January is Icewine Festival time in Niagara. As Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday this year, 2017 marks the 22nd year in which the popular festivals attract wine lovers and foodie fans to celebrate winter's sweet, delectable charms that will be spread throughout 38 participating wineries - 19 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, 7 in Beamsville, 6 in Vineland and 3 each in both St. Catharines and Jordan.
How popular are the festivals? Sylvia Augaitis, Executive Director of Marketing for the Wine Marketing Association of Ontario, says "Niagara's Icewine Festivals attract over 40,000 visitors to Ontario's wine country each year."
The Icewine harvest started early this year with Niagara wineries picking grapes last week as temperatures dipped below minus 8° Celsius. The festivals take place over three weeks in January, kicking off on Friday, January 13th at the Fallsview Casino Resort with the extravagant Xerox Icewine Gala featuring this year's theme - Sugar & Spice...Everything Ice.
They've done it again!
Following a packed performance of Elijah, Chorus Niagara filled dazzling Partridge Hall for a sold-out performance of Handel's Messiah.
This Messiah featured the 100 voices of Chorus Niagara, the Talisker Players performing on period instruments, plus four accomplished soloists - Elizabeth Polese, soprano; Lillian Brooks, mezzo-soprano; Jacques-Olivier Chartier, tenor and Joel Allison, bass-baritone.
Although originally written for Easter, Messiah has become a Christmas musical rite of passage, the Baroque-era oratorio thrilling listeners 250 years long after the composer's death
Jonathan Kandell in Smithsonian Magazine recalls that Handel's superstar status at the time was not the only draw for the first performance of Messiah in Dublin. "Many also came to glimpse the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then embroiled in a scandalous divorce...The men and women in attendance sat mesmerized from the moment the tenor followed the mournful string overture with his piercing opening line: 'Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.' Soloists alternated with wave upon wave of chorus, until, near the midway point, Cibber intoned: "He was despised and...
Yes, we've suffered our first glimpse of flurries, and that means one thing in Canada; it's time for otherwise sane people to purposively grab a broom and slide recklessly along long sheets of ice while pushing round, heavy rocks towards a bull's-eye inside a painted circle far off in the distance or failing that, at other rocks - with resounding thuds and much high-pitched screaming, yelling and groaning along the way.
In St. Catharines at the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the Meridian Centre, you can watch in awe as Canada's elite women's curling teams compete February 18 to 26. It's the first time here for the Scotties, but our ice-makers are experienced, previously hosting both the Canadian Junior Men's and Women's Championships.
Mayor Walter Sendzik sounds up for the tournament, saying, "We look forward to welcoming curlers and their families from across Canada to St. Catharines, to experience our world-class sports facilities and cultural venues, right here in our hometown."
I myself have been practising by screaming, "Sweep! Sweep Hard!" at my spouse, but thus far she is neither impressed nor amused.
Vintage Hotels Returns With Annual Tree Of Hope Campaign 2016
The Vintage Hotels properties, (excluding the Moffat Inn) will be participating in the 'Tree of Hope' campaign. Each property has chosen a local charity to collect donations for. Trees will be filled with names of children in the community who otherwise may not receive a gift on Christmas morning. For those who are able to give a little more during the holidays, an unwrapped gift can be purchased for one of the names displayed on the tree.
Local women's shelter, Gillian's Place is the recipient of the 'Tree of Hope' campaign at Queen's Landing. Gillian's Place offers hope to women and children by providing safety and support through a range of services and by working through effective partnerships with the community to end violence and abuse.
Canada's leading child and youth mentoring charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters will benefit from the strong efforts put forth by the team at Prince of Wales. Big Brothers Big Sisters facilitates life-changing relationships that inspire and empower children and youth to reach their full potential, both as individuals and citizens.
Feature films scheduled every Saturday at 3 p.m., beginning December 3 (except December 24, Christmas Eve):
Sing Street Dec 3
Hell or High Water Dec 10
Captain Fantastic Dec 17
Florence Foster Jenkins Dec 31
Last Cab to Darwin January 7
Café Society January 14
Mustang (subtitles) January 21
Little Men January 28
La La Land February 4
TBA February 11
Denial February 18
Artistic Director Tim Carroll's first season offers a mix of new faces and Festival favourites in this season's 11 productions.
The Festival Theatre stage is home to Michael Therriault's first Festival appearance as he joins Kristi Frank in this season's charming musical Me and My Girl. Sara Topham debuts at The Shaw alongside Gray Powell in Saint Joan. Tom McCamus returns to star in The Madness of George III. André Sills stars in An Octoroon, an edgy and timely exploration of race from one of America's hottest young playwrights.
ME AND MY GIRL Book and Lyrics by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber - Previews April 5 - Opens May 27 - Closes October 15 - A delightful comic romp from the 1930s follows the fortunes of Bill Snibson (Michael Therriault), a proud cockney who is amazed to learn he's actually the fourteenth Earl of Hareford. But if he wants to claim his title, he'll have to shed his old...
Most people know composer Felix Mendelssohn from his dramatic wedding march that dates back to Queen Victoria. Robert Cooper, Artistic Director of Chorus Niagara, recently offered us much more - according to Cooper, the maestro's "greatest of all Romantic oratorios, Elijah."
This event kick-started the season at St. Catharine's new PAC with the Niagara Symphony, augmented by the Redeemer University College Alumni Singers and an impressive array of soloists led by Canadian baritone Russell Braun as Elijah.
At the oratorio's dramatic conclusion, the sold-out audience of 800 patrons sprang to their feet for a well-deserved standing ovation. Each soloist - Leslie Ann Bradley, soprano, Anita Krause, mezzo-soprano, and Adam Luther, tenor, sang beautifully, but if this was a hockey game, Braun would be awarded all three stars. His remarkable voice could literally raise the biblical dead. He was fantastic!
