The Blyth Festival, an established showcase for new Canadian plays and musicals, will be staging six shows in its 2001 summer season, ranging from a story of mass murder to the tale of a legendary Newfoundland ghost.
The season in Blyth, Ontario, opens June 15 with The Outdoor Donnellys, a dramatization of a true story about the Donnelly family who settled in the London, Ontario, area in the late 19th century. "They ran a stagecoach business," festival director of communications Christine Kemp told Playbill On-Line, "and were so hated that one night a local mob murdered the family and burned down their house."
The script, which is currently being developed in a workshop by the actors who will appear in the play, will be staged throughout the sleepy Ontario town of Blyth and the audience will move with the play to various indoor and outdoor locations, Kemp said.
At each performance, a structure representing the family's home will be burned, she said. This, of course, puts a good deal of stress on the festival's scenery resources and the play will run just two weeks, closing July 1. The Outdoor Donnellys will be directed by Paul Thompson.
A more conventional proscenium setting — Blyth Memorial Community Hall, home of the season's remaining shows — is in store for a revival of The Passion of Narcisse Mondoux, by Gratien Gelinas, a well-known French Canadian playwright. Ted Johns stars as a rural plumber determined to win the hand of the mayor's alluring widow. This comedy will be directed by Linda Moore and runs July 3-Aug. 24. Romance is also the theme of Cruel Tears, described as a "country and western opera," written by Ken Mitchell, with music by the group, Humphrey and the Dumptrucks. Originally produced in 1970, it is the story of a daring young truck driver who woos his boss's daughter, only to run into jealousy and betrayal. Blyth associate artistic director Eric Coates directs Cruel Tears, which runs July 12-Sept. 2.
Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent, whom American television audiences may remember as Constable Benton Fraser's father in the show "Due South," has written a play called Corner Green. Drawing on Pinsent's Newfoundland roots, the play's protagonist is Garland Moyle, a man haunted by the legendary spirit Hagge. Moyle can only free himself from Hagge if he discovers the truth about his true love's disappearance 50 years ago.
Directed by Diana Belshaw, the professional premiere of Corner Green runs July 17-Aug. 11.
McGillicuddy, by Keith Roulston, is a world premiere comedy that follows the fortunes of a small-town cop as he battles an arch-criminal kid named Moriarty. Directed by Layne Coleman, it runs Aug. 8-Sept. 15.
The season closes with Sometime, Never, a new play from Norah Harding that continues the saga of a British war bride (also named Norah). Distinctly autobiographical (the playwright is in her 80s), Sometime, Never finds Norah returning home to Britain for Christmas, wiser about marriage and life in Canada. Harding's 1996 play, This Year, Next Year, introduced the character of Norah. Directed by Terry Tweed, it runs Aug. 22-Sept. 9.
Blyth, Ontario, is about 130 miles west of Toronto and about 150 miles northeast of Detroit. Travel and ticket information can be found at www.blythfestival.com or by phoning (877) 862-5984. Tickets go on sale April 2 to festival members and April 17 to the general public.
— Solange De Santis, Canadian correspondent