This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The following is not an exact recount of dialogue from Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River, but it illustrates a point.


Don’t you have Questions?


Like What?


Like, which one of you is the wife?


That’s easy.

Bonnie sports a Pikachu face


She is.

Bonnie shifts to surprised Pikachu face


She’s the one with all the good sense.

Liz laughs out loud.

The point is Norm Foster writes some funny stuff. Bonnie (Alison MacKay) is Shaver’s (Marshall Button) niece and Liz (Cassandra Guthrie) is married to Bonnie. Bonnie has issues with Shaver, Liz doesn’t.

Shaver has lived alone in the woods of New Brunswick his entire life and Bonnie is in the city, a lawyer anticipating being made partner and has a suitcase full of troubles.

The thing about Foster’s plays is his characters are just normal people doing normal things the way normal people do. And the drivers of his plots are the unusual circumstances which affect the people populating his plays, but in reality are quite common. They have to be common so we can identify with what is happening on stage and we can identify with each characters role in the course of events.

He also exposes the plot in, at the least humourous, and most often laughable ways. You can go to see a play written by Foster and not know a thing about it, but when it’s over be glad you saw it.

This play was written in 2018 and Foster tends to reflect the current attitudes of society in his characters. In 2018, who cares if two women get married? Most people. It may be stereotype, but many urbanites would not think rural folk would have the same opinion. Shaver is so rural his trip to the city for a medical appointment, hence the visit to his niece, is the first time in 20 years he’s been down river.

Yet, as he says, he may live in the sticks, but he does have an idea of what’s going on in the world. So, his “I don’t give a s#!&” reaction to realizing the roommate is more than a roommate, is comical because we’re all expecting the reverse reaction.

Liz is an artist and dispenses with the reluctance to mention the girls are married and her fear of the reaction quickly because, well, artists just see things differently more quickly than the rest of us. Now ask yourself about your impression of how a lawyer reacts to things and that’s Bonnie.

She has abandonment issues. Her mom died when she was 12-years-old and she was packed off to live with a family friend. She never got over Shaver sending her away from family and home.

There are tons of stories, firsthand accounts, from young people dealing with the same resentments. Every once in a while it turns out there was good reason for the decisions of another time being made and they were made with the best intentions and for the right reasons. This is the case here. However, Shaver is a simple East Coaster on the surface that masks a progressive world view. He uses an economy of words, is self defacing as you’d expect a rural person out of  their environment to be, and doesn’t want to be an imposition on others – all tools for Foster’s wit.

Shaver’s mistake was thinking Bonnie would eventually understand without input from him. Bonnie on the other hand, never thinks that Shaver’s visit to the hospital might the kind no one should face alone and Liz forces Bonnie to chase after Shaver to be with him while he gets poked around. It’s at the hospital where all the chips get spilled and we find out the story behind the story.

The story of the past is heart breaking, and the story yet to come regarding Shaver’s health is too. If it wasn’t for Liz, the comic relief, no one would have left the Opera House with dry eyes.

Writers are artists too, and like Liz, Foster sees things with greater depth than the rest of us and play after play illustrates what should have been obvious. He spreads it out with unmistakable logic so even theatrical reviewers can get the main point, and the little ones he includes along the way. We generally have a good time while learning something we may take away and make part of our outlook on life.

The play runs to September 2 and you will get tickets online.

While you are at the Opera House website, check out what’s happening in September. Louise Pitre will be in concert September 30. There are Bee Gees and David Bowie tribute shows in September, and you can get tickets to the Mariposa Folk Festival’s October 1 events in Oro-Medonte and at the Opera House (more below).

You can also make sure to have your tickets for the return of the Orillia Jazz Festival’s main events in October at the Opera House with Thompson T. Egbo-Egbo, Brassworks and Lance Anderson.

Echoes of Mariposa
Julian Taylor at the 2019 Mariposa Folk Festival

That’s what the fall concerts Mariposa has held in the past were called. It’s been three years and Mariposa is reinventing the idea of what a fall concert should be, starting with the name, An Autumn Paradise and then the location.

Four of the acts they will have are playing on the shore of Lake Simcoe in Oro-Medonte and Julian Taylor will do his bit at the Opera House October 1.

The one in the sticks (the hills of Oro-Medonte are a little more to the west) is at Bayview Memorial Park and the lineup includes Aleksi Campagne, Union Duke, Irish Mythen and a player to be named later.