David Perlman, writing in The Wholenote on the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir website, quotes Cooper "I've done the work four times already...it's a magnificent..."
St. Catharines has been long associated as the prestigious site of the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta held here each summer. Local high school competitors who compete on this course are held in high esteem by American Universities who scout the best athletes and offer them enticing scholarships. Brock University itself, has produced 15 talented rowers who have competed in the Olympics, a superb record.
The Brock University men's and women's rowing teams recently christened five brand new boats at Henley Island in St. Catharines. In the ceremony, Brock Rowing honoured three former Brock rowers, a longtime rowing supporter and a well-known...
Decades ago, I had the good fortune to work summers at the Fort Erie racetrack as did many Niagara based NHL players whose salary then was not quite what it is today.
In a morning league for track employees, I shot golf with famed Chicago Blackhawk centre Stan Mikita who, as a junior, played for the St. Catharines Teepees. In the evenings, I played in a fastball league with Gerry Cheevers (our second baseman) a St. Catharines native and NHL goalie for Stanley Cup Boston Bruins teams. One day, we all watched Gerry play box lacrosse for St. Catharines. He played centre, and he was very quick without skates.
That was my first taste of lacrosse, originally played by Canadian natives. Lacrosse and hockey are Canada's two official national sports.
The Discovery Pass - Sampling St. Catharines' Wineries
The Niagara Wine Festival involves delightful wine, food and vineyard experiences at many of Niagara's notable wineries. It's a celebration of the harvest and our popular Niagara wines. I discovered that The Niagara Wine Festival Discovery Pass is a good incentive for wine aficionados. For $40, one is guaranteed 8 food and wine tastings in participating wineries during the festival's three consecutive weekends in September.
Three St. Catharines wineries out of six participated in this program - 13th Street, Hernder and Rockway Glen. Henry of Pelham, Harvest and King's Court did not partake in the Discovery Pass program. 13th Street I have covered, so let's look closer at Hernder and Rockway.
At Rockway, I sampled wine maker, David Stasiuk's Plush White, a 100% Vidal and his blend, White Assemblage - 75% Chardonnay, 15% Gewurztraminer and 10% Riesling. The wine was accompanied...
Irish Classical Theatre Company's 2016-2017 Season Commences
"Sweet Bird Of Youth" by Tennessee Williams, September 16 - October 9
Having had tremendous success with its productions of Death of A Salesman and All My Sons, the Irish Classical Theatre Company is proud to present another great American classic, Sweet Bird Of Youth by Tennessee Williams to kick-off its 2016-2017 Season. Considered by some to be the neglected masterpiece of Williams' great body of work, Sweet Bird Of Youth is set in the late 1950's on the hazy, humid Gulf Coast and powerfully reflects the social and political upheaval of that era.
Sweet Bird Of Youth is Tennessee Williams' wrenching yet mordantly funny meditation on lost innocence and corruption, revealing the dark consequences of the American search for perennial youth and fame. This steamy and haunting portrait of a fading movie star and the desperate silver screen wannabe, Chance Wayne, evokes an era of repressive social strictures where love, sexual passion and redemption are thwarted. Williams' theatrical language is thrilling, mesmerizing and quite beautiful.
"Issues of racism, intolerance, and fear fuel the tumultuous decades of the 1950's and 1960's in America; and, in Sweet Bird Of Youth, they bubble to the surface in the most insidious and thought-provoking way," said Vincent O'Neill, Artistic Director. "Tennessee Williams crafts an emotionally complex story of unrelenting loneliness, grief and regret that touches us on a very visceral level," he continued.
Megan Gilchrist is the personable Education Coordinator at The Shaw Festival which involves a staff of two ladies to oversee exciting and myriad educational initiatives described below.
When I ask her about the aging demographics of theatre goers, lamenting the appearance that I might be considered a youngster amongst aging and graying patrons, she reminds me that former Artistic Director, the esteemed Christopher Newton, when asked the same question, adroitly replied that "they will come when they are ready." It's Megan's job to help people, particularly students at all levels to get ready.
Megan comes by her position honestly. Her father-in-law taught elementary school in Niagara, and a St. Catharines native, she attended Laura Secord SS where she was involved in their band, choir and theatre programs. She worked for five years at the St. Catharines Museum, and patiently parlayed a brief stint at the Shaw's switchboard to her current position which she confesses, is truly...
Move Over TIFF; It's Tinsel Time In St. Catharines
Toronto may have TIFF, but did you know that St. Catharines is home to myriad movie and TV stars? In two weeks time at 8 pm on Wednesday, September 28, a new short film about St. Catharines celebs will premiere at The Film House at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. We might have to change the Garden City moniker to Hollywood North. Quick, get out your over-sized sun glasses.
HOTSHOTS directed by St. Catharines native and Gemini-Award-winning, Sir Winston Churchill graduate David Barlow, showcases some of the surprising number of individuals from St. Catharines who have become national and international stars in film, television, and theatre.
Halfway to the North Pole - FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines
Director Patricia Vanstone is blessed with a strong and talented cast in the third and final play of the St. Catharines based Foster Festival, the premiere of Norm Foster's Halfway to the North Pole and the premiere also of the Festival in the new and inviting PAC. Typical Foster material, the action centers around relationships, failed and forming, with the arrival in town of a young, handsome doctor who seeks a bite to eat in a restaurant hangout where four women meet regularly to share friendship and their observations on life. It's witty, colloquial dialogue that never fails to humanize the group in humorous and sometimes sad ways.
The small town of Stewiacke, Nova Scotia is located exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. Into this town wanders Doctor Sean Merrit, newly dumped by his fiancée and looking to leave his troubles far behind. The first people he meets are four local women, Violet, Mary Ellen, Rita and Janine, each with issues of their own. What follows is a month of lessons learned for all, through hilarity, tears...
