ANTIGONISH: “We are unique, as a summer theatre in Nova Scotia, in that our mandate is very broad. It contains a lot of diverse programming – in that it is International and Canadian works. I’m looking across the country to see what is happening; but also, to see what else is out there. Each show is very unique.”
This from Andrea Boyd, artistic director of Festival Antigonish. The 2019 Summer programming featured Ben-Hur; A Brimful of Asha; The Goodnight Bird; Honky Tonk Blue; If You Could Wear My Sneakers; and Theatre On the Town.
“Festival Antigonish has been doing really well, this summer season. Sometimes there is one show that the box office demonstrates a lower attendance than others – even though that can also be the show that ends up winning the awards. This year, the response is very good and popularity is spread out across all the shows. It’s really lovely to see.
Festival Antigonish also offers “Beyond the Stage.” These performances are play readings which take place in the Green Room Bar and Cabaret Space at the Theatre.
“The bar is open so you can have a glass of wine while you listen to professional actors do a reading of the plays. It is a very intimate setting, it’s for folks who really love theatre. This year there are three terrific plays, by three Canadian female playwrights. There has been a lot of positive feedback.”
Another huge success this year are the Children’s Theatre Camps. Boyd says the classes fill up quite quickly and the kids are having a blast.
“We have done three weeks of Kids Theatre Camps. These are taught by members of the Festival Antigonish Young Company, who are generally emerging professionals in the field. These are the folks who are cast in the show that we do for kids.”
Boyd says, this year these actors were also cast in the “Theatre on The Town” project, which presented original, 10-minute plays created in four different locations around Antigonish.
“These are the actors who are teaching the camps. It’s great, because the kids come and they can see their teachers in one of those plays. Then they come and they get to do theatre workshops with them.”
Since Boyd took the position of artistic director in 2016, festival attendance has been consistently rising.
“I’m a big believer in my communitym,” Boyd said. “I really want to program shows that my community wants to see. I have been working to open up to more variety than what may have been available in the past. Each season I try to run something that people will be drawn to, want to buy tickets to, something really fun. So, this year that was the Ben Hur play – which is four actors taking on the might of the Roman Empire.
“I also try to program things with a little more heart and a little more meaning. I’m looking for plays that are written by women – so there is equal representation there – that is very important to me.”
With the wrap up of the summer season underway, performances at the theatre are beginning to wind down. Boyd says the support of the community has been huge, this year.
“The main theme [for our programming], this year, has been to ‘Dream Big.’ Because each show’s premise, for one reason or another, has centered around the need for a lot of big dreaming. It’s been going incredibly well. It has really paid off.”