Tag: lighthouse festival

Lighthouse Festival’s March Break Shows Announced

Lighthouse Festival March Break Shows 2023
Lighthouse Festival March Break Shows 2023

Dufflebag Theatre to perform Peter Pan & Snow White

 January 28, 2023. Port Dover, ON: Lighthouse Festival is pleased to be offering two March Break shows from DuffleBag Theatre: Peter Pan & Snow White. These amazing shows for the whole family create theatrical magic by inviting up audience members as the stars of the show! The result is an exciting, interactive, and unique experience for all. Tickets are available at www.lighthousetheatre.com.


Lighthouse Festival regularly welcomes upwards of 60,000 people through our doors each summer season with 52% of our attendees travelling more than 40km to come to our theatre. As a charitable organization, we recognize the value of strong community partnerships and local support. We encourage anyone planning a visit to Port Dover to utilize the “visit” section on Lighthousetheatre.com and add some local attractions, restaurants, accommodations, and more to your itinerary. 


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. Operating in two towns on Lake Erie, our theatres operate on a central policy of hospitality, accessibility, and affordability for all. 

For more information or to arrange an interview with Artistic Director Derek Ristschel, please contact: Don Kearney-Bourque, Marketing and Communications Officer at 519-583-1031 x 225 | 289-541-7410 or don@thousetheatre.com.

 Tickets on sale for Lighthouse Festival’s Community Show

Clue The Musical Image
Clue The Musical

 March & April laughs are here! 

 January 27, 2023. Port Dover, ON: After an absence of numerous years due to a pandemic that prevented in-person laughs, our community show is back with a vengeance and ready to wow audiences in Port Dover. Based on the entertaining and addictive board game of the same name, Clue the Musical will rely heavily on audience participation and quick thinking from the talented cast. The play is directed by Lighthouse Festival’s Artistic Director Derek Ritschel. 

“Both the cast and crew are very excited to be back in rehearsals after a long time away from the stage,” said Ritschel. “The interactive element in this production mixed with the musical and comedic talents of our cast will add a new dimension to our community theatre that we haven’t done in past productions.” 

The massively popular board game comes to life as a hilarious & fun-filled musical that brings the world’s best-known suspects to the stage and invites the audience to help solve the mystery: who did it, in what room and with what weapon. With 216 possible solutions, audience members must hone their sleuthing skills while enjoying a beguiling score, witty lyrics, and comedic antics. In the end, only one hard-nosed detective is qualified to unravel the mayhem and help solve whodunnit! On stage from April 6th to April 21st, 2023 with tickets on sale now at lighthousetheatre.com


Lighthouse Festival regularly welcomes upwards of 60,000 people through our doors each summer season with 52% of our attendees travelling more than 40km to come to our theatre. As a charitable organization, we recognize the value of strong community partnerships and local support. We encourage anyone planning a visit to Port Dover to utilize the “visit” section on Lighthousetheatre.com and add some local attractions, restaurants, accommodations, and more to your itinerary. 


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. Operating in two towns on Lake Erie, our theatres operate on a central policy of hospitality, accessibility, and affordability for all. 

For more information or to arrange an interview with Artistic Director Derek Ristschel, please contact: Don Kearney-Bourque, Marketing and Communications Officer  at 519-583-1031 x 225 | 289-541-7410 or don@lighthousetheatre.com.

Meet Jane Spence, Lighthouse Festival’s new Artistic Associate

Lighthouse Festival has announced it will be taking a giant stride forward in its artistic leadership. Celebrated and veteran actor/director Jane Spence has been appointed as Lighthouse Festival’s first Artistic Associate.

With guidance from Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, Spence joins the theatre as no stranger to the Lighthouse Festival community. Patrons will remember her from many past productions, including acting in 2010’s When the Reaper Calls and Norm Foster’s The Melville Boys. She was the Assistant Director for 2017’s First Name Basis, workshopped Hurry Hard with Kristen Da Silva in 2018, performed in Beyond the Sea through 2021 and most recently directed 2022’s fan-favourite production of Norm Foster’s Halfway There. 

“In many ways, Jane has always been with Lighthouse,” shares Ritschel. “I have brought her to our theatres as an actor, director, and dramaturge without hesitation. Bringing her in to help Lighthouse with our artistic future is one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made as Artistic Director.”