Wrestling & Rowing - St. Catharines' Olympic Hopes
As a Lakeport S.S. and Brock University student-athlete, St. Catharines' Marty Calder won the CIAU and OUA Wrestling Championship in 1991-92. Joining the Brock team as a coach in 1994, he has been an integral part of the Badgers wrestling dynasty - 13 national crowns including a CIS record 10 consecutive men's titles (1998-2008) and 28 OUA Championships (16 men and 12 women).
The former two-time Olympian and Canadian University wrestling standout was at the podium recently at jam-packed Guernsey Market at Brock for a celebration of their six athletes and two coaches who are headed to Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio, amidst cheers from hundreds of well-wishers, family members, friends and youngsters. Calder is Assistant coach of our women's wrestling team.
Brock alumnae rowers, Eric Woelfl, Tim Schrijver and coach, Terry Paul, another alumnus, had already...
When I opened the program, a single sheet insert read that for this performance of Sweeney Todd, Jenny L. Wright would fill in for Corrine Koslo in the key role of Mrs Lovett. Damn! I wanted to see Koslo play the main female role opposite Benedict Campbell's Todd because I admire her flair and artistic dexterity. No worries...it turned out that Wright shone brightly as the standby. I couldn't dream of Koslo performing the role any better. Such is the strength of Shaw's talented ensemble.
This is Jackie Maxwell's last show of her final season spanning 14 years at the Festival, and next season, British director Tim Carroll takes over. The strength of Shaw's ensemble may also be its weakness - at least in musicals because some productions demand massive talent for success. Maxwell introduced musicals in Niagara on the Lake to bulk up Shaw's financial take as Stratford had done successfully years ahead. In 2015's Sweet Charity, she cast Julie Martell as Charity and Martel was indeed workmanlike and competent, but that particular role demands...
Dance of Death - The Studio Theatre, Shaw Festival
Danse Macabre or Dance of Death is a medieval symbol of the universality of death. Its premise is that no matter one's station in life, the Dance of Death unites us all. Accordingly, we all dance along to the grave, typically with a pope, emperor, king, child, and labourer to represent our collective fate. Thus, as with the angst of existentialist philosophers, we are reminded of fragility and lack of authenticity.
Dance of Death Edgar (Jim Mezon) and Alice (Fiona Reid) do not need this reminder. Their entire marriage, soon to hit a silver anniversary at 25 years, has itself embodied a dance of death, wherein they actually derive pleasure in tormenting one another.
As soon as I enter the set, masterfully crafted by designer William Schmuck and lit by Louise Guinard, I feel gloomy and imprisoned. We are isolated on a small Swedish island in a reclaimed fortress on top of a jail. All the windows exhibit vertical bars while a door opens to the shrieking sound of gulls, exposing a guard who magically ages between sets - at first young and robust, later, old and limping. A symbolic component of the dance.
Niagara College Teaching Brewery - producing the best future brewers
in North America
When I attended university decades ago, my distinct recollection is that I was an avid beer drinker, but as I walk around Niagara College today, the emphasis here is more on beer making thanks to affable Jon Downing, brew master and professor, originally from Salisbury, the cathedral city in Wiltshire, England.
Jon has reason to be proud of his 74 students ("Our program fills quickly.") and the curriculum initiated in 2010 because job wise, graduates enjoy 99% employment throughout the industry, and he has just returned to campus with his team, named Grand National Champions at the inaugural U.S. Open College Beer Championships, held recently in ...
Shaw's Artistic Director, Jackie Maxwell, introduced us to two racially thematic plays this season, after opening with a totally white cast in Our Town. Her timing is impeccable with the chronic strife filtering weekly from the U.S.A. with black and white Americans shooting one another all over the map, and police officers acting courageously or brutally. A ridiculous Wild West "open carry" of weapons in some states is gasoline poured on to the violent maelstrom as liberals and conservatives try to engage in "democratic" big-city national conventions to elect the next president.
For this reason alone, one might attend first a performance of Master Harold ...and the Boys at the Court House Theatre and also Lisa Codrington's The Adventures of the Black Girl In Her Search for God. For the former, Maxwell says, "(Fugard)... is surely one of the most important playwrights in the late 20th..."
Performing arts buildings are complex. The acoustics, the sight lines and all that have to just be perfect. So you begin with just making these things sublime as musical instruments. And if you fail there, you have failed it all. (Moshe Safdie, famed Canadian-Israeli architect)
Safdie knows what he is talking about. Montreal's Habitat 67 housing complex, Ottawa's National Gallery and Vancouver's Library Square are just a few of his over 100 remarkable architectural projects. And here in Niagara, we are blessed with our own brand new downtown Performing Arts Centre.
Thus, Sara Palmieri is on a roll. She is the Programming and Marketing Manager for the ...
St. Catharines Scores A Cultural Hat-trick Hosting The Norm Foster Festival
Her voice brims over with enthusiasm. Patricia Vanstone is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of The Foster Festival - Humour With Heart, and there is plenty for her about which to be excited.
In December 2014, she struck a deal that fashioned St. Catharines and its new Performing Arts Centre, (Patricia refers to it as a jewel) into the annual setting for The Foster Festival, "a perfect venue for working class people in an area that has always attracted Norm with its wine, eco and bike tourism." She adds that she is thrilled with "the revitalized downtown and success of our restaurant partners." "I hope the Festival runs 40-50 more years," Patricia exclaims!
Patricia tells me that Norm guaranteed her the right of first refusal for all of his world premieres and...
Have you ever wanted to sail aboard a Viking ship? Well, one can - vicariously, as the Draken (dragon) makes its way from her home port in Haugesund, Norway in April all the way across the North Atlantic Ocean, stopping in Toronto this past weekend with stops in the United States
after tying up in St. Catharines, prior to a quick trip through the Welland Canal to Lake Erie.
There is one photographer on the ship and 2 photographers and producers on a support...
