By John Swartz
The 4th annual Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards happened Wednesday night at the Opera House. After growing the audience during the few years prior to the pandemic, the number of attendees was down to 65 people.
They still awarded community achievements in five categories and across the board there were more nominees than past years. Steph Dunn played music in the green room beforehand and Sam Johnston played as well in Gord’s Room. She also did a set of three songs midway through the ceremony. One was a cover of Me and Bobby McGee, which as is her habit, took a few different turns from the familiar Janis Joplin hit, and from some other notable covers, giving it a unique spin.
This time around each of the awards went to the people I thought they’d go to. Every one of the nominees were good ones, but for example on balance any other year Mike Rothwell’s contributions to arts would carry the day for the Qennefer Browne Achievement Award, but he was up against Doreen Uren Simmons’s longer resume of contribution here and beyond City limits.
The Mariposa Folk Festival was awarded the Event in Arts/Culture and Heritage category. Again, hard to beat.
The Heritage Restoration/Renovation and Publication category seemed to have the most competitive slate with the Heritage Centre, Lori Ochefski for her British Home Children project, Maggie and Mike Best for restoring the old fire hall downtown, and the OPP Museum. The jury picked the Heritage Centre. John Smith was on hand to accept and in his remarks said they are negotiating with the Simcoe County Museum to acquire the inventory of their collection.
There have been a few failed attempts to have a place built or acquired to display all the Heritage Centre stuff collected and restored and I thought it’s a shame something couldn’t work out for them. To me it’s a loss for the community. However, speaking with John maybe it’s for the best. He said the county has better resources to take care of the collection, it’s expensive to maintain the stuff, more expensive to display it properly, more people will be exposed to the collection, and it’s not like we won’t be seeing the stuff here in town ever again.
The emerging artist category is always iffy to me. There’s my favourite, and there’s others nominated that I don’t have knowledge of. Jordyn Nancy Greer got the prize. She’s a tattoo artist from Oro-Medonte who has booked her calendar to the end of next year. In short she’s in demand. It seems to me this form of art is maybe the most challenging. First, you usually don’t get to create what you want, what you do can’t usually be open to interpretation, and there is no opportunity to start again or make something else of your mistakes.
The Education in the Arts, Culture and Heritage Award had the most nominees and since there was a good split between those nominated for their art efforts and those relating to heritage projects, the jury decided to split the award. Therefore Jayne Poolton-Turvey won on the heritage aspect for stickhandling the Orillia Public Library’s Remembrance Day exhibit and Kate Hilliard for her arts contribution as director of Arts Orillia and for bringing many artists to Orillia to perform and do workshops in area schools. Jayne was not able to get her award in person having to tend to a family matter in Kitchener (serious, but good).
I caught another performance of MAT’s Rocky Horror Show last Friday night. It was a late, 10 p.m. show. I don’t recall MAT ever had a late show before and someone was thinking ahead booking it on the strength of how cult fans flock to late night showings of the movie.
I didn’t go to review the play again as much to review the audience. I expected more people in costume than opening night, and there were. I was told people showing up in costume throughout the run was regular. I expected a vocal audience. Traditionally they respond to dialogue and songs either repeating lines back, or answering questions posed. They also tend to shout boring every time the narrator steps on stage. I thought the opening night audience was more into that sort of thing than Friday’s. There were only two instances of ‘boring’ being shouted. On this count I expected the audience would do more.
The audience reaction to the set was greater this time, and then more so when it was fully lit the first time. MAT did an outstanding job designing and constructing it. The scene with Brad and Janet in their car, which I didn’t describe when I reviewed earlier, was something this audience enjoyed as much as the earlier one did. Director Kaleb Sauve came up with using other cast members as the structure of the car. Two formed the dash, using one arm each as wipers and their other arms as doors. Two formed the hood and each had flashlights for headlamps, and there were a couple in the backseat for good measure. It really was comical how it played out, and novel for this audience.
They also had no reservation loudly joining in singing Time Warp both times the song happens, adding in some Janets to fill out the lyrics in Dammit Janet and collectively oohing and aahing when the alien costumes of Magenta and Riff Raff are revealed.
The fellow in the next seat had not been in the Opera House before and told me it had been years since he’d seen a play. He was suitably impressed with the entire experience. One thing I noted on both visits was the overwhelming number of people who I did not recognize. I was told many were from out of town, and I also expect many others were having their first exposure to MAT, or theatre in general.
Friday I sat in the area of Gord’s Room I usually watch shows from, which I do so I have a baseline perspective from show to show, mostly for listening. On opening night I was in the last row on the opposite side of the house from the audio board and it’s operator. I have been having issues with how concerts have been sounding lately, and Friday night I think I discovered why. On opening night I thought the audio portion of the performance was greatly improved over recent events I had been to. It was definitely less bassy and with that, less boomy. Friday night things were back to being heavy on the bottom end. I think the balcony structure is taking care of the low frequencies, making things sound OK to whoever is operating the board, while beyond the edge of the balcony overhang things are quite different.
