This year Niagara was anointed a Cultural Capital of Canada. The rich history, wine region and culture here have long showcased the region as a world-class destination that draws the attention of young and old.
We are fortunate that in a region that consists of less than 500,000 people to have such a well-respected institution as Shaw Theatre and the annual Shaw Festival make Niagara their home.
Last week we were delighted to spend a day taking in one of the selections from the 2012 Shaw Festival: A Man and Some Women at the Court House Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
First off, the location was wonderful. A national historic site dating from the 1840s, the Court House is where the Shaw Festival began in 1962. The building’s upper level combines an intimate 327-seat auditorium with a thrust stage.
Director Alisa Palmer utilized the minimalist design of Leslie Frankish and intimate nature of the theatre to create a tangible tension between the ensemble and the audience. We became tentative voyeurs peering in at a family’s past as it unravels into insinuations and vicious betrayals.
The actors in this performance were impeccable in timing and the proximity of the stage allowed each of them to inject layers of nuance that served to ratchet up the emotion in every scene.
The first thing I had to do before I spoke with Kate was shake off my anger. Kate plays the conniving and ruthless character Rose with such justification, I had to remind myself to let her performance go.
Kate is an actress of tremendous talent. This is her second season playing at Shaw and her career has spanned award-winning performances on Broadway, Toronto, and theatres all over the world. She also is a burgeoning playwright and has achieved an MA in voice studies.
She has made her home in St. Catharines after her first season with Shaw in 2005 and is a perfect example of how tremendous people are drawn to stay in Niagara.
Kate explained to us that after an international career that has extended more than 3 decades she chose Niagara as her home because of the culture that exists here, the trails and parks, the wineries, the close proximity to the Falls and to Toronto.
Even when she was performing in Billy Elliot on Broadway and in Toronto, it was writing and working in the garden of her Niagara home that became her favourite vacation spot.
She was thrilled to get an opportunity to return to Shaw Theatre this year where she is performing 8 times a week between her performances in A Man and Some Women as well as Ragtime.
Kate explained that the cast and crew love this play and Shaw Theatre is one of the few places she can do a play like this. There are few theatre companies like Shaw left in the world focusing on quality revivals with a reliance on the performance of the actors rather than visual spectacle and technology.
Regardless what kind of live theatre you enjoy, there are still several opportunities to get out and see the last weeks of Shaw Festival and enjoy some of the rich culture that Niagara has to offer.
A MAN AND SOME WOMEN
COURT HOUSE THEATRE| April 27 – September 22
by GITHA SOWERBY
Directed by ALISA PALMER
Richard Shannon longs to leave his business to take up a post as a scientific advisor in Brazil. But he feels duty-bound to remain and support his wife and two unmarried sisters. A bold portrayal of family dynamics from the dazzling writer of The Stepmother, who asks, what becomes of a woman who can’t earn her own living?
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