For two thousand years, pundits have been lamenting the death of theatre. But the glorious artform continues to thrive through everything.
“It’s going to take more than a pandemic to keep us down,” says Jesse Collins, artistic director of the Orillia Opera House.
Indeed, theatre has been growing steadily in Orillia. Even in 2020, the Opera House managed to stage a play – the only professional indoor show in the country at the time.
And this year, theatre is roaring back with a vengeance. It marks the first full summer season since 2019, and audiences are in for a treat.
The season opens with a world premiere. Doris and Ivy in the Home is Norm Foster’s female cast retelling of his own immensely popular Jonas & Barry in the Home, which the Opera House was scheduled to present before the pandemic.
The show stars Opera House favourite Debbie Collins (who most recently wowed audiences here in Where You Are), alongside veteran performers Terri Cherniack, and Daniel Karpenchuk, both of whom are making their Orillia debuts. “This is a hilarious play, and these three performers will have you in stitches,” says Jesse.
The second show of the season is a beloved classic, Driving Miss Daisy. “We like to return to plays that have stood the test of time for good reason,” says Jesse. “This show is warm, funny, and perhaps even more current than when it was first produced.”
It stars Canadian treasure Linda Goranson, Shaw veteran Cassel Miles, and Stuart Dowling, who was a hit in Orillia a few years ago in Murder at the Howard Johnson’s.
On August 1, Cassel will also present his one man show Josiah, which Jesse saw in 2019 and has been raving about ever since.
The season closes with another Norm Foster hit, Come Down from Up River. It’s a hilarious and moving tale of an urbane woman reconnecting with her uncle, a gruff logger from up north. It stars Alison MacKay (The Gentleman Clothier) and Opera House newcomers Cassandra Guthrie and Marshall Button (who CBC listeners will know from his one-man show Lucien.)
All of the shows have one thing in common: they use humour to speak to who we are and invite us to disappear into their stories.
“They say seeing a comedy is like a mini-vacation,” says Jesse. “That makes us the travel agency for the thousands of folks that will join us at the Opera House this summer — and the journey is going to be amazing.”
TEXT A. WAGNER-CHAZALON | PHOTOS COLE BENNETT