One thing I didn’t expect was how I perceived the light show that makes a good part of the second act a visual treat. Friday night it didn’t seem as impressive, though it was still great, and I think the framing of the balcony which narrows the field of view may have compressed the effect, making it more intense. It’s like the difference between swimming in a pool and swimming in the ocean. It feels different and yet both are swimming.
MAT had audiences of more than 400 people each performance of the two week run, with a few sold out shows, and a few close to sold out. This choice of material was definitely a winner for MAT.
- Creative Nomad Studios has their Orillia Christmas Market happening November 25 from 5 to 9 p.m. and November 26 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Santa will be flying in on the 26th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Washago Arts and Crafts Market happens November 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Washago Community Centre.
- The Orillia Public Library has an event that’s right up my alley. November 26 at 5 p.m. they have Bad Art Night. This is what they say it’s about: “Do you have a passion for art but a complete lack of talent and skill? Then Bad Art Night is the program for you! Join us for a night of creative fun and pizza. Create one of a kind disasterpieces and earn prizes for your terribleness.” This event is for those over 18. The cost is $5 and you need to be a library member in good standing. You can register to attend here.
- Last Sunday evening’s Orillia Youth Centre concert at Fern Resort with William Prince and Le Ren was successful. Apparently I was the only one who thought it was prudent not to be driving Sunday evening – at least according to photos I’ve seen of the event. Kevin Gangloff reported, with more accounting to do, they made more than $18,500 on the night which will be split between the youth centre and Rama Youth Services.
- Have you ever heard the line – libraries are more than just about books? Well, the folks at the Orillia Public Library really mean it. They are taking donations online to fund a Library of Things; stuff like various home supplies and tools, kitchen gadgets, arts and crafts, electronics, and recreational activities and games. There is no goal, but last year people donated $15,000 for gadgets for their Makerspace, so they hope this program will be as successful. You can also mail them a cheque, or bring your donation in.
- Jay Fallis wrote a book, yes, that Jay Fallis. It’s called Ireland Awakening: A Post Covid-19 Travel Story and tells the tale of a young man wandering the Emerald Isle and the humourous adventures ensuing with the people he meets. Its available starting December 1 at Manticore Books.
- The Orillia Concert Band has their annual Christmas Prelude Dec. 3 at St. Paul’s Centre. The Orillia Vocal Ensemble are guest performers. It’s at 7:30 p.m. Meanwhile at 3:30 p.m. same place, the OCB, with the Orillia Community Children’s Choir as guests, will do a short version of the show for kids. In both cases you can get tickets at the door.
- You can still take the City of Orillia’s survey to get feedback on your experience with their See You On The Patio program of last summer. It doesn’t take long to do and you can find it here.
- The City and the DOMB have a contest happening called the Orillia Discover Downtown Goosechase Scavenger Hunt. It uses the Goosechase app which you can get from Apple, or if you are not a believer the Google Play Store. There are 50 missions to choose from to complete (is someone a Hip fan?) such as uploading a receipt from a Wednesday night date, finding the Elf and getting a photo, or a photo of your favourite store, etc. There are weekly prizes worth $300 and a grand prize of $1,000 of Downtown Dollars good at most stores. The contest runs to December 31.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Angie Nussey playing November 25; Liz Anderson plays November 26 and Will Davis and Chris Robinson are in the afternoon November 27; Wilverine is back for Vinyl Night December 1; Sam Johnston is in Dec. 8; remember when there used to be at least one place doing New Year’s Eve right up to midnight? Get tickets online for Couchiching’s, Rocksteady is playing; Reay is playing January 28, it’s a fundraiser for the Sharing Place Good Bank and tickets are $15… Mark Stewart plays the Grape and Olive Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. … Quayle’s Brewery has Sammy playing November 25; Jacob Hammond November 26; Ron Whitman November 27… the Hog N’ Penny has Postman Dan playing Saturday night.
- OMAH’s annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition is up. Also up is Sylvia Tesori’s The Man Who Could Fly; The Girl Who Flies In Her Dreams solo show and The History Of Orillia In 50 Artefacts exhibit – which is being turned into a book. The launch for the book is December 15. OMAH also has Music and Mocktails every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. … Hibernation Arts guest artist this month is Renee Van Der Putten and they are part of an Indoor Art Walk November 26 from noon to 5 p.m. in the Arts District; there will be artists on hand to meet; also, Zephyr Art, which currently has member art hanging at Hibernation, is disbanding after 25 years – this won’t be the last time we’ll see art from the members, but showing as group it will be… Peter Street Fine Arts is launching this year’s 6×6 show and the boards are ready to pick up at last year’s fee level; their guest this month is also Renee Van der Putten…Tanya Cunnington, Bewabon and Cal Shilling are having a one night show December 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Lee Contemporary Art … Cloud Gallery has Patricia Clemmens’s first solo show up until December 1; the next opening/reception is December 2 with art by Lori Meeboer and Brigitte Granton from 6 to 9 p.m.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Sam Johnston at the 2022 Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards.