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A Statement About COVID-19

Friday, March 13

Dear friends of Lighthouse,

Your safety and well-being are of utmost importance to us. We have been carefully following recent developments regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus) and consulting with our board of directors and staff, fellow arts organizations, and local health authorities to determine how best to keep our patrons and staff healthy and safe.

Lighthouse Festival Theatre supports social distancing as a way to bolster the efforts of medical practitioners working to limit the worldwide spread of the coronavirus. To do our part, acting on the advice of Ontario’s chief medical officer to suspend large public gatherings, all scheduled performances and events at Lighthouse from now until April 16 are cancelled:

  • Comedy Night – March 14
  • March Break (Robin Hood, The Berenstain Bears, Sleeping Beauty) – March 17-18-19
  • Person of Interest – March 21
  • Execulink: A Night at the Theatre – March 24
  • Andrew Martin AMORE – March 26
  • ABBAMANIA & The Bee Gees/Night Fever – March 27
  • Buddy Holly – March 28
  • Drama Kidz presents A Glass Half Full – April 2 & 3
  • Time Is On My Side: The Rolling Stones Story – April 4
  • Volunteer Sign-Up Day – April 7
  • Red Carpet Social – April 9

Acting out of an abundance of caution, we will also be closing our doors to the public to contribute to the broader societal effort to slow the spread of the illness.

If you have a ticket to a cancelled event, the box office will contact you individually to discuss next steps.

It is our full intention to stage our community show (Guys and Dolls) and the summer season as scheduled. Our physical box office is now closed, but you can still reach us over the phone and online.

The risk posed by coronavirus to Ontarians remains low, but the situation is changing rapidly and we will keep you informed of new developments at the theatre.

“Lighthouse Festival Theatre is in full support of working on a societal level to ease the burden on our medical system for the benefit of all. We are equally committed to presenting our community show and our summer season and will use this time to prepare those productions,” said Artistic Director Derek Ritschel.

“A sincere thank you for supporting live theatre and the arts during this difficult time. We look forward to hearing your laughter ringing through our theatre this spring.”

Brantford comedian stages comic tale of urban warfare

Person of Interest comes to Lighthouse in Port Dover March 21

Melody A. Johnson may be criminally funny, but she’s no crook. So the Brantford-born comedian was shocked to learn that the police thought otherwise.

Johnson applied to volunteer at her son’s school and was flagged during the mandated police background check.

“That’s when I discovered I had a record and was considered a ‘person of interest’ courtesy of some bad neighbours next door. It was their final act of retaliation,” she said.

Johnson put pen to paper to vent her frustration and wrote Person of Interest, a one-woman show she describes as “a mostly true story” of urban warfare and what happens when neighbours go bad.

The one-act show is playing at Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover on Saturday, March 21, at 2 pm and 8 pm. Tickets are $29 each.

The neighbourly skirmish that inspired Johnson’s story was typical of her tightly packed Toronto neighbourhood, where errantly placed garbage bins and bicycles can spark conflict.

“In Brantford, people had land, which I loved. Backyards, room between houses,” she said. “The situation here is that we’re three, four feet apart from each other. It’s a really narrow alleyway between the two houses. So we bump into each other all the time. I tell people, thank your lucky stars if you have good neighbours, because it’s a rare, amazing thing.”

Person of Interest is a light-hearted comedy that follows Johnson’s attempt to clear her name, helped by her police officer cousin and crime show-fanatic mother.

“For people who like podcasts and radio dramas, I think it’s a pretty fun tale to hear,” she said. “If you’ve ever had an altercation with a neighbour, it might be particularly interesting for you to come out and commiserate with me.”

Johnson may be the only one on stage in Person of Interest, but she says she’s not alone.

“I really think it’s a two-hander with me and the audience,” she said. “I listen to them and they propel me and support the work by laughing. I do feel buoyed by them.”

Local audiences may recognize Johnson as the star of Miss Caledonia, a show she wrote based on the life of her mother, Peggy Douglas, who set her dreams beyond the farm by winning the local beauty pageant and punching her ticket to Hollywood.

