Presenting its third summer of classical theatre in a converted hockey rink, the Atlantic Theatre Festival in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, is fast becoming one of the leading summer theatre festivals in Canada.
The festival was born in April 1993 when a group of friends decided that Wolfville, with its many inns and restaurants, was "a festival town without a festival," said artistic director Michael Bawtree. Two years later in June 1995, backed by a federal grant and with the support of the community, "we started, full blown, as a big festival," Bawtree said.
"Our first goal," Bawtree said, "is the absolutely top level production of classics," something that actor and Newfoundland native Jerry Etienne says "doesn't get done nearly enough" in Atlantic Canada. "We wanted it to represent the whole of Atlantic Canada," said Bawtree, so "the company and backstage are a wonderful mix of Maritimers." The actors are so thrilled to be doing such theatre, Etienne said, that those not performing in the still-to-open Uncle Vanya have asked to sit in on rehearsals.
The festival is very small, the thrust-stage theatre seats just over 500 people, but Etienne sees benefits in this. "It's more relaxed and the performance is much more intimate," he said, and with a tight budget, the festival is "more focused."
Bawtree called the combination of support from director Michael Langham and actor Christopher Plummer "tremendously helpful" in getting the Festival off the ground and recognized as a producer of high-quality theatre. Bawtree sees music and a training centre in the Festival's future, and possibly a second theatre, because "there must be places to share the very best." The Company
William Bishop, Bill Carr, Jane Redlyon-Casson, Peter Donat, Jerry Etienne, Megan Follows, Ron Hastings, Kate Hennig, Cliff Le Jeune, David Matheson, Graham Percy, Stephen Pelinski, Deborah Pollitt, Leon Pownall, Les Stockley, Emily Taylor, Catherine Vaneri and Jonathan Watton.
ATF at a Glance
* Tartuffe by Moliere - A satirical comedy of religious hypocrisy, human gullibility and double standards, directed by Michael Bawtree. Set design by Raymond Marius Boucher; costume design by Francois Barbeau. Runs through Sept. 11.
* The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde - The epigrammatic classic of assumed identities, directed by Dominic Cooke. Set and costume design by Michael Eagan. Runs through Sept. 13.
* Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov - A bittersweet comedy about country life between generations of Russian people living on the brink of social upheaval, directed by Helen Burns and Michael Langham. Set design by Neil Peter Jampolis; costume design by Teresa Przybylski. Previews July 30 and 31, opens Aug. 1. Runs through Sept. 13.
* ATF Special Event - A Morning With Peter Gzowski, Canadian writer and broadcaster, June 28.
* Dear Liar by Jerome Kilty - Based on the life-long exchange of letters between George Bernard Shaw and celebrated actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, directed by Michael Bawtree. Limited run of Friday matinees and Sunday evening performances, Aug. 8 - Sept. 7.
* Wolfville is located one hour from the City of Halifax and the Halifax International Airport
* The Atlantic Theatre Festival runs through Sept. 13
* For tickets call 1-800-337-6661 or (902) 542-4242
-- By Laura MacDonald