The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God -
Court House Theatre
When it appeared that I had achieved the highest marks in grade 8 at Toronto's St. Paul's Catholic School, I was summoned by Father Ramsburger, the parish priest, and with little explanation, he gave me a copy of the Douay-Rheims Bible. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be an aid in my search for God, but over the years, I have witnessed other fascinating searches for The Almighty in literature. Examples abound. The major theme in W.O. Mitchell's classic, Who Has Seen the Wind? involves the child-hero Brian and his search for God and the holy spirit. More recently, Yann Martel's wonderful Life of Pi is a Canadian fantasy adventure in which the protagonist, Piscine Molitor (aka Pi) Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality from an early age.
And today in the crowded Shaw Festival Court House Theatre in Niagara on the Lake, I watch Lisa...
At the beginning of this three-act farce at the Royal George Theatre, Shawn Wright, Mary Haney and Diane Donnelly sing three short pre-emptive silly tunes concerning the intertwined themes of theatre and courtship. And when the curtain opens on Ken MacDonald's amusing set of high school-like giant cardboard thistles, aka the "garden of a humble cottage, near Gretna on the border between England and Scotland," we are well into a parody of romantic comedy wherein the main character, Cheviot Hill (Gray Powell) expresses his love for anyone wearing a skirt (a dangerous practise in Scotland) while utilizing the most grandiose language possible, and...
Jackie Maxwell, Shaw's outgoing Artistic Director, signs off in this production with, "We have produced three of Wilde's major plays during my tenure as Artistic Director and I am very pleased to include the fourth and final one in my last year. There is no doubt that Wilde's skillful mix of comedy, style and social commentary is as resonant today as when he first presented it to an unsuspecting public and I have no doubt that Eda Holmes' sophisticated take on the material will make this connection new and surprising."
She follows up with, "In this society, if you want to know what's really going on, join the women on the terrace at Lady Hunstanton's country house party. Marriage, affairs, divorce - and, of course, the...
Doug Palmateer, St. Catharines Artist Extraordinaire!
Wings fully outstretched, a large, yellow-eyed, black-beaked, white snowy owl glides menacingly towards me, despite the fact that I am standing in Doug Palmateer's well-lit, St. Catharines' basement studio. Doug is an accomplished pastel artist, and he is diligently working from a neighbour's photos of an owl that in winter, seems to frequent the decreasingly open fields near the new St Catharines hospital on Fourth Ave.
Doug is adept with the myriad short pastel sticks that consist of pure powdered pigment and a binder, and he says that he also uses both hands to help colour the canvas. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all coloured art media, including oil paints. Pastels have been used by artists since the Renaissance.
Mosaics of Niagara is a popular geographic montage of the Niagara region created by Doug. The...
Donna Poag, Secretary, Lifelong Learning Niagara advises me that they plan to have the details and registration for the Fall Lecture Series 2016 ready on their website by the beginning of August. In the meantime, here are the topics and speakers that are have lined up.
As we age, the "use it or lose it" theory applies to the brain, a similar process with a St. Catharines-based group called "Lifelong Learning Niagara" which helps improve Belgian detective, Hercule Perot's famous "little grey cells." They (the group) provide learning experiences for adults 50+ living in the Niagara region.
I found myself recently at the Armenian Community Centre, 156 Martindale Road where the group meets Wednesdays from 10 AM to 12 PM. Along with a good sized crowd, I listened to a fascinating and informative lecture by Bill Cunningham, a pioneer of television journalism.
Bill created the groundwork for today's Canadian TV network news. He worked with CBC, Global and CTV, and reported from across Canada and many parts of the world. He has been a war correspondent, an award-winning producer of news and documentaries, an editor, program host, network executive and a professor.
Thanks to Sullivan Mahoney LLP, Lifelong Learning Niagara (LLN) was established in early 2015 as a not-for-profit third age learning organization. It's managed...
What do you get when you mix a ballet dancer from Northern Ontario, a Jewish business woman from Evanston, Illinois (19 miles from Chicago) and a retired lawyer born in Rio but raised in Buenos Aires? Well, you get three of five people whom I recently met at St. Catharines' Congregation B'nai Israel and Jewish Community Centre, where they make delicious bagels (Montréal style, of course)
The proprietors of The Bagel Oven are Steve and Jess Bretzlaff. Richard Baker (an appropriate surname for this operation) the retired lawyer, works there part time because "I was sick and tired of sitting behind a desk and wanted to use my hands!" His kneading dough and forming the bagels individually by hand fits the bill. Smiles abound in the busy kosher kitchen. Everyone enjoys what they are doing. And what they are doing, according to Jess, a lady of unlimited energy, is filling a food niche in Niagara. Prior to them, nobody was making good, old-fashioned Montréal-style bagels...
The Zombies - Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino, Niagara Falls, New York
The place was literally rocking on my first trip to Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino Bear's Den to take in a performance by The Zombies, one of my all-time favourite English rock bands formed in 1962 in St. Albans and led by Rod Argent (piano, organ and vocals), Colin Blunstone (vocals), assisted by Paul Atkinson and Hugh Grundy on drums and guitar.
This group, that dabbled in jazz and rhythm and blues, is known mainly for 1964's "She's Not There," "Tell Her No" in 1965 and "Time of the Season" in 1969, all of which they performed this night to the absolute glee of a thunderous full house. Their 1968 album Odessey and Oracle is ranked number 100 on Rolling Stone magazine's...
Alice in Wonderland - Festival Theatre - Shaw Festival
Fantastic! Incredible! Wonderful! Superlatives after viewing Peter Hinton's latest triumph at the Shaw Festival, Alice in Wonderland, his World Premiere featuring 19 original songs. And yes, quick, grab your grandchildren and take them to see Alice at the Festival Theatre, an experience that they will never forget, nor will you.
