
“You take care of your home – and the Mariposa Folk Festival feels like coming home to me,” said Lightfoot. “On stage at Mariposa with the sun setting on Tudhope Park is magic – always has been, always will be,” he added.
A special live and pre-recorded tribute to Lightfoot will be held on the evening of Sunday, July 10 at Mariposa’s main stage to commemorate the Hall of Fame induction.
Gordon Lightfoot recalled how he and his then singing partner Terry Whelan were turned down by the inaugural Mariposa Folk Festival of 1961. “We were hometown boys,” he stated, “but they said we sounded too much like the Everly Brothers! We actually took that as a compliment.” The next year though, Gordon was hired as a solo act and joined the likes of Oscar Brand, the Travellers, and Ian & Sylvia at the Lion’s Oval in Orillia.
In 1964, at Maple Leaf Stadium in downtown Toronto, Gordon found himself on stage with folk-blues legends Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis. An archival recording of that historic event has Lightfoot introducing his brilliant new song Early Morning Rain and is featured in a recent Mariposa Virtual Stage video hosted by Shelagh Rogers.
The festival moved north of Brampton for the next few years at Innis Lake. Lightfoot shared top billing with the likes of Pete Seeger, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell. As his career began to take off, Mariposa provided an annual venue to showcase new songs and new albums.
After a nomadic journey around Ontario, the festival finally returned to Orillia in 2000. It was uncertain Mariposa would even survive, let alone return to its past glory. Organizers announced that the hometown hero would be the Sunday night headliner. Immediately, hundreds of tickets were sold and the question of whether there would be a successful festival was put to rest. With his backup band of Terry Clements and Rick Haynes, Lightfoot put on a spellbinding performance, giving the open-air audience a taste of his hits and well-loved songs.
“Mariposa’s return to Orillia and our flourishing success ever since could simply not have happened without the support of Gordon Lightfoot,” said Carter. “When the Foundation was at its most vulnerable, he stepped in and made the difference.”
If you haven’t got tickets yet, you should do so right after finishing up here because there aren’t many left. The full festival schedule of performances is available online. You can win a couple weekend passes McLean and Dickey are sponsoring; enter online and when you get there you’ll find you can get more than one entry into the draw.
Last Friday night I saw the Orillia Secondary School production of Guys and Dolls. They did it in their cafeteria, which compared to the last play I saw in there the sound was a little better and they are half way there.
I don’t know who the light bulb was who came up with the idea of making gyms and cafeterias double as auditoriums, but I’ d like to do a brain scan, or at least somebody should, because that’s the second worst idea I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been in some schools with proper stages, in fact the high school I went to had a proper theater, soft seats and all, and this modern invention is a disservice to the students and the community.
In a proper room, most of the students – who aren’t pros at this kind of thing – would have come off better had their voices not been lost in the reverberations of the room.
That said, most of what I liked came from the physical attributes some of the performers used. Madison Emons (Nicely Nicely) and Jack Smith (Benny) were on stage together most of the time and make a good comedy pairing.
Ani Whelan-McKean (Adelaide) had a central role and sang a few tunes solo. She’s had a bit of experience performing and it showed.
As I think of the night, one thing I can say which might help for next time is, it’s not enough to know the lines and sing in tune, if you are a main character you need to develop some mannerism for your character that sets you apart from the rest of the cast. Everyone on stage should treat their role as if they are the star of the play. You still have to work together, but when it’s time to speak or sing, steal the spot light and you don’t do that with just the words in the script.
For example, Sky Masterson (played by Alex Drake) is a central male character (the other male lead – Nathan Detroit – was played by Ryan LePage). Of the two, both hoods, Sky is the more urbane and polished. He’s higher on the pecking order of street hustlers. He dresses better too. In short when his character enters any time, people – on stage and off – are supposed to pay attention. The actor who plays the role has to own the stage and the story. It’s not enough to just wear the clothes and hit your mark, there’s an attitude that’s part of the territory. That’s why Marlon Brando played to role in the movie.