Miss Caledonia delighted audiences at Lighthouse’s inaugural One Act Festival five years ago, and has since toured Canada and the United Kingdom. Now Johnson is bringing Person of Interest to Port Dover to conclude this year’s festival. Tickets are $29 and are available at or at 519-583-2221.

“I’m thrilled to come back. I have a number of relatives in the area who’ll come to the show, so it’ll be nice to have some familiar faces in the audience – people who know the story, or bits of it,” Johnson said.

Renowned theatre critic Richard Ouzonian has anointed Johnson “the kook supreme of the Canadian stage,” adding, “I truly would pay money to see Johnson read the phone book.”

While reviewing Person of Interest, Cathy McKim from Life With More Cowbell praised Johnson’s onstage energy, irreverence and charm.

“A shocking tale of neighbourhood warfare told with candor and an edgy sense of fun,” McKim wrote. “Extremely clever with some unique jokes and anecdotes.”

And Jennifer Enchin of Mooney on Theatre said audiences are in for “a fun, quirky and clever night of theatre.”

Person of Interest is a one-woman show for the ages. One of the most entertaining and engaging stories I’ve heard in a very long time,” Enchin wrote. “The performance is seamless. Johnson powers through with not an ounce of apprehension. It’s very cool to watch.”

After falling in love with performing as a kid in Brantford, Johnson’s show business career has spanned the Second City improv stage (she was recruited by improv giant Colin Mochrie), Shakespeare and modern drama, TV and film roles, musical theatre, animation and voicework.

But she considers herself a comedian at heart.

“I’ve done a lot of drama or serious text, but I just miss comedy so much. I love writing it and creating it,” she said.

“I love to make people laugh.”

Click here for tickets to Person of Interest.

Broadway star swings onto Lighthouse stage

He’s been Spider-Man and songwriter Gerry Goffin on Broadway, bipolar musician/teen heartthrob Craig Manning on Degrassi: The Next Generation, and many other memorable characters.

Now Canadian actor Jake Epstein is tackling the toughest role of his career – himself.

“It’s terrifying,” Epstein said about performing his one-man show, Boy Falls From the Sky: Jake Epstein Live, which comes to Lighthouse February 22 at 2 pm and 8 pm. (Click here to purchase tickets.)

“Way easier to play a character,” Epstein continued. “One of the reasons that I love acting is to be different people other than yourself – to explore different extremes that are inside you. So the idea of going up and telling a story as myself was terrifying.

“But once I started, I really enjoyed it. I’ve never felt so connected with an audience before. There’s nothing like telling a real story.”

In story and song, Epstein opens up about the thrilling highs and painful lows of life in show business – and the unexpected downside of achieving your dreams.

“I truly believed as a kid that I was destined for Broadway,” said Epstein, who got his start on stage at age 11 delivering newspapers in a Soulpepper production of Our Town at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto.

“Maybe I was a strange, confident kid or something, but I just loved it so much. And because you don’t know how hard it is, you just dream and you just try.”

Epstein’s fascination with Broadway grew with each family road trip to New York, with Jake and his sister Gabi belting out show tunes all the way.

As a 12-year-old he darted around the stage as the Artful Dodger in a Mirvish production of Oliver! and the roles kept on coming, leading to a five-year run and a Gemini Award for his work on Degrassi.

Epstein honed his stagecraft in the Toronto production of Billy Elliot and the North American touring productions of Green Day’s American Idiot and Spring Awakening. Then Broadway came calling.

“My first show as Spider-Man was one of the scariest moments of my life,” Epstein said of flying around the Foxwoods Theatre in his debut as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on December 8, 2012.

“There was an element of terror. I thought, ‘I could really embarrass myself in front of 2,000 people.”

Instead, he stuck the landing as everyone’s favourite neighbourhood web-slinger, kickstarting a memorable year that would see him play two lead roles on Broadway. Shortly after donning the spandex suit for the last time in August 2013, Epstein began rehearsals to originate the role of Gerry Goffin, Carole King’s first husband and songwriting partner, in the new show Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

In a CBC Arts retrospective on the decade, Epstein was ranked among the “10 Canadians who killed it on Broadway in the 2010s.”