Spence will work closely with Ritschel to propel Lighthouse Festival forward and enhance its product for patrons while fostering and promoting the Canadian theatre industry. On top of the day-to-day contributions and focus on play development, she’ll also be directing two productions for the 2023 summer season: the world premiere of On the Air by Ephraim Ellis and Where You Are by Kristen Da Silva. 

We sent Jane over five questions to help introduce her to patrons:

Where might Lighthouse Festival patrons remember you from?

“I first performed at Lighthouse in 2010 in two shows that season: When the Reaper Calls, and The Melville Boys by Norm Foster. I was the Assistant Director on First Name Basis by John Spurway in 2017 and I workshopped Hurry Hard by Kristen Da Silva in 2018. A few years later I performed in Beyond the Sea by Kristen Da Silva and most recently I was the director of Norm Foster’s Halfway There this past summer.”

What will be your role as the Artistic Associate?

“For the summer of 2023 I will be directing two productions: the world premiere of On The Air by Ephraim Ellis and Where You Are By Kristen Da Silva. I will also be focusing on new play development, generally contributing where I can and learning about all aspects of running a theatre.”

What was your initial reaction when Derek Ritschel approached you about this position?

“I was elated that he invited me to join this amazing team! It is a dream come true for me. As Theatre Artists we spend most of our careers working in many different places for short periods of time, Lighthouse is giving me a theatre to call home.”

As a theatre artist, what draws you to Lighthouse Festival?

“I have always admired the vision, passion and dedication with which Derek and the rest of the Lighthouse family run their theatres and I have witnessed Lighthouse grow enormously since 2010. A rehearsal hall has been built, many renovations to the theatres have been made, and Lighthouse has acquired 2 more venues. These are massive accomplishments that wouldn’t be possible with out the hard work of that incredible team and the support of the audience and funders who recognize value of the entertainment Lighthouse provides, and of course the community that it brings together.”

What do you see for the future of Lighthouse Festival?

“I see Lighthouse continuing in the direction Derek has been guiding it. The home of comedies with heart. A place where new Canadian works are created and premiered. A place where you are guaranteed to laugh and be moved. A place where great memories are made.”

Learn more about the plays Jane Spece is directing next summer by clicking the buttons below:

What exactly does a donation to Lighthouse Festival do?

On this Giving Tuesday, we want to shine a spotlight on our donors and the remarkable impact they have on our live theatre community of actors, artists and audiences.  

Our incredible donors were responsible for making over 40,000 patrons laugh at a season of silly but heartfelt performances. Enabling actors who had been away from the stage for too long to return to thunderous applause.  

Our donors supported the creation of ten new plays from playwrights of all levels; providing mentorship and collaboration with their contemporaries, weaving together the delicate balance of comedy and friction, the very essence of humanity to premiere for audiences around Ontario.  

Our donors helped thirteen youths stand centre stage receiving ovations from the over 1,600 patrons who attended their Young Company performances. Working through a three-week professional workshop and an eight-run performance schedule, these young people emerged with confidence and lasting friendships.  

Our donors are the reason Lighthouse endured and is now in a position to flourish. They are the reason the Community Show will return in the spring starring local amateur actors, the reason relaxed performances will be introduced making theatre more accessible to all, and the reason our 2023 main season will premiere two plays that were developed under Artistic Director Derek Ritschel’s guidance 

To our donors, we express our deepest gratitude for your generosity. Your dedication to enriching lives and celebrating theatre is the ultimate expression of caring. Live theatre is a crucial way to tell our stories, allowing others to discover and appreciate our heritage, struggles and successes. Your contribution will have a lasting impact on generations of theatre lovers.  

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to you.  

Lighthouse Festival set to Welcome Patrons Back Next Summer with Seminal 2023 Playbill 

2023 Season Poster
The 2023 Season Poster

Tickets are on sale now for the new season of summer comedies.  Written by Canadians, about Canadians, and for Canadians. 

PORT DOVER & PORT COLBORNE, ON (Nov24,2022) – During a visit to Lighthouse Festival in the summer of 2022, veteran theatre critic Gary Smith described Lighthouse as, “the home of Canadian theatre comedies.” A badge the Festival wears proudly.