Alice in Wonderland Prior to my viewing, I played White Rabbit through my brain, the 1960's LSD cult song written by Grace Slick and performed with Jefferson Airplane. Remember its addictive lyrics? One pill makes you larger-And one pill makes you small-And the ones that mother gives you-Don't do anything at all-Go ask Alice-When she's ten feet tall...
Hinton's take is not about drugs; it's all about childhood, a precious commodity in children like Alice. It's about a world of unbridled imagination to be encouraged and cultivated by parents, and allowed to blossom, and yes, there were many young people at the theatre. (warning: the play runs a bit long for the youngest.)
Everyone is familiar with the story - on a summer day in 1862, ten-year old Alice and her two sisters were told a tale about a little girl, a white rabbit and a trip down a hole into an astonishing world, which became one of the best-selling books of all time...
Mrs. Warren's Profession - the Royal George Theatre - Shaw Festival
Director Eda Holmes offers us a fascinating look at the world's oldest profession aka Mrs. Warren's Profession, through an appropriate setting thanks to Patrick Clark, Designer and Kimberly Purtell, Lighting, a male-dominant private members club and her two leading characters, both female, Mrs. Warren (Nicole Underhay) and her daughter Vivie (Jennifer Dzialoszynski) whose battle of wills in the final scene evokes an explosive reading of 7.0 on the Richter scale.
Prior to the play's start, Holmes has four overly-pleased-with-themselves males - Thom Marriott (Sir George Crofts), Gray Powell (Praed), Wade Bogert-O'Brien (Frank Gardner), and Shawn Wright (Rev. Samuel Gardner) lounge in the Royal George set which exudes testosterone - the men outfitted in tweed jackets, a large leather couch and dark wood paneling. They banter about with the crowd, and Marriott takes group selfies with his cell phone...
The problem I experienced with Shaw's rendition of Our Town, the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Thornton Wilder was the fact that it was so Norman Rockwell in appearance - so white, so Anglo-Saxon and so Protestant (although the Catholic church does get mentioned briefly at the start).
Benedict Campbell as Stage Manager with the cast of Our Town. Photo by David Cooper Via an impersonal 'stage manager,' Wilder tells the story of the inhabitants of the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, population 2,642, from 1901-1913. The stage manager is Benedict Campbell, the narrator, commentator, and our guide. He joins in the action of the play periodically as the minister at the wedding, the soda shop owner, a local townsmen, etc., and he speaks directly to Emily Webb after her death. Campbell is solid, his booming voice resonating with the command and the gravitas required for such a role.
Campbell even provides the coordinates of Grover's Corners as 42°40' north latitude and 70°37' west longitude (which is actually Massachusetts)...
Uncle Vanya which just opened at Shaw's Court House Theatre is one of Chekhov's four prime plays (The Seagull (1896), Uncle Vanya (1899), Three Sisters (1901) and The Cherry Orchard (1904)) written in the last few years of his life, the luminous literary quartet establishing him as one of the world's great playwrights. Chekhov's recurrent mood is one of melancholy derived from the parched themes of frustrated hope and wasted lives, all of his characters seemingly miserable, each in their own fashion.
Uncle Vanya's drama is quickly set in motion by the visit of Aleksandr Serebryakov (David Schurmann) an elderly, retired and pompous professor and his enchanting, much younger second wife, Yelena (Moya O'Connell) at the rural estate that helps sustain their urban lifestyle.
Earned revenue (ticket sales): 62%
Government grants: 8%
Other revenues: 5%
Attendance for the 2015 Season: 232,671
66% of our audience came from Canada
33% of our audience came from the United States
1% of our audience came from overseas
Shaw Festival Company
About 600 employees at the height of the season, including 65 actors
1690 seats in
856 in the
327 in the
Court House Theatre
313 in the
Royal George Theatre
194 in the
Ticket prices for students are $25 and Platinum seating on a summer weekend starts from $117. There are many ways of saving on ticket prices, from Super Sundays to preview tickets to $30 tickets for patrons under the age of 30.
The Shaw Festival contributed $75.4 million locally and $106.6 million to Ontario's economy in 2010. Shaw Festival visitors spent over $42.8 million on regional accommodations, dining, winery visits and other tourism-related experiences.
(Source: The Shaw Festival)
Shaw Festival 2016 Season Trailer
2016 Season Preview with Jackie Maxwell - Alice in Wonderland
Eternity - Bach Mass in B Minor
"Eternity" might be a lofty aspiration for any of the performing arts but the poet Robert Browning reminds us, "Ah but a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?"
Robert Cooper, Artistic Director and maestro for Chorus Niagara seemed up to the task this evening, aided by the combined forces of the Niagara and Toronto's Orpheus choirs and the Talisker Players orchestra along with five solid soloists - Jennifer Krabbe, soprano, Maeve Palmer, soprano, Charles Sy, tenor, Geoffrey Sirett, baritone and mezzo-soprano Marjorie Maltais who capably subbed for the ailing Anita Krause.
Cooper's credentials speak for themselves. He is regarded as one of Canada's foremost choral musicians as Artistic Director of the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, Chorus Niagara,
the Opera in Concert Chorus and the newly created Ontario Male Chorus. He has taught
at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto and has had the honour of conducting the
National Youth Choir of Canada, the Ontario Youth Choir (1979, 2007) and a Celebration
of Canadian Choral Music at Carnegie Hall.
What do you get when you combine opera with tango? You get TANGOPERA performed by a highly skilled quartet aptly named Quartango and an extraordinary soprano, Marie-Josée Lord. Together, they produced a magical evening of musical entertainment at Partridge Hall in the brand new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.