He was living out a childhood dream, but Epstein’s two years on Broadway left him with physical and emotional scars. He hurt his wrists and ankles while plummeting 30 feet to the stage in a harness night after night, and as the antagonist in Beautiful he was routinely booed during the curtain call, which he took to heart.

“I never talked about my experience on Broadway with anyone. It was complicated for me,” Epstein said. “I was so grateful for the experience and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful to anyone by telling people about some of the lows of a life in show business. And so I kept it to myself for years.”

Epstein took a break from the stage, scoring recurring roles in Designated Survivor and Suits as well as parts in several TV movies. He finally opened up about his Broadway days to a few close friends, who convinced him that his stories of stage fright, rejection, and surviving the disastrous Spider-Man production needed to be told.

Further encouraged by his wife, actor and writer Vanessa Smythe, Epstein wrote a cabaret called I Hate Musicals: The Musical (“I was very proud of that title,” he laughed), and positive audience feedback convinced him to turn it into a one-act show.

“People who weren’t in the arts really related to the story I was telling. People related to this idea of being disappointed by their dreams, and about celebrating the joys and comic disappointments that come with realizing maybe your dreams aren’t possible,” Epstein said.

“People were laughing but were also quite moved by it. That was a real surprise for me. It really warmed my heart.”

Working with veteran director Robert McQueen (Fun Home, Life After), Epstein developed the script for Boy Falls From the Sky, a winking reference to his superhero days.

“In the original cabaret I would tell a story and then launch into a full song, but in my show, the stories and songs are all linked. I’m constantly switching back and forth,” said Epstein, who sings and plays guitar on stage, accompanied by musical director Daniel Abrahamson.

Though he explores heavy themes as he pulls back the showbiz curtain, his chief aim is to entertain.

“First and foremost, I want them to laugh and have a good time. That’s why I do this,” Epstein said. “Everything is told in a joyful way. I’m actually ultimately celebrating everything and making peace with everything.”

Toronto Fringe audiences couldn’t get enough of Epstein when Boy Falls From the Sky debuted to sold-out houses and raucous applause in July 2019. NOW Magazine named the show one of the best of the festival, praising Epstein’s performance and McQueen’s direction.

“This is excellent musical theatre storytelling by a performer with natural star power – including the ability to make everyone in the audience feel as though he is talking to them alone. The 70 minutes speed by too fast and are over too soon,” wrote theatre reviewer Jennifer Barr from The Whole Note. 

Mooney on Theatre critic Wayne Leung called the show “pitch-perfect.”

“Epstein carries the solo show with a casual ease, as if he were regaling a group of friends over beers at a bar,” Leung wrote. “He is affable, down-to-earth, and his narrative is sprinkled with gentle self-deprecating humour.”

As a relatively new show, Epstein said Boy Falls From the Sky is still a work in progress, and he looks forward to introducing it to Port Dover audiences on February 22.

“I’m trying out new material at Lighthouse, which is phenomenal. I’m so excited to perform there,” he said, adding that each live performance is a thrill.

“I’m a huge fan of storytelling, and storytelling can’t work without the audience. It’s kind of that back-and-forth conversation.

“Being in a room with people laughing and enjoying it, there’s nothing like creating that real energy. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Tickets to Boy Falls From the Sky: Jake Epstein Live are $29 each. Get your tickets here.

Tireless Lighthouse volunteers bring in cool $52,000 for theatre

The hundreds of hours our 100-plus volunteers contribute to the theatre really are priceless. But we can put a number on the incredible financial contribution our volunteers make through the sale of 50/50 tickets, ice cream & other frozen treats, and revenue from assorted fundraisers.

Volunteer coordinator Kathy Bonney presented outgoing board chair Paul Morris with a cheque for $52,042 at the 2020 annual general meeting on January 23, with help from volunteers Diane Durette, Linda Packer, Bruce Armstrong, and Sheri Kirby.

Welcoming three new board members

We are excited to welcome three new members to our board of directors.

