PERTH – When members of the national capital region’s theatre scene gathered at the National Arts Centre on December 3, the Classic Theatre Festival was honoured with two Capital Theatre Awards, capping off its 9th successful summer season in heritage Perth.
The 20th annual awards ceremony, organized by some of Canada’s top theatre reviewers, presented Toronto-based performer Catherine McNally with a Best Actress Award for her performance as Kitty Warren in the Festival’s 2018 production of the GB Shaw classic Mrs. Warren’s Profession, which was directed by the Festival’s Artistic Producer Laurel Smith. In a new surprise category for an outstanding body of work in publicity and outreach, Festival Associate Producer Matthew Behrens was given the Audrey Ashley Award, named for the late writer who worked as the Ottawa Citizen’s music and drama editor for an unprecedented 25 years.
Since the Classic Theatre Festival in Perth was founded by Laurel Smith in Perth in 2009, it has garnered consistently strong reviews as well as multiple awards nominations for artistic excellence. Smith herself was nominated this year both for Best Direction – her third nomination in the category since 2016 – and Best Production (again, her third consecutive nomination) for the nail-biting thriller Angel Street, aka Gaslight.
“As we get prepared to mark our 10th anniversary season, we are grateful for many things, not least of which is the recognition of our professional peers, who clearly appreciate the way we have built a Festival that not only produces new interpretations of classics from the golden age of Broadway and the London stage, but also celebrates local heritage with our walking plays,” say Smith. “It’s also been an important economic driver for the summer tourism market, when thousands of Festival guests are spending more and more time enjoying the sights of Perth and Lanark County, eating in restaurants, shopping downtown, and staying overnight too.”
Smith says the latest round of awards is a nice boost as the Festival enters its anniversary season. “As people call in to order their 2019 tickets, we hear time and again how much people enjoy the experience of coming to Perth,” she says. “The feedback we get is particularly strong when it comes to being welcomed by our fantastic Front of House volunteers as well as our young summer staff, who have become real brand ambassadors for this beautiful town.”
As part of a company that appreciates Canadian theatre history, Behrens says it was humbling to receive an award honouring someone who played such an important role in promoting and documenting the capital region’s artistic milieu.
In an article on Ashley, retired Carleton University professor and Classic Theatre Festival attendee James Noonan wrote: “Ashley suffered the fate of many theatre critics whose editors were not always sympathetic to their work. While she received support from some editors, she served under one who had no use for ‘culture’ and felt the main focus of The Citizen should be national affairs. Music and theatre were extras, to be inserted where space was not needed for more important events. She endured the indignity of one editor who “vandalized” her stories, and eliminated a column on the arts which she had written for several years. Eventually, in 1977, Ashley was replaced as Music and Drama Editor. A critic’s lot is not always a happy one, and we can only admire her tenacity and dedication to her work in remaining with the newspaper after being treated so shabbily.”
The Festival is now busily preparing for its 10th anniversary season in 2019. Next season’s mainstage offerings will feature the 9th-longest running play in Broadway history, the remarkable WW2-era romantic comedy The Voice of the Turtle (by John Van Druten); George Bernard Shaw’s most popular play, the hilarious Pygmalion (the basis for the musical My Fair Lady); and the longest-running comedy-
The Festival also plans its 5th annual season of theatrical walking plays with a brand new show on how residents of Perth came together to survive the Great Depression (running five mornings and two evenings a week). In addition, after the Festival’s huge success of its completely sold-out dinner theatre run at Michael’s Table, a new dinner theatre show will play both Tuesday evenings and Tuesday at lunchtime from June 4 to the end of August. It will feature the Shaw satire on the Roman Empire, Androcles and the Lion.
Those interested in enjoying deep discounts to the 10th anniversary season can receive 25% savings on a season flex pass between now and December 31, and they don’t have to pick their dates until next summer. “They make great gifts for holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and ‘just because’ moments, too,” Smith says.
Tickets can be ordered online at www.classictheatre.ca or by calling 1-877-283-1283.
Featured Photo: The Classic Theatre Festival’s Associate Producer Matthew Behrens, Board Secretary Stephen Dale, and Actor Catherine McNally celebrate at the National Arts Centre’s Capital Theatre Awards, where the Perth-based company was again recognized for artistic excellence.