“To all comedy and theatre lovers across Ontario and beyond, we can’t wait to welcome you back home,” shares Lighthouse Festival Artistic Director Derek Ritschel. “Lighthouse Festival has put together an exhilarating and diverse lineup of comedies for the summer of 2023. Written by Canadians, about Canadians, and for Canadians.”

Tickets are now on sale for a new season of laughter that truly sets itself apart from other summer theatre festivals for one simple fact: most of the shows, you can’t see anywhere else. As part of their Play Development Program, Lighthouse Festival has commissioned and developed three world premieres for this season that Lighthouse patrons will be able to see before other theatres even have an opportunity to stage them. The opportunity to bring new works to the stage is a point of pride for Ritschel, who shares, “part of our commitment to supporting Canadian theatre is to give Canadians a chance to share their stories and ideas. A lot of work goes into writing a good comedy with heart. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seasoned writer or an aspiring playwright with an interesting idea; we’re here to use our resources and virtuosity in theatre to take their creativity from the page to stage.”

The Season:

Come Down From Up River by Norm Foster (May 17 – June 18)

Norm Foster’s signature writing brings us a hilarious yet poignant tale of a woodsman from Northern New Brunswick trying to reconnect with his estranged niece and her wife in the big city.

On The Air by Ephraim Ellis (June 7 – June 28):

World Premiere – Lighthouse favourite Jane Spence directs this world premiere that sees a rag- tag group of amateur radio broadcasters use diversity to their strength and embrace chaos to save their small-town radio station on Lake Kashagakaganee.

Sakura: The Last Cherry Blossom Festival by Terry Watada (June 28th – July 30th)

World Premiere – A charming and humorous true story of Japanese Immigrant Kobi Kobayashi, who settles in Port Dover in the 1930s and inspires us all to be good members of our community. This uplifting story is not one to be missed.

For Immediate Release

Where YouAre by Kristen Da Silva (July 19 – August 20)

Lighthouse staple Kristen Da Silva brings us a story of quiet retirement turned hectic family reunion in this story filled with family, humour, and heart.

A Pack Of Thieves by Norm Foster (August 16th – September 17th)

World Premiere –This is an unrelenting comedy, get ready for some big laughs. Don’t miss out on being the first to see a new Norm Foster production.

The season wraps up in September with a concert in the form of Opry Gold with The Wayward Wind Band. This musical blockbuster, created by Leisa Way, showcases former and current kings and queens of country music while celebrating the history of Nashville’s iconic Grand Ol’ Opry.

Tickets for performances start at $42 with savings available in the form of a Lighthouse Festival subscription, allowing patrons to see each production this season with up to 15% in discounts. Full ticket information can be found at lighthousetheatre.com.

Destination For Laughter:

Lighthouse Festival is a charitable organization that has been a top tourist destination in Norfolk County for almost half a century, regularly welcoming over 60,000 patrons from all over Ontario through their doors each summer. Now, with a location in Port Colborne at the Roselawn Theatre, Lighthouse laughter spreads along the shores of Lake Erie boosting local tourism, community spirit, and Canadian arts in two beautiful lakeside towns. Our theatres operate on a central hospitality, accessibility, and affordability policy for all. With over 50% of patrons travelling 40km or more to get to their theatres, theatregoers are encouraged to utilize the “Visit” section at Lighthousetheatre.com to explore the amazing restaurants, shops and more in our wonderful communities.

To arrange an interview with Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, or for more information please contact: Ryan Daly, Marketing & Communications Officer. ryan@lighthousetheatre.com | 226-922-7905

Lighthouse Festival receives generous donation from Reise Family Foundation

PORT DOVER , ON- The Reise Family Foundation has stepped forward with a gift of $5,000 in support of the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover. Lighthouse’s mission to commission, develop, produce, and present high-calibre professional theatre with a focus on Canadian comedies, stories and artists resonates with the Reise Family Foundation which values fostering the growth of individuals and supporting organizations that spread care and compassion in their communities.