Richard Dupp, Murray Porteous and Becky Torio are local theatre enthusiasts who bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the Lighthouse board.

Becky moved to Port Dover from Hamilton last May and was immediately taken by the quality theatre she saw at Lighthouse.

“I was really impressed,” she said.

When the Human Resources professional heard of the opportunity to join the LFT board, she jumped at it.

“I really feel like I’m in the right place,” Becky said.

Murray went from a regular theatregoer to a rookie actor when he appeared in the 2015 Community Show production of Young Frankenstein. He’s since had roles in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and last year’s smash hit The Wizard of Oz, where he played Uncle Henry.

Now the recently retired farmer is eager to contribute to the governance of the theatre.

“I’m just thrilled to be invited to be part of the board,” Murray said. “I can’t say how much this place and this group of people – this family, really – has meant to me… It’s a place to learn and grow together.”

Richard has been a fixture at Lighthouse for over 25 years. Whether in the seats enjoying countless shows, on stage acting and directing, behind the scenes seeing to anything in the heritage building that needs fixing, or up the clock tower keeping the bells chiming, Richard is a enthusiastic booster of the theatre and its mission.

“This has become my second home,” he said. “Joining the board is a big honour for me. This theatre is everything – not just for me, but all the people that I know.”

The three new members join newly elected board chair Jan Rainey and returning members Rob Kennaley, Peter Lowry, Sheila Whiteley, Betteanne Cadman, Hadley Jackson, Fred Mabee, Joan Shirlow, and Paul Morris.

Finding empathy one stitch at a time

The Knitting Pilgrim seeks humanity’s common thread

Kirk Dunn, star of The Knitting Pilgrim, spent 15 years hand-knitting the backdrop to his one-man show – three brightly coloured tapestries that look like stained glass windows and are inspired by the religions of the world.

With each stitch and purl, Dunn came closer to his goal of using art to promote empathy and peace.

“The hope behind Stitched Glass has always been to create conversation. A conversation between all people – believers and non-believers – who find themselves in conflict,” said Dunn, who descends from three generations of Presbyterian ministers.

“My experience in the church was always a good one. There was nothing fire and brimstone about it, and nothing to be feared,” he said. “So I was always a bit disappointed that a lot of people had a much different view of religion.”

He explained that conversations with fellow Christians and people from other faiths revealed that religion can be a source of international and individual strife.

“That kind of dissonance made me wonder, how is religion – which is supposed to be good and encourages peace and cooperation and harmony – how is it seen in the world as an agent of the exact opposite of those things?” he said.

To answer that question, Dunn picked up his knitting needles, looking to create something that he hoped would bring people together across theological lines.

“How can we better understand and empathize with each other? Everyone has a unique background, point of view and experience – and at the same time, many experiences are universal,” he said. “Focusing on what knits us together, rather than what pulls us apart, is a place to start.”

Dunn’s 15-year spiritual and artistic pilgrimage to create the Stitched Glass panels inspired his one-act show, The Knitting Pilgrim, which is coming to Port Dover on January 25 to kick off Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s One Act Festival with performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Directed by Jennifer Tarver and co-written by Dunn and his partner, veteran film and TV writer Claire Ross Dunn, the show debuted at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto last May. It has since toured to 50 communities in Ontario, playing to sold-out theatres and garnering rave reviews at the Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton Fringe festivals.

“I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by how much people have appreciated it and how much they see themselves in my story. And what they take out of it. I’ve honestly been a bit gob-smacked about how it’s been received,” Dunn said.

“The style of the show is very non-threatening and welcoming and conversational. It allows the audience to walk with me as I go through this journey.”

While ideal for knitters – indeed, audience members can bring their own knitting projects to work on during the show – you don’t have to be crafty, or particularly religious, to enjoy The Knitting Pilgrim, Claire Ross Dunn explained.

“One thing we hear often is, ‘I didn’t think I’d like the show because I’m not a knitter.’ It’s why our postcard says ‘a show that is about knitting and not about knitting at all,’” she said.