Detroit is a little rougher, less polished as a person and LePage pulled that off partly because of his size and partly because he looked like he kept his suit hanging in the clothes hamper.
In both cases each actor might have stepped more into the role, but maybe that is just inexperience, or maybe the director didn’t express the difference between the grittiness of one role over the cool confidence of the other.
I’m pointing this out because Ani, Madison and Jack’s performances stuck with me and I think it’s because of the things I juts pointed out.
Saturday night the Orillia Public Library had a Pride Month event with a drag show with Plum Vicious and sidekick Billy Blake (stage names). I’ve never been to a drag show before, unless you count the burlesque shows Don Porter was bringing in to the Geneva, so I didn’t know what to expect.
The main character, Plum, wore several over the top outfits, if one was sensitive to colour there could have been a problem. Both did a number of dance routines to recorded music. This is similar to the burlesque I have seen where dancers used recognizable tunes, in this case it was club music. The dancing was not as creative, but the audience seemed to enjoy it.
I also expected the humour would be more of the audience work type and as the character name implies, vicious (Don Rickles, but in drag), however none of that happened.
It was a sold out house and the library staff did a good job clearing out the main foyer area to create a stage and seating are.
The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture had their annual Gathering native authors reading series the tail end of last week at the Rama Community Hall. All three days of the event conflicted with other events and I only got to see the Saturday afternoon lineup.
I heard Lisa Bird-Wilson, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Norma Dunning and Drew Hayden Taylor read from their books. I enjoyed the bit Bird-Wilson read from her book and Drew read short bits from three of his books, including his newest Me Tomorrow – his imaging of the future from a Native perspective. What I enjoy about writing from Native authors is there is a seriousness about the subject matter, but it often is told with a dose of humour. It’s a peculiar sense of humour, not cheap humour either, usually deadpan, but it’s there.
The Orillia Centre also has an updated website, which looks very nice – and they are taking over the Orillia Jazz Festival, which will happen in October.
Everyone is doing a play soon.
Mariposa Arts Theatre has The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) (revised) and they are doing it at the Leacock Museum June 29 to July 7. MAT did Twelfth Night last summer on the grounds in front of Stevie’s house and it was fantastic. Doug Ironside is directing and I’m sure he’s going to make use of all the possibilities as happened last year.
Some of you might recall this play was done here before at the Opera House by Driftwood Theatre. It packed all the juicy bits from all the Shakespeare plays into 90 minutes.
Interestingly, Driftwood is going to be touring through Ontario this summer, with a stop in Orillia July 31 to do Shakespeare’s Henry V. One of the actors is Hume Baugh, which if you were a Park Street student, or saw the Park Street Players productions back in the day, is name you will remember, vividly.
The Opera House has their summer theater season about ready to go. It kicks off June 29 with Norm Foster’s world premiere of Doris and Ivy. Driving Miss Daisy was cancelled back in 2020 because – oh, do I have to spell it out? It starts it’s run July 20. Another Foster play, Come Down From Up River opens August 17. All those happen in the Studio Theatre.
Squeezed in on Tuesdays in July and August, and the Civic Holiday weekend is the Duck Soup Productions’s Newsies. And Ballet Jorgen will be bringing its production of Anne of Green Gables to the Opera House July 25 for one performance of this first ever ballet treatment of the famous story.
You can get tickets to any Opera House gig online.
The winners of the student short story contest have been announced. Amy Ghobrial of Richmond Hill won ($1,000), George Vanderlaan of London was second ($700) and Bethany Robert of Ottawa was third ($300). There were entries from all over Ontario. The winners will get to read their stories September 16 at the Meet The Authors event.
The long list for this year’s medal is out. The inside track goes to – anyone who has been on This Hour Has 22 Minutes because Rick Mercer, Mark Critch and Ron James (as a writer) made it. The rest of the authors are Emily Austin, Dawn Dumont, Lorne Eedy, James Gordon, Uzma Jalaluddin, Cristina Myers and K. R.Wilson.
