Comedy ‘Ben Hur’ to open season for Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre

ANTIGONISH: Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre will open its 32nd season on July 10 with Ben Hur, a comedy of epic proportions.

The play is a comic homage to the blockbuster Hollywood film based on the novel by General Lew Wallace. The movie featured 200 camels, 2,500 horses and over 10,000 extras.

This hilarious adaption of the vengeful saga of Judah Ben Hur and his childhood friend Messala attempts to include the same grandiose scenes and heroic characters, but with only four determined actors who are ready to take on the might of the Roman empire. They navigate through palaces, galley ships, and the Colosseum, while an onstage romance threatens to topple everything. Ben Hur is a gigantic task for these brave actors, and they promise to do their very, very best. With a tiny troupe and an epic story, what could go wrong?

This is the first Canadian production of this play, written by award-winning UK playwright Patrick Barlow (famous for his four-person adaptation of The 39 Steps, among others). The play is directed by artistic director Andrea Boyd, with set and lighting design by Ian Pygott, and costume design by Elizabeth Perry. It features Halifax actors Rachel Lloyd and Henricus Gielis (Henri is returning for his second consecutive season), Toronto actor Matt Lacas, and Festival Antigonish veteran and New Brunswick-based actor Wally MacKinnon.

“We have a fabulous, funny, and courageous cast on stage” says Boyd. “The play is very funny, and also very challenging, and I am excited to have it as our season opener. Our audiences will enjoy watching it, and our artists will also enjoy working with material that is so interesting and challenging. There are dozens of costume changes, multiple characters, and lots of surprises.”

Ben Hur opens July 11, with a pay-what-you-can preview on July 10. All evening shows take place at 8 p.m. at the Bauer Theatre, and matinees take place at 2 p.m. Tickets are available on-line (any time) and at the Bauer Theatre box office (9 a.m.–9 p.m., Monday–Saturday). A limited number of season passes are also still available, and offer a great deal with a 15 per cent saving on main stage tickets. A complete schedule and show details can be found on-line at: www.festivalantigonish.com or by calling (902) 867-3333.

The Pay-what-you-can Preview show on July 10 is sponsored by Keltic Ford. The show starts at 8 p.m., general seating begins at 7:30 p.m., with admission by donation at the door. Early lineup is recommended.

Festival Antigonish is grateful for the support of its funding partners – Arts Nova Scotia, Canada Council for the Arts, the Town of Antigonish, and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, StFX University, main stage co-sponsors MacLeod Group and Atlantic Windows, the production sponsor for Ben Hur, Grant Thornton, and all supporting businesses and partners.

The 2019 season theme is “Dream Big.” Other upcoming plays in the season include the charming comedy A Brimful of Asha, country music tribute Honky Tonk Blue: The Night Patsy Met Hank, the dark comedy The Goodnight Bird, and a musical for young audiences that is based on Sheree Fitch’s acclaimed book If You Could Wear My Sneakers.