What knits together Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is their founding father, Abraham. So Dunn dedicated his three panels to telling the stories of the three Abrahamic faiths. Each panel took one year to research and design and a further four years to knit, a painstaking process that saw Dunn, an actor by trade, spend every free moment with knitting needles in hand.

On movie sets, in theatres, on buses and subways, he worked away, weaving over 90 pounds of yarn into three panels, each nine feet high by five feet wide, that shimmer with light, colour and meaning.

Using stockinette stitch – knitting in one direction and purling back – he likens his approach to that of Impressionist or Pointillist painters, in that he knits with four strands at once, meaning the colours combine and “pop” when seen from the stage.

“As I knit, the strands twist, and every stitch features a different combination of the strands,” Dunn said of his unique colour-blending technique. “And what that does is it makes it look like there’s some play of the light on it. It looks translucent – like something’s coming through, or it’s actually shining.”

The giant panels are a far cry from Dunn’s first attempt at knitting more than 30 years ago.

“I had a girlfriend who’d knit me a sweater, so I figured the big surprise would be to knit her a sweater in return,” he said. “I wasn’t very good at teaching myself. I basically had a couple of booklets called “How to Knit” and I went from one diagram to the next.

Friends and staff at his local yarn store helped him refine his improvised technique, but he couldn’t escape the knitter’s agony of unravelling rows of work to fix an errant stitch.

“I was ripping out knitting on a shockingly regular basis. But you know, you live and learn. And that’s something that knitters get used to,” said Dunn.

Much more often, he found joy and solace in knitting.

“You take something that wasn’t anything, really – a bunch of yarn – and you turn it into a wearable piece of art. It’s beautiful and it’s functional at the same time,” he said. “It’s that satisfaction of creation – of making something that wasn’t there before. It’s a really rejuvenating and replenishing thing to be able to do.”

Dunn’s friends and relatives soon learned to expect knitwear under their Christmas trees.

“There was one year where my entire family got Icelandic sweaters. I think I did 10 of them,” Dunn said. “And then I got into this crazy Stitched Glass and all I was doing was that. Nobody got anything for 15 years.”

Instead, he was working on a gift for the world. He hopes that along with enjoying the story and appreciating the tapestries themselves, audience members leave The Knitting Pilgrim feeling more welcoming of others, no matter their background or how they worship.

“We actually have a lot in common and we can understand these other faiths and other approaches by learning about them, and by looking at ourselves from their point of view,” Dunn said.

“We’re all saying exactly the same thing. And there can be multiple ways to approach things, and to get closer to God and have a relationship with the divine. We have all these shared beliefs, and so much more that unites us than sets us apart. Can we remember that?”

Tickets to The Knitting Pilgrim are $29 each, or $75 for a three-show subscription to the One Act Festival. To learn more, call the box office toll free at 1-888-779-7703 or click here.

One Act Festival brings star performers to Port Dover

The Lighthouse Festival Theatre One Act Festival is back and better than ever!

For the fifth anniversary of our winter series, we’re bringing in three of the hottest one-act shows in Canada, starring world-class performers who will ignite your imagination all winter long.

“This year’s One Act Festival is, by far, the most talent-packed series we have put on since the start of the festival itself,” said Artistic Director Derek Ritschel. “I’m very confident people will leave each performance completely entertained.”

The shows coming to Port Dover this winter have wowed critics nationwide and garnered rave reviews at past festivals. Kirk Dunn’s captivating show The Knitting Pilgrim, Jake Epstein’s musical tour de force Boy Falls From the Sky: Jake Epstein Live, and Person of Interest, Melody A. Johnson’s comic tale of urban warfare, have played to sold-out audiences across the country.

“I’m thrilled to bring these standout shows to Port Dover,” Ritschel said.

Now in its fifth season, the One Act Festival is a chance to see something a little different on the Lighthouse stage. The exciting shows at this year’s festival will introduce you to new worlds and new adventures, with three brilliantly talented performers as your guides.

Each one-act show is about an hour long with no intermission, creating an immersive theatrical experience for audiences and performer alike.