Established by the late Leo and Geraldine Reise as well as their three sons, Leo G, Charles and Norman, the foundation funds individuals and projects in sports, education, health, and the arts. Leo and Geraldine knew the value of education was paramount, health research studies need to be championed, and sports and the arts are integral to fostering personal growth. The Foundation is now managed by the three sons and their grandchildren who are proud to continue the legacy of giving, each bringing causes close to their hearts to the table for consideration.

The Reise family are long-time summer residents in Port Dover’s Buck’s Park and have been supporting Lighthouse Festival from its start in 1980 through donations and season subscriptions. The foundation is proud to make this gift in memory of Leo and Geraldine and recognize the important contribution to the arts, culture and growth opportunities that Lighthouse Festival brings to Port Dover, especially the youth programming offered through the Young Company.

As Lighthouse plans for its 43rd season, they are thrilled and grateful to receive this support from the Reise Family Foundation. As an arts leader in the community, Lighthouse strives to provide an inclusive space for everyone who is interested in being a part of live theatre. The Young Company program offers youth aged 11-17 a three-week camp experience working with professional theatre staff and crew culminating in an eight-performance run on the stage in Port Dover.


The Reise Family Foundation is a private charitable foundation established in 2017 to formalize their families’ philanthropic efforts and continue the Reise legacy of living and caring for perpetuity. More information can be found on the foundation website at www.reisefamilyfoundation.com

Lighthouse Festival celebrates our Port Dover volunteers

Lighthouse Festival is a charitable organization supported by the most passionate, dependable, and all-around fantastic volunteer base. Volunteers are vital to the Lighthouse experience; they welcome patrons at the doors, scan tickets, hand out programs, usher patrons to their seats and handle many other behind the scenes activities.

On October 18th, 2022, Lighthouse hosted the “Volunteer Appreciation Night” for our Port Dover volunteers. Complete with a delicious spread from Schofields Bistro and the sweet sounds of Amber Banks and Nolan Gibson on guitar. Here we celebrated those so crucial to the Lighthouse Festival experience and handed out commemorative pins for select volunteers that celebrated milestone years of volunteering. Some have volunteered to be an essential part of your Lighthouse Festival experience for over 25 years!

Thank you to all our volunteers!

Lighthouse Festival 2022 season success due in part to funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation

This press release was sent out on October 18th, 2022.

Grand River, ON – Lighthouse Festival returned this summer, following two years of pandemic closures, to a keen audience of theatre lovers who sold out performances and saw an overall attendance of 40,000 take in the season. The season’s success is partly due to the $250,000 Community Building Fund – Operating Stream grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) that Lighthouse received in September 2021. This grant allowed Lighthouse to rebuild its administrative team over the winter in preparation to launch the season this past February. 

“This grant, given in 2021, was vital to assisting the Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s ability to survive through shutdowns,” said Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Bobbi Ann Brady. “Theatre goers near and far will be thankful for the continued success of this lynchpin in the Port Dover tourism economy.”

“As with many arts organizations during the pandemic, Lighthouse was closed for an extended period and had to make the difficult decision to reduce the team,” said Executive Director Nicole Campbell. When the world started to re-open and it looked like Lighthouse would be able to have a full season, Campbell knew she needed to fill those positions again. 

“Receiving the operational grant was vital to re-establishing our team so we could launch the season and start selling subscriptions and tickets at the start of this year,” said Campbell. “Operational grants are not very common but following two years of ever-changing restrictions and closures, the number one priority had to be building our administrative foundation back up and Ontario Trillium Foundation recognized that need.” 

The funding meant that Lighthouse was able to fill most positions that had been in place for the 2021 season, but also realize an opportunity they had been working on over the pandemic- building the sets for the plays in-house. The OTF funding created the opportunity to hire a carpenter in the winter to start working on sets instead of having them built by an outside company and then shipped down to the theatre. 

The Community Building Fund’s operational stream also helped supplement building maintenance, which was a huge help for the Port Dover location as the theatre’s home is the historic town hall originally built in 1904. Managing a heritage building requires extra attention and though the theatre was closed for over 18 months straight, the building needed just as much attention as when the theatre is running at full capacity. 

“Caring for a heritage building and recognizing the history that has taken place under this roof, is a great privilege,” said Campbell. “It is also a great responsibility to keep on top of repairs and find creative ways to include modern necessities while respecting the original building. The OTF funding helped cover those expenses in a time when our main source of revenue – ticket sales – was reduced significantly.”

