Tag: port dover

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
don@lighthousetheatre.com
Direct: (226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410


Review: ‘Mary’s Wedding’ in Port Dover elevates the summer theatre season (Hamilton Spectator)

Evelyn Wiebe & Daniel Reale in Lighthouse Festival’s 2024 production of Mary’s Wedding.

Theatre that asks you to believe in dreams fills the stage with wonder at The Lighthouse, writes Gary Smith.

By Gary Smith | Special to the Hamilton Spectator

Saturday, July 6, 2024

If you only see one play this summer, for goodness sake make it Lighthouse Theatre’s ravishing production of Mary’s Wedding.

The Lighthouse in Port Dover is primarily known for its relentless comedies that are mostly laugh-out-loud funny.

Yet, every so often, one of these whiz-bang laugh machines combines laughter with serious thought. Norm Foster’s Halfway There and the heartwarming gay comedy Bed and Breakfast from last season come instantly to mind for the way they do that.

But this year there is something more. When you least expected it, something special has come along.

Daniel Reale and Evelyn Wiebe in Lighthouse Festival’s production of Mary’s Wedding. It’s a richly written, poetic drama that will make you sit bolt upright in your seat, Gary Smith writes. Photo Credit: Don Kearney-Bourque, Lighthouse Festival

Mary’s Wedding, a tender, heartbreaking drama by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte, has just opened to elevate the theatre season.

It’s a richly written, poetic drama that will make you sit bolt upright in your seat. You’ll care for its characters, Mary and Charles, strangers who meet by serendipity one stormy night in a weathered old barn. As the thunder growls outside sheltering walls, and blinding lightning pierces the gloomy darkness, these ingratiating souls long for their lives to intersect in a way that might suggest a welcoming, happy ever after moment.

Evelyn Wiebe & Daniel Reale in Lighthouse Festival’s 2024 production of Mary’s Wedding.

So, why do we sit in our seats for the play’s bracing two acts knowing this is not likely to happen?

Call it intuition.

We soon realize playwright Massicotte is refusing to make the world a welcoming place for such willing young lovers. We follow his wayward path as he allows fate to intervene. The horror of the trenches and the bayonet attacks of the First World War become a cruel, intrusive part of the story.

Massicotte takes us down some frightening paths precisely because he is a playwright who, in the end, writes truth, not fantasy.

Mary’s Wedding is not a linear play where one moment necessarily leads logically to the next. There is poetry at work here. It’s not for nothing that Mary quotes from The Lady of Shalott and Charles relates the rougher, masculine world of Rudyard Kipling’s rallying cries for empire and false heroics.

Much of Massicotte’s play is filled with the exotic world of the great poets. Nothing is truly what it seems. And this playwright has us wandering the labyrinth of the human imagination, lost and fearful as we seek the elusive exit from some frightening maze.

This is theatre that is gripping and passionate. You can’t let your mind wander for an instant. Better pay attention. This one’s filled with the grace notes of a remarkable imagination.

Now, none of this would matter a whiff, if Mary’s Wedding were given anything less than a superlative production. It’s not the sort of play to survive half measures.

Fortunately, it has at its helm in Port Dover a director deeply invested in the play’s rich poetic heartbeat.

Derek Ritschel, who also happens to be the artistic director of the Lighthouse Festival Theatre, has taken a breathtaking risk in scheduling such an elegant and thoughtful play for inclusion in a summer theatre season normally predicated on more pedestrian, lightweight fare.

But it goes deeper than that.

Ritschel has directed this anti-war, love story brooding with fantasy and surreal thought, and given the play’s sometimes dark and demonic themes, a sweet coating of romantic truth. It’s something that resonates in the imagination long after you’ve left the theatre.

Ritschel has wisely liberated the poetic fantasy of this riveting work. More importantly perhaps, he has cannily unleashed from his talented young actors, Daniel Reale and Evelyn Wiebe, performances that reverberate with the wondrous ring of truth.

These are star turns that would not be out of place on a Broadway or West End London stage. Yes, dear friends, they are just that good.

Reale and Wiebe unlock in Massicotte’s exquisite drama such thrilling moments of tenderness, fear and passionate longing that we cling to faint hopes their lives will have some glorious happy ending.

Here is where Massicotte exercises reality. By the time the last lingering shadows of Wendy Lundgren’s painterly lighting have vanished from William Chesney’s stunning, battered barn of a setting, and we have surrendered completely to the fantasy landscape that is the surreal world of Mary’s Wedding, we are wed to hopes of happiness, but will they happen?

Go see Mary’s Wedding.

Go dream the dream. It is after all a play about dreams, desires and passionate longings. This one asks you to travel through time and space and totally suspend disbelief. It’s a remarkable journey to the outer limits of the imagination.