The centrepiece of The Knitting Pilgrim, on stage January 25, is a labour of love 15 years in the making. Actor and knitter Kirk Dunn will take the stage in front of three giant knitted tapestries that look like ornate stained glass windows. Against this breathtaking multi-coloured backdrop, Kirk will reflect on his epic artistic and spiritual journey to create the tapestries, while weaving in stories of the three religions that inspired them in hopes of promoting empathy among all people.

After a sold-out run at the Toronto Fringe Festival, Boy Falls From the Sky swings into Port Dover February 22. From smash hits to epic flops, musical theatre star Jake Epstein has seen it all from centre stage. In story and song, this veteran of the stage and screen will share the exhilarating highs and soul-crushing lows of life on Broadway, all told with the ol’ razzle-dazzle.

Melody A. Johnson performed her one-woman show Miss Caledonia during our very first One Act Festival, and we are delighted to have her back to present Person of Interest on March 21. It’s an incredibly funny story of an actor driven to the brink by the neighbour from hell, starring a standout performer who has been hailed as the “kook supreme” of the Canadian stage.


Escape the winter blues at the One Act Festival! At $25 apiece with a subscription, these affordable and outstanding shows are just what you need to liven up the long winter months. Bring a friend, grab a drink, dig into a cheese tray at the bar, and have a grand time taking in terrific live theatre at Lighthouse.

A 3-show festival subscription is just $75, with single tickets going for $29. New this year, taxes and ticket fees are included – what you see is what you pay. How great is that?

Resolve to see world-class theatre in 2020. Pick up your One Act tickets here.

Lighthouse donation has Todd Eaton committee on track to meet fundraising goal

The effort to replace the Todd Eaton Memorial Track at Lakewood Elementary School is steps from the finish line thanks to a major fundraiser held last month at Lighthouse Festival Theatre.

The theatre donated the proceeds from November’s 905 Band concert to the Grand Erie school board on behalf of the Back on Track committee, which is raising funds to refinish the well-used community track.

The theatre’s donation totalled over $7,100. When coupled with $6,000 from a silent auction held during the sold-out show and a further donation from a dinner special at David’s Restaurant, the fundraiser went a long way toward meeting the committee’s goal of collecting the final $50,000 of the project’s $250,000 price tag.

Back on Track committee member Simon Joynes said the fundraiser exceeded their hopes.

“I thought we had a shot at bringing in 10 grand, so to get 13 and change was extraordinary. It’s a significant percentage,” he said. “It’s a tribute to this community. Port Dover’s always been really good about that kind of thing. They were with the original Todd Eaton track.”

The Lakewood school community raised $50,000 toward the project over the last few years, with Grand Erie committing the same amount, Joynes explained. The Port Dover Lions pledged another $50,000, which left the committee to raise the remaining $100,000 between last August and this coming February.

“It’s not a big chunk of time and that’s a lot of money, and we’re very, very close to the goal at this point,” Joynes said.

Joynes welcomed the crowd seeing the 905 Band and said he loved feeling the energy and enthusiasm of 350 people gathered together to support the track and enjoy a fun night out at Lighthouse.

“It was a bit of a celebration as well. It was great,” Joynes said.

The Todd Eaton Memorial Track was installed in 1997 and dedicated to the memory of a former Port Dover Composite School student-athlete. After 22 years and millions of kilometres run and walked, the track surface is showing its age and needs to be replaced with a rubberized compound that will endure for decades, Joynes said.

“Technology has come a long way since the original surface, so this one should be certainly more durable and easier to maintain. So hopefully it’ll have a much longer life,” he said.

The track’s foundation needs a bit of repair but is in generally good shape, he added.

Along with students from Lakewood and other elementary schools, the track is a magnet for high school track teams, running clubs, local football and lacrosse leagues, and community members out for a walk or run.

“There’s thousands of citizens of Norfolk that use it,” said Lakewood principal David Van Laecke.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the community for the project, and that certainly was visible in the Lighthouse Festival Theatre event of bringing in the 905 Band. We really appreciate the support throughout the community and we really benefit from Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s partnership with us and this track.”

