This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Mariposa Arts Theatre started its run of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit at the Opera House this week.

The elevator pitch is a writer thinks he can find inspiration by inviting a medium over for dinner hoping he’ll get something out of it for his next book. Said medium brings the former wife into the picture, former wife does not like current wife. Hilarity ensues.

Rounding out the characters are a doctor and his wife and the maid, of course there‘s a maid.

Credit to director Doug Ironside for not having the cast adopt British accents, and for the cast not going down that road, except for lead Conal Derdall who has a hint of one. As it is, Coward intentionally created characters we aren’t supposed to like and less than convincing accents are the surest way for me to not like a character.

Why don’t we like them? It’s because none of them act with any sympathy toward each other in a typically pretentious middle class (upper maybe) manner, kind of like office managers with a false sense of their own importance in lives of their charges and their value to the company.

The doctor and wife (Ted Fleming and Laurel Dewar) seem to be along for the ride because, how else do you have a séance unless there’s four people at the table?

Caitlin Robson and Conal Derdall

The former wife, Elvira (Caitlin Robson), is selfish, and the spirit in this tale. She wants her former husband (who is the only one to see her) to join her, except he’s not dead yet. She fixes the car to crash, except the wrong person (current wife, Ruth – Stacey Schat) ends up dead.

Candy Pryce is the medium who sets the action in motion. You know she’s the medium because her fashion sense is, well, flamboyant, almost enough to match her histrionics, but not enough to match her skill as a medium. She leaves the dinner party not knowing her theatrics worked. Which is to say she’s overjoyed when she finds out later whatever she did worked and she has to come back to get rid of Elvira. Her incompetence compounds the matter, bringing Ruth back instead.

Or so we think. It runs out the maid (Samantha Cole) has more to with the turn of events than the medium. How we aren’t really told, or I missed that line.

Candy Pryce and Laurel Dewar

Here’s what makes this production work. It’s the direction to play the characters so we find nothing to like about them. Not that we hate them, we just don’t care. The cast plays them well enough we stay invested in the story. This is achieved with humour, playing the lines straight, but in a way the audience laughs. And we laugh mostly at their banality. The things they find important are trivial to us, and what we see as trivial they place great importance in. Kind of like your office manager does.

I think Coward was trying as much to write a comedy, with World War II raging at the time, as he was to writing a satire of his peers. When you peel the humour layer off, these people are just a bunch of self-interested, opinionated, nobodies of any importance. The only one who sees it is the doctor who on occasion injects some balloon piercing commentary to the flow of conversation – not that the other characters notice. We laugh when he says them, but we also realize he’s right.

The set is plain and functional. You won’t be dazzled by any grand appointments like some of the other sets Brian Halbot and Wayne Lennox usually create, but when things start to go bump in the night is when their creativity becomes apparent to the audience.

Blithe Spirit runs to April 23 with Sunday matinees. You can get tickets online. Also happening at the Opera House soon are concerts by Ian Thomas April 28, Against the Wind April 29 (see story), Empty Space | Empty Time and Worlds Within – a dance program presented by Arts Orillia on May 10, and Laugh for Lake Simcoe a fundraiser for Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition with comedians  Martha Chaves, Jon Steinberg and Rob Bebeneck on May 26.

Gordon Lightfoot at the 2019 Mariposa Folk Festival

By now you likely have heard Gordon Lightfoot cancelled a bunch of concerts because he is, “experiencing some health related issues.”  I called his office to find out more, but there isn’t more to know at the moment. Knowing Gord, he’ll be determined to get back into shape. When I know more, you’ll know more.

In the meantime, if you weren’t there, the Mariposa Folk Festival just put up a video of Gord’s induction to the Mariposa Hall of Fame.

More Public Art

The City sent out notice there’s an announcement to unveil a new piece of the collection April 20 at 3:30 p..m.

It will happen at the Orillia Recreation Centre and the piece is called Endorphin. It’s by Quebec City artist Camille Rajotte. Its part of the same project which has 6 sculptures and a mural being installed in various places around the City and funding comes from the same $331,700 grant from the federal government as the other pieces. You can see examples of Rajotte’s other work here. The notification references 9 art pieces and this accounts for 8.

Roots North

There are still a few tickets left for the  annual Roots North Music Festival. This week I’m adding some links to the music you might hear for those who aren’t sure of committing yet.

Michael Kaeshammer

The main stage shows Friday night with Tommy Youngsteen, and The Ronnie Douglas Band and Saturday with Meredith Moon, Kellie Loder, and Michael Kaeshammer will need tickets. Those happen at St. Paul’s Centre and the basement level has an Art Market like previous years.

The rest of the schedule for participating venues looks like this. Thursday night Sammy is at the Lone Wolf Café; Scott Olgard is at Picnic; and Couchiching Craft Brewing has their Vinyl Night happening.

Friday Chris Lemay is at the Sunken Ship; Michael and Cassandra are at Eclectic Café,; Rebekah Hawker is at the Lone Wolf; Alex Barber is at Quayle’s Brewery; Bella is at Rustica, Cam Galloway is at Couchiching Brewing – and Terry Savage is at Picnic while Jakob Pearce with Dave Hewitt are at the Kenzington after the main stage show is over.

Saturday James Gray is at Picnic, Jake and Millie are at the Sunken Ship, Errol Lee is at Creative Nomad (10:30 a.m. This one has a ticket charge – 2 for $10), Bella is at Mark IV Brothers (11 a.m.), The Orillia Music Centre (at St. Paul’s Centre) has a music workshop (11 a.m.) and a hand drumming workshop (1 p.m.), David Crighton is at Hibernation Arts, Shawna Caspi is at Eclectic Café, VK is at Provenance Wine Bar, Shawn Patrick hosts a jam at the Hog ‘N Penny (those are all afternoon gigs); Genevieve Cyr (afternoon) and Steven Henry (evening) are at Quayle’s; Steph Dunn is at Lot 88. The Black Suit Devil plays at Picnic and Johnni X is at the Kenzington after the main stage show is done.

