Tuesday, October 25, 2016

An Artful day in Niagara

Since I have another rather light week for delivering mail, as in no work as of yet this week, I have been taking advantage of the down time to experience some of the pleasures I don't often get a chance to enjoy when the workload is pretty steady.  Today that included attending a couple of arts-related events in St. Catharines.

Last summer you might recall the first season of The Foster Festival took place in downtown St. Catharines at the new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre.  It is the first-ever festival devoted entirely to the work of Canada's greatest and most prolific living playwright, Norm Foster.  The nine-week season included three Foster plays, including one World Premiere in August to wrap up the season.

The season started a little slower than expected, I think, as people got used to a theatre festival in the summertime in downtown St. Catharines.  After all, it has been a long while since theatre of any kind took place over the summer months in the city core.  As The Foster Festival chugged along during its inaugural season, it indeed pick up steam and people were talking about the high quality of the performances and just how nice it is to go out on a summer evening and have a nice dinner followed by some great live theatre.

This is what downtown St. Catharines is all about now, and not just in the summer months, either.  The PAC and the neighbouring Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts are both offering plenty of reasons to come downtown all season long.  And just down the street at the Meridian Centre
entertainment of a different sort plays out courtesy the Niagara Ice Dogs and various road shows coming through town.

So today, many arts supporters gathered at Brock University's Rodman Hall on St. Paul Crescent to hear what is in store next season for the 2nd instalment of The Foster Festival.  It's safe to say you can plan to laugh at regular intervals next summer at the PAC.

While this past season saw one World Premiere, next season will see two.  The first, Screwball Comedy, opens June 21st and runs through July 7th.  The story is set in 1938 and centres around Mary Hayes, a budding reporter trying to break into the largely male-dominated world of newspapers.

The second play of the season will be Norm Foster's Old Love, a play he wrote about 7 or so years ago, and it will run from July 12th to the 28th.  The two main characters in Old Love, Bud and Molly, meet up at her husband's funeral and things just sort of grow from there.

The third and final play of the season will be the second World Premiere, Lunenburg, which is being described as a "work in progress".  In other words, Norm is still writing it so we don't have a lot of details on this one yet.  But we do know it opens August 2nd and will run to August 18th.

The Foster Festival is headed up by Artistic Director Patricia Vanstone and Executive Director Emily Oriold, and today they both expressed their gratitude for the support offered both by the City of St. Catharines and citizens of the city who have come together to show their support for the fledgling festival.

Some said it couldn't be done.  But they did it, and with style, too.  The productions last summer were exceptionally well done, and there is little doubt the festival will be a summer staple in Niagara for years to come.

You can already buy your tickets to next summer's shows by calling the PAC box office at 905-688-0722.  More details on the upcoming season can be found by going to www.fosterfestival.com.

Speaking of the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, I took advantage of the free time today to attend the third Music@Noon recital sponsored by the RBC Foundation in the Cairns Recital Hall at the PAC.  Every Tuesday at noon through the Brock school year, faculty and/or students in the Department of Music at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts come over to the PAC to perform a free recital over the noon-hour.

Today, Patricia Dydnansky on flute, Colin Maier on oboe and Karin Di Bella on piano presented a delightful programme of largely trio pieces by Berlioz, Bach, Doing, Delibes and Franz Doppler.  The whole concert lasted about 40 minutes, and I was happy to see a very well-attended event once again.

This is a wonderful opportunity to do something different over your lunch hour if you happen to be downtown anyways, and it is absolutely free.  What more could you want?

Next week November kicks off with a recital by piano, vocal and instrumental students from the Department of Music.  The fall season runs through to December 6th, with the winter season starting up January 24th and running through to April 4th.

For a complete list of all the concerts and other events with the Department of Music, go to www.brocku.ca/music.

Have a great week!

October 25th, 2016.

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