Rocky Horror fundraiser brings in $2,555 for food bank

Thanks to the generosity of our patrons, Artistic Director Derek Ritschel delivered a cheque for $2,555 and two large totes full of donations to the Port Dover and Area Lifeline Food Bank this week.

The donations of non-perishable food and hygiene products were collected at our screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in late October. All proceeds from ticket sales also went to the food bank.

On hand to accept the donation were food bank chair Todd Whitford, far right, along with (left to right) volunteers Gail Ryan, Lynda Clark, Kevin Ryan, Maureen Rossiter, and treasurer Linda Irving.

Whitford reported that the food bank is currently serving 239 local clients, a number that includes children and seniors. He said donations like this one are crucial to the food bank’s ongoing efforts.

“This is amazing,” Whitford said. “We’re fully supported by the community. There’s no government involvement at all. It’s all done by Port Dover and the surrounding area.”

Irving, who pulls double duty as a volunteer with the food bank and the theatre, said donations from organizations make up 60 per cent of the food bank’s revenue, with the balance coming from individual donors.

The non-perishable food and hygiene items went right onto the food bank’s shelves, to be available to clients during weekly hours on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The monetary donation will be used to purchase milk, eggs, meat, fruit and vegetables – all of which are refrigerated on site – and other items as needed to fill in the gaps.

“I think the support is fabulous,” Irving said. “We get a lot from the businesses in town.”

We at Lighthouse echo those thanks to everyone who contributed to this fundraiser. Your support will help our neighbours in need have a brighter holiday season.

The food bank collects donations every Tuesday morning at 215 Market Street East, though bulk delivery can be arranged at other times by calling Whitford at 226-931-2776. Cheques can be mailed to the Port Dover and Area Lifeline Food Bank, PO Box 784, Port Dover ON, N0A1N0.

Can you give a Lighthouse artist a good home this summer?

Every year, Lighthouse Festival Theatre depends on the generosity of community members to support the theatre by opening their homes to our visiting artists and crew members. We are again looking to recruit local billets throughout the 2020 season.

What is a billet host?
Each summer, we have many artists – including actors, directors, and stage managers – who travel to Port Dover to entertain you on the Lighthouse stage. Our goal is to provide these artists with safe, secure, and conveniently located accommodations. Being a billet host is the perfect opportunity for empty-nesters or theatre lovers who are looking to support Lighthouse.

Who is an ideal billet host?
Ideally anyone local with private accommodations including a separate entrance, bathroom and living space, but a spare room with a private bathroom will do too! Many artists don’t have access to a vehicle, so they prefer accommodations within walking/cycling distance to the theatre. But those with a car don’t mind a short drive.

What does a billet host provide?
All we ask our hosts to provide is a clean bedroom, ideally a private bathroom, and access to a kitchen. You don’t need to entertain your guests, who won’t be home that often anyhow, since they’re most often at the rehearsal hall or the theatre. Our artists are consummate professionals who need no supervision and will respect your space and any house rules.

Do the artists pay rent?
Yes! As we are a non-profit professional theatre, our artists can offer you modest remuneration. We ask that single rooms cost no more than $100/week and no more than $200 for private apartments.

When are hosts needed?
You can rent a room out all season long to various artists from late April to the middle of September, or host one actor for a six-week period. Any length of time would be most appreciated. This summer, we need accommodation for 29 artists – including 18 actors, three directors, three stage managers, and five assistant stage managers – and several technicians.

Here’s a breakdown of our 2020 visiting artists by show:

Sugar Road
• Stage manager – arrives April 19, departs June 8
• Assistant stage manager – April 26 to June 8
• Actors (3) – April 26 to June 8

Halfway There
• Director – May 17 to June 12
• Assistant stage manager – May 17 to July 6
• Actors (5) – May 17 to July 6

The Cemetery Club
• Stage manager – June 7 to July 27
• Director – June 14 to July 10
• Assistant stage manager – June 14 to July 27
• Actors (4) – June 14 to July 27

Meet My Sister
• Stage manager – July 5 to August 24
• Director – July 12 to August 7
• Assistant stage manager – July 12 to August 24
• Actors (3) – July 12 to August 24

Murder at the Howard Johnson’s
• Assistant stage manager – August 2 to September 14
• Actors (3) –August 2 to September 14

For hosts interesting in having a longer-term guest, our technicians (head of props, head of wardrobe, etc) are in town from April 19 to August 30.