Quartango consists of Stephane Aubin, piano, Jonathan Goldman, bandoneon, Rene Gosselin, double bass and Antoine Bareil, violin. With Aubin and Bareil contributing their own compositions, together, the quartet produced an eclectic repertoire that ranged from classic tangos such as El Choclo and Adios Nonino to tango nuevo and Piazzolla. They daringly explored other genres, from jazz and opera to waltzes and Celtic jigs, in their own enthusiastic, merry style.
Niagara Food & Wine Expo April 15-17, Scotiabank Convention Centre, Niagara Falls
Taking place April 15-17 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls, the Niagara Food & Wine Expo returns again, featuring wine, beer and spirits from around the globe, as well as stunning regional wines straight from neighbouring vineyards. These delectable samples will be served alongside fresh and incredible local cuisine prepared by top chefs and restaurants.
"This year's Niagara Food & Wine Expo is already shaping up to be an incredible one. With favourite exhibitors returning and some exciting new additions to the lineup, we're preparing for one of our biggest and best experiences yet," said Melanie Klie, Show Manager of the Niagara Food & Wine Expo. "We truly do have something for everyone - from the beer and wine connoisseurs and food lovers of all kinds, to cooking gurus and home chefs looking to learn something new."
Twenty Valley Tourism Association celebrates 5th Annual Get Fresh in the Valley passport program
Spring is a time for farm fresh bites paired perfectly with premium Twenty Valley wines. Come celebrate spring April 9 & 10, 16 & 17 or 23 & 24 for Get Fresh in the Valley. This self-guided passport allows visitors to take in up to 24 wineries in Niagara's Twenty Valley wine country. It's one of the most brilliant ways to learn about and stock up on our VQA wines. Collect recipes from each winery to assemble your own 2016 Get Fresh in the Valley Cookbook.
A local favourite is the Sunday passport; it allows you to enjoy Get Fresh for all three Sundays. Note there are three locations closed on Sunday and all will honour your Sunday passport on any Get Fresh Saturday.
Matt Swan and partner Chris Pontsioen know how to brew great tasting beer. I discovered this firsthand at their Silversmith Brewing Company in Virgil, a small, ivy-covered former church that dates back to the 1890s, complete with country charm, composed of exposed beams and brick walls with a long bar that was handmade from reclaimed barn wood. It quickly fashions a kindred atmosphere that is sure to pack the place during the busy tourist season in Niagara on the Lake. And the Pie Plate is directly across the street!
I thought I'd best try their flagship beer, the Black Lager, but asked for a taster at first, not wanting to be stuck with a pint that I didn't enjoy. No worries. It's superb, and I was impressed by the smoothness and lack of a heavy after-taste.
Drones have radically changed how we view spectacular sights. For example, many people have visited Niagara Falls and enjoyed the view but when you see Niagara Falls from above you truly realize how spectacular it is filmed using DJI Phantom Quadcopter
ALL MY SONS at the Irish Classical Theatre Company
Hot on the heels of last year's successful run of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, the Irish Classical Theatre Company joins in the Centennial Celebration of the birth of Arthur Miller with its 25th Anniversary production of his American masterpiece, ALL MY SONS, which will be on stage at the Andrews Theatre, home of the Irish Classical Theatre Company, January 15 to February 7, 2016.
ALL MY SONS is a powerful and gripping study of honesty and guilt and the corrupting power of greed. Set in post World War II America, it is the story of Joe Keller, a successful businessman and a loving husband and father, struggling with the knowledge that, during the war, he allowed his factory to ship faulty airplane cylinders to the U.S. Armed Forces, resulting...
Shaw Festival Announces Principal Casting For Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell's Final Season
Festival Theatre Alice in Wonderland
Adapted for the stage by Peter Hinton
Music by Allen Cole
Based on the book by Lewis Carroll
Previews April 27 ÷ Opens May 14 ÷ Closes October 16
Created specifically for the Shaw Festival Acting Ensemble, this new adaptation of Lewis Carroll's beloved tale of a young woman's journey to adulthood stars Tara Rosling as Alice. On her journey to make sense of the wonderland of grown-up nonsense, Alice meets familiar characters played by Festival favourites: Moya O'Connell as the Queen of Hearts; Graeme Somerville as the Mad Hatter; Kyle Blair as the March Hare; Donna Belleville as the Duchess; Ben Sanders as the White Rabbit; and Jennifer Phipps as the Cheshire Cat. The 22-person cast, including Guy Bannerman, Neil Barclay, Patty Jamieson, Harveen Sandhu, Kiera Sangster, Jonathan Tan, Jacqueline Thair, Jay Turvey, and Kelly Wong, plays over 144 characters in this magical musical experience that will delight adults and children alike.
Directed by Peter Hinton, Musical direction by Allen Cole, Choreography by Denise Clarke, Set designed by Eo Sharp, Costumes designed by William Schmuck, Lighting designed by Kevin Lamotte, Projection designed by Beth Kates & Ben Chaisson, Sound designed by John Lott, Conducted by Paul Sportelli
Twenty Valley Winter Winefest Celebrates The Season
Join Niagara's Twenty Valley as it celebrates the 7th annual Winter WineFest January 15th - 17th, 2016!
This year, Twenty Valley will add a little more "sensational" to their annual Winter WineFest celebrations. Jordan Village will be transformed into a holiday market style destination, complete with over 100 premium VQA wines, gourmet bites, live entertainment and a magical new setting. The charm of Jordan Village will be enhanced by bonfires, quaint seating areas, ice and art installations and hundreds of strands of lights.
"We are inviting our guests to get outside and enjoy winter," said Sue-Ann Staff, Chairman of the Twenty Valley Tourism Association. "The new format of our Winter WineFest is inspired by the many popular Christmas markets around the world that host thousands of visitors each year.
The season that enables us to create world-renowned Icewine is one worth celebrating."
