The festival in rural Blyth, in southwestern Ontario, produces during the summer in the shadow of the nearby Stratford Festival. The festivals' mandates and budget sizes are vastly different, but Blyth is just as passionate as its larger cousin.
Reverend Jonah will be Blyth's 102nd world premiere. The play is based in Gilvray United, "a typical small-town church in typical small-town Ontario," according to Blyth notes. "When the new minister arrives, he meets Phyllis, a hard-bitten survivor on the brink of spiritual re-awakening. Determined to help, the young minister discovers that his happy flock is the cause of Phyllis' unhappiness."
According to production notes, director Marie Beath Badian was drawn to the character of Jonah, "not just as a leader of a congregation, but also as a person — like you and me — who deals with the challenges of a new job, making choices, and balancing his personal ideals with the expectations of his community. I was struck by Paul's frank, honest and open portrayal of a faith-based community facing challenges of tradition, change, forgiveness and acceptance."
The cast is led by Darren Keay as Reverend Jonah and Michelle Fisk as Phyllis. Supporting cast members include Rebecca Auerbach, Ingrid Haas, Randi Helmers, Jefferson Mappin and Elizabeth Thorpe-Hearn. The set and costume designer is Camellia Koo with lighting design by Louise Guinand and sound design by Todd Charlton. Giselle E. Clarke is the stage manager, and Stefanie Seguin is the assistant stage manager.
Reverend Jonah previews at the Blyth Festival Aug. 8, opens Aug. 10 and runs in rep to Sept. 1. For more information, call (877) 862-5984 or visit the website at www.blythfestival.com.
Eric Coates is artistic director of the Blyth Festival.