How do I become a billet host?
Have we piqued your interest? If you wish to become part of our accommodation roster, please contact Ariana Lauppe by email at

Thank you for your support of Lighthouse Festival Theatre!

Lighthouse-commissioned play Hurry Hard wins national comedy award

Kristen Da Silva holds the Hurry Hard script on the first day of rehearsals at Lighthouse.

Hurry Hard by Kristen Da Silva has been named the best new comedy in Canada.

The curling comedy was commissioned through Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s playwright development program and had its world premiere this summer at Lighthouse in a production directed by Sarah Phillips and starring Bruce Davies, Susie Burnett, James Hawksley, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, and Daniela Vlaskalic.

Da Silva’s script about sibling rivalry and finding new love – set against the background of a hotly contested regional bonspiel – won over Lighthouse audiences and the judges of the Tom Hendry Awards, handed out in Toronto last week by the Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Hurry Hard took home the Stage West Award for best new comedy, which has Da Silva feeling excited and thankful.

“I’m very grateful to the Playwrights Guild, Stage West and the Pechet family for recognizing comedy as an art form and for championing the development of new Canadian works in this genre,” Da Silva said.

“This play was commissioned by Lighthouse Festival Theatre. Lighthouse invested in it in all of the ways there is to invest in a play. (Artistic director) Derek Ritschel had full belief in the play from the beginning and continued to believe in it even when I struggled during its creation. During the long process of development, Lighthouse provided not only financial support but also artistic collaboration, through workshops and access to professional actors and directors, each of whom had a hand in shaping the play. The end result is the product of the talent of many artists, all of whom were assembled by Lighthouse.”

Fostering Canadian talent is at the core of Lighthouse’s mission, said Ritschel.

“Lighthouse couldn’t be happier for Kristen. Supporting Canadian playwrights is hands down what Lighthouse Theatre is about,” he said.

“There is so much talent out there and they sometimes need a small push or a helping hand to flourish. We are so thrilled that Hurry Hard will be seen by many more audiences for years and years to come. What an absolute joy for us.”

Da Silva is quickly making a name for herself on the national theatre scene, with six published comedies to date. Lighthouse stagedFive Alarm – set at a country fair’s chili cookoff – in 2017 and next year will produce Sugar Road, described as a romantic comedy with a country twang.

Da Silva says initiatives like Lighthouse’s playwright development program are crucial to sustaining a healthy Canadian theatre industry.
“When organizations invest in Canadian writers – through their time, their resources, their expertise and their financial support – they’re doing more than just saying that Canadian content matters, they’re powering its generation,” she said.

“With arts funding being cut across the country, this matters now more than ever.”

Perfect start to retirement for 50/50 draw grand prize winner

When Cathy Zavitz came to Lighthouse to see Lunenburg by one of her favourite playwrights, Norm Foster, little did she imagine she would walk out of the theatre holding a 50/50 ticket worth over $8,000.

Zavitz was the lucky grand prize winner of our season-long 50/50 draw. Her winning ticket was drawn during the season topper, Across the Pond, and on Friday she drove down to Port Dover from her home in Hamilton to pick up her winnings – a cheque for $8,129.

“I’ve never won so much money in my life!” Zavitz said.

Zavitz says she makes a point of coming to Lighthouse at least once every summer.

“We like the smaller venues a whole lot better than going to Toronto. You feel like you’re participating more,” she said.

“And of course, it’s a beautiful setting. We can have dinner and see the show.”

The unexpected windfall makes for a fabulous start to a new stage of life for Zavitz, who retired in June from a career as a legal assistant.

She’s still mulling her options, but taking a trip and doing some home renovations are high on the list of what to do with her winnings.