Twenty Valley is known for its premium, terroir-driven wines and focused food culture, both of which will be showcased at this year's event. Wineries will select from their favourite vintages featuring "sweet, sparkling and sensational" Icewines, sparkling wines and red and white wines. Featured Twenty Valley chefs will present special menus that celebrate the season and pair perfectly with the varietals of the region. Samples start at $2 each - a new token price to allow guests to explore more pairings.
Niagara College Teaching Winery takes home Best in Show - The Royal Wine Competition toasts 2015 winners
The judges in The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair's 7th annual wine competition are raising their glasses to the Niagara College Teaching Winery. The student-run winery at the college's Niagara-on-the-Lake campus took home Best in Show Red and Best in Show Overall prizes for its delicious 2012 Dean's List Merlot in The Royal's wine competition earlier this month.
"It is a real honour to be recognized for such a prestigious wine award, particularly with consideration to the wide field of extremely high-quality VQA wines from well-established Ontario wineries that this competition attracts," said Gavin Robertson, Winemaker at the Niagara College Teaching Winery.
Robertson said the warm 2012 growing season in Niagara helped produce spectacular later-ripening red Bordeaux varieties with a good balance of flavours and structure.
"I'm happy that we were able to carry this quality through to bottle, and it's wonderful that the end product of a great growing season in the vineyard and gentle handling in the winery should be recognized as it is now," he said.
The Twenty Valley Tourism Association's 9th Annual Wrapped Up in the Valley passport program
Choose a weekend - November 7 & 8, 14 & 15 or 21 & 22 and enjoy a culinary treat paired with a premium wine at your choice of more than 20 area wineries. Collect recipes from each winery to assemble your own 2015 Wrapped Up in the Valley Cookbook.
Can't take a whole weekend off, our Sunday passport is your ticket. It allows you to enjoy Wrapped Up for all three Sundays. Note there are three locations closed on Sunday and all will honour your Sunday passport on any Wrapped Up Saturday.
A single weekend passport or Sunday passport is $44.25 per person (+ HST) and may be purchased online at www.twentyvalley.ca or by phone at 905-562-3636 or at participating wineries.
For the optimal experience, we recommend visiting a maximum eight wineries per day.
It's back to school time, and Buffalo has the perfect lesson plan to round out your family's curriculum! First Period is History, starting with presidents. Theodore Roosevelt began his presidential journey here. And Millard Fillmore made Buffalo his home, as did Grover Cleveland. Buffalo is also rich with African American heritage, including the Underground Railroad and a legendary jazz club. And what student wouldn't be fascinated with the way the Erie Canal impacted American history? After History class, take...
Where to calm your male grandchildren?
Niagara Parks' Butterfly Conservatory
When three rambunctious grandchildren arrived from Vancouver along with their amazingly organized mother and her helpful sister, and they all stayed in Niagara on the Lake with us for a solid week, we needed all the help we could get - because we are talking here not of your more placid, able-to read-books-quietly- and-play-cooperatively girls, but the opposite work of art, namely highly competitive boys aged 7, 3.5 and 1.5, all aggressive and painfully articulate, at times reaching the incredible yet ear-piercing decibel level of a supersonic jet, and blessed with the unique "y" chromosome, which we all know is often used as evidence by prosecuting attorneys to ask compliant judges for the harshest punishment available.
After "pillow forts" indoors (our couches will never be the same) and water-based activities in the...
The house lights are dimming and the curtain is about to rise on the 2015-2016 Buffalo theater season! Each year a new season makes its dramatic entrance in three acts during the Curtain Up! celebration. In Act I, you'll enjoy a black-tie gala dinner on the stage at the beautifully restored Shea's Performing Arts Center or at one of the theater district's fine restaurants. In Act II, you'll visit one of Buffalo's 19 professional theaters to attend a live premiere. And for the final act, you'll attend a free...
Versatile Harry Connick Jr. Wows His Fans!
Avalon Ballroom, Niagara Fallsview Casino
Watching Harry Connick Jr. in action inside the 1,500 seat Avalon Ballroom Theatre at the Niagara Fallsview Casino, I decided that as soon as the show was over, I would book tickets to New Orleans. And stay there. And just listen to its enchanting music. For me, Harry represents Louisiana's best tourism draw. He should be on the state payroll!
In fact, during his long set, he talked about recently co-hosting with Branford Marsalis "New Orleans Honors" at the Saenger Theatre, an evening when musicians and celebrities came together to thank those who aided in New Orleans' recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Mayor Mitch Landrieu asked if he could sing and Harry joked that only in New Orleans would a mayor actually know what key to sing in, in this case B flat!
Throughout the evening, Connick and his remarkable band orchestrated tunes that kept the audience screaming for more. Besides singing, He played piano, electronic keyboard, electric guitar and...
The Irish Classical Theatre Company Announces its 2015-2016 Season
The Irish Classical Theatre Company, recently honoured with 16 ARTIE Award nominations in the 10 categories in which it was eligible, recognizing 5 different productions this year, announces its 25th Anniversary Season to be presented in its home, The Andrews Theatre.
ICTC celebrates 25 years of excellence with a Tony Award winning musical; a contemporary Irish play, fresh from the Broadway stage; a beloved American classic; a side-splitting one-man tour-de-force; a cutting-edge collaboration, and a delightful and witty comedy from the pen of Oscar Wilde.
The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide To Capitalism And Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures
I want to liquidate. And then vacate.
After the second intermission of the three-hour-and-fifty-minute Tony Kushner play, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide To Capitalism And Socialism With A Key To The Scriptures (iHO, the Shaw abbreviation), the lady beside me, looking exhausted, grins: "Round three!" She's right; instead of Shaw's Studio Theatre, I feel like I'm at the Roman Coliseum watching a large group of well-armed, co-ed gladiators battle across the field.
