For Immediate Release: Lighthouse Festival announces change in Artistic Director

Derek Ritschel to step down as Artistic Director of Lighthouse Festival after 14 years and transition to Director in Residence

Lighthouse Artistic Associate Jane Spence to move into role of Artistic Director effective November 2024

July 11, 2024 – Port Dover, ON | After 14 impeccable years of dedication and innovation, Derek Ritschel will be stepping down from his role as Artistic Director of Lighthouse Festival. Ritschel will transition into the new role of Director in Residence, effective November 1, 2024. Under his leadership, the theatre has seen unprecedented growth and success, solidifying its place as a cornerstone of the artistic community in Southern Ontario and beyond.

Jane Spence and Derek Ritschel out front of Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover, ON – July 9, 2024

Reflecting on his tenure, Ritschel expressed his deep gratitude, stating, “It has been an absolute honour to serve as Artistic Director for the past 14 years. I couldn’t have imagined how great this theatre would become, thanks to the support of our incredible community and the unwavering dedication of our team.”

Incoming Artistic Director Jane Spence

Ritschel’s vision and commitment have been instrumental in numerous developments, including guiding the company during the most fiscally successful decade (pre-Covid), saving Roselawn Theatre and Simcoe Little Theatre from closure, adding a new rehearsal hall, creating the community show, introducing the holiday pantomime and relaxed performances, extending rehearsal time for all main stage productions, substantially upgrading technical theatrical infrastructure in all three theatres, revamping the dressing rooms and green room at Lighthouse Theatre, producing 17 World Premieres and contributing to the Lighthouse artistic fabric as an actor, writer, director and Artistic Director for 22 years.

Lighthouse Festival Chair J.J. Knott expressed the Board’s appreciation for Ritschel’s extraordinary contributions. “We are incredibly thankful to Derek for his commitment and leadership over the last 14 years. His vision has transformed Lighthouse Festival into a vibrant cultural hub, and his legacy will continue to inspire us.” In his capacity as Director in Residence, Ritschel will continue to helm the popular community show in the spring, as well as direct two summer productions each season.

As Ritschel moves into his new role, Lighthouse Festival is pleased to announce that Jane Spence, the current Artistic Associate, will be stepping into the Artistic Director role. Spence brings a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective to the role, with nearly 30 years as a performer and director having worked in theatres both across Canada and internationally. The theatre community enthusiastically anticipates this exciting new chapter.

Outgoing Artistic Director Derek Ritschel

“I am deeply honoured to undertake this new venture as Artistic Director,” Spence shared. “Derek has left an indelible mark on Lighthouse, and I am excited to build upon his legacy. I look forward to carrying Lighthouse Festival into the future, with a continued focus on innovation, inclusivity, and artistic excellence.”

Knott also expressed the Board’s confidence in Spence’s abilities. “We have the utmost confidence in Jane and her vision for Lighthouse. Her passion and commitment to the arts make her the ideal leader to guide us into the next era of growth and success.”

Ritschel’s influence will undoubtedly continue to shape and inspire the theatre’s artistic journey and with respect to Spence’s new role, Ritschel added, “I am very eager to work under Jane’s direction and I look forward to continuing our artistic collaboration, which has already spanned 14 years.”

The entire Lighthouse Festival community extends its heartfelt thanks to Ritschel for his unparalleled leadership and looks forward to an exciting future under Spence’s direction.

About Lighthouse Festival
Lighthouse Festival is a charitable organization devoted to the development and production of new and existing Canadian plays. Lighthouse Festival strives to be artistically excellent, support and encourage local and regional artists, and be a source of enjoyment and pride in local communities while promoting local tourism. Located in two beautiful towns on Lake Erie, our theatres operate on a central policy of hospitality, accessibility, and affordability for all.

Media Contact
For media inquiries and further information, please contact:

Don Kearney-Bourque
Marketing & Communications Manager
Lighthouse Festival Theatre Corporation
Direct: (226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410