With a successful 2022 season under its belt, Lighthouse has already announced the playbill for the 2023 season with tickets going on sale to the public on November 14th. It promises to be another laugh-filled summer with three world premieres and two productions from iconic Canadian playwright Norm Foster. To see all the events taking place at Lighthouse visit their website at www.lighthousetheatre.com.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation’s (OTF) mission is to build healthy and vibrant communities across Ontario. As an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations, OTF invested nearly $209M into 2,042 community projects and partnerships last year, including funding for the Government of Ontario’s Community Building Fund. Since 2020, OTF has supported Ontario’s economic recovery by helping non-profit organizations rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Visit otf.ca to learn more.

Review – Murder, mystery, big laughs highlight Lighthouse’s best show of the season

This review of The Real Sherlock Holmes was originally published in The Haldimand Press on September 8, 2022

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

PORT COLBORNE—If you’re looking for an evening of non-stop hilarity, wrapped around an entertaining old-fashioned murder mystery, then look no further than Lighthouse Festival’s world premiere of the new play The Real Sherlock Holmes.

This play is a true showstopper, with the wizards at Lighthouse turning an incredibly versatile set into a wide variety of locations, including laboratories, Scottish castles, a stormy sea at night, a prison cell, and more. Utilizing dazzling lighting and sound effects, the work is remarkably seamless, creating the illusion that you are travelling across the countryside along with the main characters as they chase down a murderer.

Canadian playwright Peter Colley knows how to blend comedy and menace with near surgical precision. While the show features several over-the-top characters meant to draw big laughs, the central mystery at its core remains interesting throughout, and has a great twist ending.

The story focuses on a young Arthur Conan Doyle, long before he created the iconic Sherlock Holmes, as a young medical student who gets drawn into a murder investigation thanks to his instructor, Professor Bell. Jeff Dingle as Doyle and David Rosser as Bell have a terrific chemistry right from the first scene, with their interactions playing out like scenes from a classic British sitcom. 

Their investigation leads them to the doorstep of Lady Louisa and her relative Jenny, played by Susan Johnston-Collins and Blythe Haynes respectively. Along the way they meet a rogues’ gallery of characters, deftly brought to life by a small cast of actors handling multiple roles. The acting chops on display across this range of broad side characters makes for excellent comedy. Each time an actor appears as another, even more outlandish character, the resounding bouts of laughter from the crowd grew larger and more sustained.

Nicole Wilson shines in multiple roles as a mysterious hag, a morgue attendant, and more, while both Alan Cooke and Mark McGrinder repeatedly appear as a series of recurring characters, each completely distinct and with their own set of hilarious tics. Honestly, it’s an acting showcase that needs to be seen in person to fully appreciate.

It’s ultimately up to Dingle as the young, intrepid Doyle to anchor the show and keep the narrative momentum flowing. He is able to imbue the famous author with a nervous energy that fits the story perfectly, serving as a perfect straight man to the madness unfolding around him. Pulling from research on Doyle, the character is presented as highly susceptible to mystical elements, such as ghosts, selkies, and other creatures of folklore – something that allows the play to achieve a certain otherworldly charm as Doyle occasionally encounters what he believes to be apparitions or fantasy creatures.

After playing to sold out audiences at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover, the show is now playing at the Roselawn Theatre in Port Colborne through September 18. If you like to laugh, The Real Sherlock Holmes will give you exactly what you want, enough belly laughs to keep you entertained from beginning to end, and enough technical wizardry on display to leave you dazzled. What are you waiting for? Go get your tickets and enjoy the show!

Show Review: The Real Sherlock Holmes is an elegant first-rate production that will make you laugh

Allan Cooke, Jeff Dingle and David Rosser in The Real Sherlock Holmes | Director: David Nairn, Set: William Chesney, Lighting: Wendy Lundgren, Costumes: Claudine Parker,

This show review by Gary Smith was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on August 27th, 2022.

So, just who is “The Real Sherlock Holmes”?

Fans of the legendary fast-talking sleuth, know he sprang from the fertile imagination of feisty Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Or did he?