The combatants in this case are members of the Marcantonio clan, the head of the family, Gus (Jim Mezon), an aging King Lear about to divide his kingdom, the proceeds from the sale of his brownstone Brooklyn home, valued at up to $500,000 for each of his children, Phil, the older son (Steven Sutcliffe), M.T. (Maria Teresa) or Empty, his daughter (Kelli Fox), and Vito, his youngest son (Gray Powell)
Mezon (Augusto Giuseppe Garibaldi) is faultless as the 72-year-old patriarch, a life-long member of the Communist party that ultimately succumbed to the cancer of capitalism and its inherent greed, a fact along with his supposed Alzheimer's, has destroyed his desire to live any longer in its faux prison. We discover that the crux of his profound ennui centres really on what he calls his "greatest yet worst achievement," the successful longshoreman's collective agreement that included only those with...
Tim Carroll, the next Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival
Tim Carroll has been named the next Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival. As Artistic Director Designate, Carroll will work with current Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell during the 2016 season to familiarize himself with the complex workings of The Shaw and plan his first season.
A renowned theatre and opera director with international credits, Carroll has 25 years of experience, having begun his career with the English Shakespeare Company in 1990 before becoming the Associate Director at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter.
Carroll's extensive opera experience includes seven years as the Artistic Director of Kent Opera and...
The circus was never quite the same after Canadian Guy Laliberte invented Cirque du Soleil, a magical arrangement of ultra-modern light, sound, costume and gymnastic performers. Laliberte enjoyed a 31-year run, eventually placing his iconic brand in Las Vegas with all of the other high rollers, and he recently sold his rights for a reported $1.5 billion!
Now, a lighter version, Le Grand Cirque has capitalized on Laliberte's revolutionary circus evolution as I watch their magic act at the Fallsview Casino. 42 performers and six huge trucks of equipment translate into an exciting run at the Avalon Ballroom which has been transformed into an eclectic gymnastics facility where performers exhibit incredible feats of strength, balance, dexterity and courage, causing the audience to gasp several times throughout the fast-paced, 80-minute performance.
Like cotton candy served up at a fair...
Watching Shaw's production of Moss Hart's self-indulgent, solo (no George F. Kaufman), 1948 comedy, Light Up the Sky, is like being force-fed cotton candy, thin spun sugar that contains mostly air, the sort of fancy, vacuous fluff served up at fairs, circuses and carnivals and surely not fit for the Festival Theatre's main stage! Yet, under the direction of Blair Williams (A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur and Peace in Our Time last season), there it was, and as most dentists might predict, it led to discomfort during a painful, protracted first act. The second act was mercifully shorter, but upon leaving, I overheard a patron opine that it (the play) was good - good that is, because it was over.
The action centres on the principals involved in an opening night theatrical production which has trials in Boston, prior, it is hoped, to opening on Broadway. All of the stereotypes are represented in hyperbolic, farcical form - Sidney Black, the ultra-capitalist producer/financier (Thom Marriott), Carleton Fitzgerald, the neurotic, teary-eyed director (Steven Sutcliffe), Irene Livingston, the histrionic leading lady (Claire Jullien), Stella Livingston, the street-wise, wise-cracking mother (Laurie Paton), augmented by her side-kick, gin rummy-playing, nasal-voiced...
The Divine: A Play for Sarah Bernhardt - Royal George Theatre
"She has just arrived in our city. Nothing will ever be the same."
At intermission, I step outside the Royal George Theatre, greeted by several lush flower baskets hanging from above. The sweet sound of jazz sifts from the Epicurean courtyard across the street, and fellow patrons race and return with prized gelato from a nearby shop. A caleche saunters by, pulled easily by a powerful Percheron, a breed of draft horse with roots in France. The driver bends slightly for tourists to better hear her commentary amidst the steady clip-clop generated by the heavy hooves as they hit the Queen Street pavement. An enchanting Niagara on the Lake evening!
Inside the theatre, it's not so tranquil. I watch a brilliant new play by Québécois playwright Michel Marc Bouchard depicting the battle between celebrated actress Sarah Bernhardt and the Catholic Church...
Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell and the Shaw Festival are pleased to announce the 2016 playbill. Marking the Festival's 55th season and the end of Maxwell's 14-year tenure, the 2016 line-up of 10 diverse productions includes works from the heart of the mandate, contemporary Shavian pieces and the world premieres of two commissioned works.
Of her final season as artistic director, Maxwell says: "The 2016 season sums up the journey the Shaw Festival has taken during my time here. I arrived with a number of passions and priorities that focused on producing work that would showcase equality and diversity of plays and players. This season has newly realized pieces true to our mandate alongside work from brilliant contemporary Canadian and international voices, and an original production on the Festival Stage. These offerings are an excellent representation of the Shaw Festival today - a progressive, leading cultural and artistic voice in Canada and beyond."
The season's two commissioned works illustrate Maxwell's legacy at the Shaw Festival; expanding...
Tudor Creek Bed and Breakfast
Brunlea House B&B
Cedar Suite Bed & Breakfast
Heritage House Bed and Breakfast
Inn on the Henley
Omi's Haus B&B
Rheinhessen Estate B&B
Springbank House B&B
The Fairview at Rockway
Wine Country Manor B&B
Wooton House on the Water
Bed And Breakfasts
Atherton House Bed & Breakfast
Black Walnut Manor
Bullfrog Pond B&B
A Touch Of Spice Guest House
Canadian citizens travelling to the United States require proper documents which are explained at the
Canada Border Services Agency website. Border Wait Times are detailed here. To ensure a trouble-free trip you should visit their
Planning A Trip page to ensure that you enjoy safe and hassle free travel.
Effective June 1, 2009, all travelers, including citizens of the United States, Canada and Bermuda, entering or re-entering the United States will be required to have a passport, passport card or WHTI-compliant document. For more information about entry into the United States, visit US Customs/Border Security at
www.getyouhome.gov. The US Department of State website at
www.travel.state.gov and the US Department of Homeland Security website at
www.dhs.gov have further information.