Aleksi was here in July, Union Duke was the first casualty of the pandemic when Mariposa cancelled its March 2020 concert they were to be part of. Chris Hazel tells me he’s pretty sure this will be their first gig since then. They were very popular with the pub crowd when they played the festival, and I have already heard from people who are excited they will be at this concert. You can never have Irish Mythen play in Orillia too often. She could play any venue here every Friday night and pack the house to the point of having to add Saturday matinees and evenings as well. Audiences love her, and those who see her for the first time say, “forgive me for not knowing I should have been to the other gigs she had here.”

Julian was an early main stage act in 2019 and one of those I didn’t know much about. Let’s just say Mariposa surprised me again with their astute programming. Julian has a new album coming soon (he actually just uploaded some of his music to Youtube as I wrote this) and you can listen to and buy his music on Bandcamp.

Nice Sword You Got There

Labour Day weekend used to be dead around here. Then the pirates moved in. Not the Pittsburg Pirates, but the kind who would sink the Island Princess.

Chamber of Commerce executive director, Allan Lafontaine, dressed for the office.

The Port of Orillia event will have replica ships – in the water – an encampment – probably next to the Rotary Beer Tent – a scavenger hunt, pirating demonstrations, vendors and area politicians will walk the plank – and likely get wet.

There will be music too. Friday night the Conner Brothers play (drummer Conor Boden is really great); Saturday the Ronnie Douglas Band plays and Sunday The Orangeman play. All start at 8 p.m. Regardless of what else happens, the music is going to be excellent.

Meanwhile, Allan Lafonatine, did tell me he was going to have bands playing at the port Saturday nights this summer, but he forgot to send me the info. The last two Saturday nights of August feature Black Suit Devil this week and the Oldguard Band next week.

The Shorts

  • I checked out Jeff Young and then Cassie Dasilva at Couchiching Craft Brewing during the past week. Here’s the thing I like about Jeff, he’s got a great voice, plays guitar (one set), and piano (the next set) and covers a wide variety of tunes. Many of those are not the obvious ones (hey great, Van Morrison, but that wasn’t one of his hits). What is refreshing is he choose to do tunes that suit his voice, rather than the regular fare patrons (and bar owners) think they want. Cassie Dasliva did a whole night of covers and only played one of her own tunes. She said she’d do her own stuff when she has a band behind her. It’s nice to have a venue back to go and hear good performances. Will Davis and Chris Robinson are in Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. August 25 at 7 p.m. Wilverine will spin your vinyl for the night.
  •  Judy Archer donated Michael Jones’s Bosendorfer piano to St. Paul’s Centre and Lance Anderson, Blair Bailey, Doreen Uren Simmons, Louis Lefaive, Terry Therien, Marta Solek. Ray Dillard, Nicole Lefaive, and Cassandra Rutherford will make some music with it September 10 at 7:30 p.m. You can make donations online In lieu of a ticket.
  • Liz Schamehorn update: just when she was able to have visitors, her daughter, Jennifer tested positive, so Liz in isolation for 5 days. She has no symptoms, but that’s the way hospital life is. She’s got lighter weight casts, all the hardware is out, and can feed herself now.  She’d love to have visitors next week, but check her Facebook page first to make sure she can have visitors. Liz said it will be a few more weeks before she can go home.
  • Mark Goode, The Mortgage Man, is sponsoring an outdoor movie night at the Orillia Public Library August 23 at 9 p.m. The movie is Night At The Museum. Bring your chair and they have the popcorn.
  • The annual Roots North fundraising concert for the Orillia Youth Centre is happening September 17 at Fern Resort. This time Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low) is headlining, Billy Pettinger and one more performer to be named next week are on the menu. As in the past Dapper Depot is a major sponsor of this event and 100% of the proceeds go to the youth center. Get tickets online.
  •  The City of Orillia and the Orillia District Arts Council’s neighbourhood arts program continues August 24 at Victoria Park with the Old Dance Hall Players. Participation is free and you can find more details online. And the City’s Music in the Park on Sunday’s at 6:30 p.m. at the Aqua Theatre happens with the Simcoe County Band August 28.
  • Jamie Drake, along with Jakob Pearce and Alex Golovchenko host a new jam at the Grape and Olive Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. … Quayle’s Brewery has Genevieve Cyr playing Sunday at 3:30 p.m.; David Gallagher is in August 26 at 5:30 p.m … 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… The Farmers’ Market has the Simcoe County Band playing Saturday… Lake Country Grill has Even Steven in to play Saturday night… Sammy is at Picnic Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Marshall Button, Cassandra Guthrie and Alison MacKay in Come Down From Up River at the Opera House.

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