Sunday Will Davis and Chris Robinson are at Couchiching; The Griddle Pickers are at the Common Stove; Dead Zone is at Alleycats; Claire Coupland and Sarah Hiltz are at Picnic and Steve Parkes and Pete Sanderson host a jam at the Sunken Ship.

There is no need for tickets for any of the non-main stage gigs, but you should make reservations.

Also, the festival is giving away 2 weekend passes, which includes an overnight at the Champlain Hotel, enter here.

The Shorts

  • The Mariposa Folk Festival audition concert at St. Paul’s Centre is free to attend. It happens Apr. 30 at 1 p.m. and the bands auditioning are Bud Rice, Dawson Gamble, JD Crosstown, Julia Finnegan, Po Boy and Calamity Jane, Sam Kruger, The Dog House Orchestra, The Gardeners and The Handsome Devils. Ticket sales for the summer festival are running ahead of last year’s sold out festival. There’s also a Youtube playlist, a preview of 55 videos by artists appearing at the festival this year.
  • The Cellar Singers’s annual gala/cabaret fundraiser is Apr. 15 At St. James’ Anglican Church. At this event the focus is on individual and small group performances that are more toward the fun side of serious singing. You can get tickets online.
  • MAT’s next Film Night at the Galaxy has Emily showing on Apr. 26. Showtimes are 4 and 7 p.m. and tickets are $15 only at the door.
  • Twin Lakes Secondary School’s annual theatrical production is happening soon. This year it’s called Thunder Years. It’s a revue of the previous 49 student productions, kind of a 50th anniversary event. It happens Apr. 27/28 at the school and you can get tickets at the school office.
  • Arts Orillia invites youth under the age of 25 to participate in their Theatre & Cross Creativity program Apr. 23-27 at the Opera House. They are also inviting people over 65 to participate in this program about storytelling. It’s a workshop kind of thing with a performance in the Studio Theatre. The program is led by Iain Moggach, artistic director of Theatre by the Bay and Clara McBride, faculty at Toronto Metropolitan University’s acting program. Send them your details here.
  • The Hawkestone Singers spring concert is May 13 at the Hawkestone Community Hall. They’ll be singing tunes by Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Adele, Sting, and Elton John. You can call 705-984-7110 to get tickets for the 7 p.m. concert.
  • The Orillia Concert Band’s next event is May 13 at St. Paul’s Centre and their guest performer is Jacquie Dancyger Arnold. She’ll be playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Bach’s Solfeggietto.  Also on the band’s program are Farandole, Moorside March, Nimrod, and Lady of Spain. The band is also rehearsing Finlandia. You can get tickets online.
  • Robert Gronfors and together with Philip Lalonde have created a Youtube channel to share films Jim Kelly (Speedy) shot at various concerts in the 70s. The newest video is from a June 1975 Pink Floyd concert at Ivor Wynne Stadium. There’s others of concerts by Max Webster, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick Van Halen, B B King, The Who, Z Z Top, Grand Funk Railroad and Genesis. Some of them have audio carefully dubbed in, but most have no audio.
  • The submission period for the Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest is open until May 8 there are three three categories – adult, teens and children. The total prize pool is $2,000. You can find the nomination rules and registration online. And, the museum has a new exhibit, A Leacock Love Story. It’s about Stevie and Beatrix, not that other one. You can see it Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May.
Hibernation Arts Artists Gayle Schofield, Jenny Lawson, Molly Farquharson, Barbara Schmidt and David Crighton
  • OMAH has a bus tour to the McMichael May 4, but you have to register by Apr. 27; The day’s itinerary and other info is here. All the exhibits at OMAH (except for David Alan Hill and Christine Mack’s Beyond the Fence) are coming down Apr. 15; The International Women’s Day Art Show opens Apr. 29; exhibits of Elizabeth Wyn Wood and Donald Stuart works also open the same day; the next History Speaker’s Night is with Judy Humphries, head of the Gravenhurst Fire College archives, who will speak about the history of the now closed college; it’s going to be on Zoom Apr. 19 and you can register online soon… Hibernation Arts has tons of new art to see; some by gallery regulars and some by two artists (Jennifer Lawson and Melissa Van Dam) new to the gallery; this month’s guest artist is Ukrainian photographer Alina Hromko (she’s only been in Canada since the fall and her portraits are very good); Peter Street Fine Arts has art by Georgina Hackett-McHugh featured this month; she creates pieces with wood and on t-shirts… Creative Nomad has two events at the same time happening; Floe and Story Creatures combines photography by Sean Rees, with performance art by Kate Hilliard; the photos will be up until May 7 (free) and The Storey Creatures part happens Apr. 28 at 7 p.m., April 29 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and you can get tickets here.
Photographer Alina Hromko at Hibernation Arts
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Chris Lemay in to play Apr. 15; April 20 is Vinyl Night with DJ Wilverine; The Rick Robichaud Band is in Apr. 22… Quayle’s  Brewery has My Missing Piece in April 15; Kat Chabot Apr. 16; and Alex Barber Apr. 21… Steve Parkes and Pete Sanderson host a new jam at The Sunken Ship. Michael Martyn is playing at Picnic Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. … The Bowie Lives show, which played a respectable concert the Opera House last September (review), will be at the Midland Cultural Centre Apr. 28; tickets.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Conal Derdall, Stacey Schat, Ted Flemming and Laurel Dewar in Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Blithe Spirit – photo by Ada Malmstrom

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