Sunday, February 19, 2017

Foster Festival gears up for Season Two

It doesn't seem possible we are already talking about the upcoming second season of the Foster Festival in St. Catharines, but here we are anticipating summertime laughs at the PAC.

If you were not paying attention the last couple of years, the Foster Festival was formed by Executive Director Emily Oriold and Artistic Director Patricia Vanstone to celebrate the plays of Canada's favourite playwright, Norm Foster.  Foster, who has been a summer theatre circuit staple for over a quarter of a century, now has a festival devoted entirely to his vast body of work for the stage.

In the inaugural season in the Cairns Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the Foster Festival presented three Foster plays, each playing for about 3 weeks each, running from late June through to late August.  Two Foster classics were staged along with a premiere of a new Foster play; the Festival has as part of its mandate to premiere at least one new play by their namesake playwright each year.

The first season started slowly but as the word got out this is no ordinary summer theatre festival, sales picked up and by the end of the summer everyone was pleased with the outcome of the first season.  Would there be room for improvement?  Of course there would be.  But was it the right decision to base the Festival in downtown St. Catharines?  I would have to say absolutely yes!

Foster himself appeared in the first play of the season, On a First Name Basis, and attended the opening nights of the following two plays.  So he is very much a part of the Festival that bears his name.

This year, the Foster Festival unveils not one but two new Foster plays as they continue to gain a foothold in the busy summertime entertainment schedule here in Niagara with a roster of new and returning artists both from the Shaw Festival and movies and TV.

The season kicks off June 21st with the World Premiere of Screwball Comedy, directed by Patricia Vanstone and starring Joanna Douglas, Kevin Hare, Darren Keay and Eliza Jane Scott.  Keay returns after a successful run in last year's World Premiere, Halfway to the North Pole.

Screwball Comedy is set in 1938 and involves budding reporter Mary Hayes, trying to break into the male-dominated world of newspaper reporting.  Full of snappy period dialogue, this comedy sends up the screwball comedies we all remember seeing in the theatre while growing up.

Foster's Old Love opens July 12th, and features the real-life husband and wife team of Janet-Laine Green and Booth Savage as Molly and Bud.  Also starring is Melanie Janzen, who wowed audiences last year as the trio of women in Here on the Flight Path.

Old Love, also directed by Vanstone, is a story of courtship, rekindled romance and the importance of hope in everyday life.  Bud is divorced and Molly is recently widowed.  At her husband's funeral, they meet...

The third and final play of the season is the second World Premiere of the season at the Foster Festival, a play titled Lunenburg.  Again directed by Vanstone, the play features the return of Melanie Janzen along with Shaw veteran actors Peter Krantz and Catherine McGregor.  Lunenburg opens August 2nd and will close down the Festival on August 18th.

Lunenburg is set, naturally, in Lunenburg Nova Scotia, and mixes love, mystery and a lot of laughs as American widow Iris Oulette and friend Natalie arrive in town to a house she's recently inherited from her recently deceased husband.

If you did not attend last year's Festival, I urge you to take some time and discover what's happening in downtown St. Catharines this summer.  The Foster Festival is the only Canadian theatre festival to celebrate the work of a living playwright.  And with Foster already having written about 60 plays to date, the Festival has lots of material to draw upon in coming seasons.

Foster, for his part, is now an Officer of the Order of Canada, a honour bestowed on him back on December 31st.  It is an honour richly deserved and befitting a playwright who has made so many laugh and think for so many years.

To find out more about the Foster Festival, visit their website at  You can purchase tickets directly through the site or through the FirstOntario PAC box office by calling 905-688-0722.

With spring just around the corner, can summertime fun be far behind?

Have a great week!

February 19th, 2017.

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