Did the deerstalker detective have a different provenance? Did someone influence Conan Doyle’s penning of all those dark-hearted Sherlock mysteries? Did “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “Sherlock’s Last Case” really spring from Conan Doyle’s fertile brain without assistance?

If you don’t know you need to go to the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. That’s where lean and lanky actor Jeff Dingle spills the beans, as he trots across the Dover stage in search of adventure and romance.

Dingle, a terrific Conan Doyle, has exactly the right sense of style and pace to make this spirited Peter Colley comedy work.

He knows the perfect way to send up the drama, give the comedy a sly twist and create comic moments of perfect silliness. Dingle is aided and abetted by a smooth and smug Professor Bell from actor David Rosser.

Together this agreeable partnership gives this lunatic adventure story a sense of tremendous fun and wide-eyed innocence.

Add to the mix, wonderful Hamilton actress Susan JohnstonCollins who gives haughty and imperious Lady Louisa a perfect twist of sour lemon. JohnstonCollins is capable of controlling a scene when she’s simply standing around, artfully dabbing her nose with her always handy lace hankie. Or even better, lifting those incredibly arched eyebrows in mortal disdain.

These three actors, light up the Dover stage, dominating Colley’s play with intentionally elevated acting that makes their performances linger in the imagination long after the baddies are carted off to jail and Conan Doyle, not yet a Sir, kisses sweet little Jenny, (Blythe Hanes) who gives his crank an American twist. 

A terrific set from William Chesney is evocative and imaginative

with its several levels and hidden pop-out surprises, it is a perfect landscape for the play’s nefarious goings-on.

Then too, Claudine Parker’s lived-in costumes have just the right touch of cheesiness about them to suggest old-time melodrama.

Add Wendy Lundgren’s mood-drenched lighting and you have a sense of mystery.

Mark McGrinder and Allan Cooke, playing an assortment of outrageous characters, from a fiendish bagpipe player to a One-Eyed Old Salt of the Sea, tend to veer somewhere over the top, but my goodness they do make you laugh.

To read the full review please click this link to visit The Hamilton Spectator website

Introducing Tip Of The Iceberg

Just because summer is on the way out doesn’t mean the laughs are stopping at Lighthouse Festival. We are thrilled to welcome patrons back to the theatre this November with our first ever fall production; the world premiere of Tip Of The Iceberg. Written by three playwrights based out of Norfolk County as part of Lighthouse Festival’s Play Development Program, Tip Of The Iceberg is a story of friendships. It’s filled to the brim with original folk music woven into the production and guiding the story along in a unique way. It projects an inspiring message of “It’s not too late.” Above all, it carries the Lighthouse Festival banner forward with a Canadian sense of humour that patrons know and love.

Tip Poster
Tip Of The Iceberg plays this November at Lighthouse Festival

Show Synopsis

Gordon and Archie are lifelong friends born and raised in a remote Newfoundland fishing village. After a lifetime on the seas, they are surprised tourism has become the main industry in their sleepy town. Rich tourists are paying big bucks for an authentic NFLD experience and Archie believes he has hit upon an idea where they can reclaim their youth and make a fortune off the flocking tourists. All he needs is his friend, a boat, an iceberg, and a little bit of luck.

About Tip Of The Iceberg

In the summer of 2019, Lighthouse Festival’s Artistic Director, Derek Ritschel, was approached by three aspiring playwrights from Norfolk County: Chris Rait, Mark Williams and Jeannine Bouw. The three had a rough draft of a script they were writing: a story concept created by Chris Rait, injected with some of Jeannine’s comedy and Mark’s authentic Newfoundland homegrown stories to anchor it.

“We’d have a glass of wine and Mark would start telling a story and I would type as he would talk.” – Jeannine Bouw

Having never previously written a play, the three approached Ritschel with a first draft hoping for some simple advice and pointers. That’s not what happened though. Instead, Ritschel was so impressed with the story and their ideas that the three friends were ushered in under Lighthouse Festival’s Play Development Program.