Three finalists will be announced August 15 and the winner picks up the hardware and cheque at the Once Again Annual Stephen Leacock Medal For Humour dinner September 17. Terry Fallis (Friday) and Ali Hassan (Medal dinner) are emcees this year.
You can get tickets online.
- Charles Pachter has again donated a bunch of prints and original paintings to be auctioned as a fundraiser for OMAH (the auction is over) and is hosting a garden party at his MOFO Gallery June 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. OMAH also has new exhibits, see The 25th Annual International Women’s Day Art Show with 112 pieces in the show this year. Upstairs, Hospice Orillia is sponsoring Dying Matters: Reflections Of Growth Through Grief (closing reception July 7 from 5 to 7 p.m.), This is an exhibit of smaller pieces by local artists and all of it is for sale. There two more exhibits up at the moment, Return To Sender and Reflections Of Ourselves… Peter Street Fine Arts has Deby Melillo’s art in the gallery this month… Hibernation Art has Susan Rudoler’s art featured this month and many of the other regular artists have new work hanging around; send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to take part in the Friday night pedestrian mall this summer.
- Kristine Drummond had a feature article published on Voyage Phoenix (yup, that Phoenix) and you can see it here.
- The Park Street Collegiate reunion the weekend of July 16 at the Barnfield Recreation Centre has Even Steven, Liz Anderson, Mark Stewart’s band and Pete Sanderson’s band performing, a hockey team reunion at Quayle’s Brewery in the afternoon and a restaurant tour (see the food?, Yup. OK, on to the next). Find out more details and how to get tickets at the reunion website.
- The Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest is open to everyone and there are substantial win, place and show cash prizes in elementary, student and adult classes. The entry fee is $25 per poem for adults, $10 for students and elementary kids are free to enter. The contest closes June 30 and July 17 prizes are awarded and readings by winners on hand will happen at the museum. Find links to entry forms here.
- Aaron Mangoff has a new tune, Would it Make a Difference? under his Summer.Birds banner; every tune Aaron puts out sounds epic; you can listen to the whole album on his Bandcamp page… Tangents had had a lot of gigs lately and they are spending August on the road to places in Ontario, Quebec and the East Coast; check out their music at Bandcamp … Zachary Lucky is going to Europe (The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany specifically) in July; listen to and/or buy his newest album on Bandcamp… Kayla Mahomed put out a new tune this week; listen to You’re On the List here.
- Roger Harvey is returning to Orillia to do two fundraising concerts for the Orillia Youth Centre’s Nelson Bell and Jake Beers Bursaries. The first is June 30 at Eclectic Café. Sammy is opening and you can get tickets here. The other one is July 1 at Farmfest in Sebright. Opening that one is Kayla Mahomed and Alex and you can get tickets here.
- Sunday evening Concerts in the Park are returning to the Aquatheater starting June 26 with the Orillia Concert Band. This year concerts are every other weekend instead of weekly. The Orillia Silver Band plays July 10, the Barrie Concert Band July 24, The Skyliners Big Band August 14 and the Simcoe County Band August 28. They start at 6:30 p.m., bring a lawn chair.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Rock Steady with Val Burns playing Saturday night; Jessica Bowman is in June 23; Bill Dunlop (Wilverine on 89.1 Max FM) hosts Vinyl Night every other Thursday (next is June 30) starting at 7 p.m. – you can bring your own favourite album; Will Davis and Chris Robinson play jazz June 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. … Jakob Pearce is at Ktchn June 25… Ashley MacIsaac plays at St. Paul’s Centre Saturday night; get tickets here… the Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … the Hog N’ Penny has trivia night every Thursday.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Streets Alive does not have a project per se this year, but Leslie Fournier has added a couple new pieces and had artists refresh some of the art from previous years.