“We asked Derek if he could just humour us and read the play for feedback as a favour, the next thing we know we get a call from Derek asking if we can come into his office.” – Chris Rait

Derek’s involvement led to a second draft of the story and a professional table read at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto with actors Sam Rosenthal, David Rosser, and Ralph Small. Three years full of countless rewrites, edits and compromises between the playwrights has since passed to fine tune the show. Now, Tip Of The Iceberg is ready to make the Lighthouse stage it’s home. While full of original music, fun and laughter, the writers hope a strong message comes across to the Lighthouse audience.

“These are two men; their best days are behind them. But at the same time, throughout the play the audience and the characters come to the realization that it’s not all said and done yet. There are new doors to open, there’s new avenues to travel. You can move on; you can move forward. There’s still a lot of fun to be had.” – Mark Williams

“I want someone leaving the theatre going ‘I haven’t played my guitar in like 20 years; I want to go home and do that tomorrow. I want to try gardening, or I want to go to Mexico.’” – Chris Rait

Lighthouse Festival has been a part of the fabric of Norfolk County since the 1980s’ and now the Niagara Region for the past decade and is absolutely thrilled to support aspiring local playwrights in the development of their stories.

“To be able to say we wrote a play, and had it preformed, and we’re from Norfolk County, and it opened at Lighthouse Festival. That’s a big source of pride.” – Mark Williams

Tip Of The Iceberg

Written by Chris Rait, Mark Williams and Jeannine Bouw | Music by Chris Rait
Port Colborne Run – November 9th – 13th
Port Dover Run – November 16th – 26th

Show Review: ‘Halfway There’ is Norm Foster at his most beguiling

This show review by Gary Smith was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on July 8th.

Want to laugh until your sides ache? Want to cry until your heart breaks?

Want to see Canada’s most prolific playwright at the very top of his game? Want to see a cast committed to theatre as a place of moving and insightful entertainment?

OK, so enough with the questions.

Go grab your favourite device and book seats for “Halfway There.” This wonderful Norm Foster comedy, with its sly comic invention and generous dollop of truth, is one of the best things I’ve seen all year. That includes Broadway, London’s West End and the Stratford Festival.

It’s in Port Dover at The Lighthouse Festival Theatre, the home of Canadian theatre comedies. But oh my, it’s so much more than you might think.

Some years back Foster wrote a play about male bonding called “The Foursome.” Well, now he’s done something even more winning.

With “Halfway There,” he’s written a rueful, first-rate love story about women. I don’t think anyone’s done this sort of thing better.

It’s “Steel Magnolias,” “Morning’s At Seven” and “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” all rolled into one. Except for one thing special. It’s uniquely Foster in every possible way.

Laughs, and believe me there are dozens and dozens of them, punctuate some of the warmest and loving moments I can remember on a stage.

Yet, these whoppers that make you laugh until you can’t take it anymore never encroach on the humanity and the truth of the play. Foster’s characters grow naturally out of a series of crises and challenges that face Rita (the wonderful Susan Henley), Vi (the irrepressible Debra Hale) and Mary Ellen (Melodee Finlay, one time Queen of Port Dover Lighthouse comedies, who is happily back with a vengeance).

These three lovable women are a triumvirate to reckon with. Their performances bristle with a kind of exquisite energy and truth that radiates from the stage like a warm hug and a great big kiss. These three friends face the losses in their lives with a will to shrug off sorrow and the strength to hold on tight to what makes them strong. They are so real you want to join their group hugs on stage, grab their hands and take them all out for a drink and a fish fry at Dover’s vintage Erie Beach Hotel.

They aren’t the centre of the story here, but they are the steamrolling heart of Foster’s wonderful play. They are what gives it its joy, laughter and tender moments of female bonding, moments that transcend life’s sometimes awkward and painful annoyances.

We are in a little diner in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. That’s the place that is halfway to the North Pole. Now you get the play’s title, right? But that’s only a small part of what it really means. More about that later.

Into this evocative spot — where waitress Janine Babineau, played smartly by Kristen Da Silva, dreams about finding real love and a hold on life — walks handsome Sean Merritt, who’s terrific as a visiting doctor in town for a month or two, working at the local hospital. And isn’t he just about perfect in a quiet, no-nonsense way.

Just maybe, he’s what Janine is looking for, someone to give her life meaning.

To read the full review please click this link to visit The Hamilton Spectator website