Plays like this don’t come along all that often. And when they are directed and acted with a kind of powerful charisma that leaps right off the stage, well, you need to be there to catch them.

Gary Smith has written about theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator, as well as a variety of international publications, for more than 40 years.

Lighthouse Festival announces Rainbow Registered accreditation from Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC)

Port Dover, ON – July 5, 2024 | Lighthouse Festival is pleased to announce that our company is now officially Rainbow Registered. This accreditation, administered by Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), is a testament to our commitment to creating a safer, more welcoming, and inclusive space for the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

Our Commitment to Inclusivity: By achieving the Rainbow Registered accreditation, we are recognized for our efforts in ensuring that our 2SLGBTQI+ customers and staff feel valued and respected. This aligns with our core values of diversity and inclusion, and we are proud to be a part of this important national initiative.

What This Means for You: You can trust that we adhere to the national standards of 2SLGBTQI+ inclusivity as a Rainbow Registered organization. Whether you are a customer or a partner, you can expect a welcoming environment that respects and celebrates all individuals.

Join Us in Celebrating Diversity: We invite you to visit us and experience firsthand our commitment to a diverse and inclusive community. Look out for our Rainbow Registered symbol, a mark of our dedication to the 2SLGBTQI+ friendly practices. Together, let’s celebrate diversity and create a more inclusive world.

Explore the Rainbow Registered Community: We are proud to be part of a growing network of businesses and organizations committed to 2SLGBTQI+ inclusivity. We encourage you to visit RainbowRegistered.ca to explore other accredited businesses across Canada and learn more about the program.

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

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

Preview: ‘Mary’s Wedding’ promises sweeping, heartfelt drama set against the backdrop of First World War (The Haldimand Press)

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

June 27, 2024

PORT DOVER—While Lighthouse’s second show of the season, Murder at Ackerton Manor, continues its run in Port Dover as its first show, Doris and Ivy in the Home, wraps up its run in Port Colborne, the theatre’s behind-the-scenes creative team is already busy preparing for this season’s third show, the epic World War I drama Mary’s Wedding.

Lighthouse’s Artistic Director Derek Ritschel is pulling double duty as the show’s director, bringing forward the company’s first and only dramatic entry of the 2024 season.

Mary’s Wedding Director Derek Ritschel

“I was lucky enough to be an actor in its first go-around through the Canadian theatres back in 2004. I fell in love with the play then,” said Ritschel of Mary’s Wedding.

“It’s the kind of storytelling I think is beautiful.”

While Ritschel played one of the show’s two lead characters back in the day, he doesn’t recall a lot from the experience, instead noting, “I’m surprised at how much of this play I’m discovering rather than remembering. It’s more like it’s a new play to me than something I’ve done and have a background in.”

This iteration of the show stars Daniel Reale as Charlie and Evelyn Wiebe as Mary.

“I think the audience will leave thinking about a few things,” said Reale. “The absolutely stunning poetry and writing in the piece, the impacts of the First World War, the social constructs of the early 20th century – but mostly I hope they leave thinking about all those incredible sensations that come with first love…. I love this show for giving me the opportunity to live in that world.”

Wiebe added of her character, “She feels everything so deeply and that’s just the most satisfying thing as an actor. To hear a woman in the 1900s being bold. A lot of folks tend to dismiss a woman falling in love as ‘typical,’ or trope-like. Mary is so much more than that. She’s just a beast of a woman. It’s just the most fun to play.”

Ritschel said the heart of the story amounts to a collision of innocent young love and world-changing devastation.

“Young love can feel like it’s the biggest thing on the planet. It’s the most moving, it’s the biggest thing you’re going to experience in your life. In this place, it is interrupted by a world war,” he explained. “It has all these sweeping themes of love, but also the absolute devastation and horror of war as a major character. It’s not even a backdrop in this show, that’s kind of what I dig about it. It is such a prevalent presence in their lives.”

The show is an outlier in Lighthouse’s season, which is typically focused on bringing big laughs to attendees.

“Once every two or three years Lighthouse will do a play that is more dramatic than it is comedic,” said Ritschel. “The comedy is great, and that’s what the majority of people want and we’re happy to deliver it because people love it, but every now and then we throw one of these in there so people can get a different flavour, a little taste of something different.”

The audience will be taken on a journey through Mary’s memories, with events unfolding both before and after the war over the course of the time-hopping show.

The Cast and Creative Team of Mary’s Wedding.

“It’s one of those plays that pushes the capabilities of Lighthouse. It really utilizes the light and sound and set design, and the creativity of staging a play,” said Ritschel. “That’s what I love.”

Matching the show’s sweeping themes of love and loss, Lighthouse’s technical team has been hard at work utilizing every resource at their availability to ensure the show is one to remember.

“A play like Mary’s Wedding has a lot of ambiance. It’s fun for those of us at the theatre to play with what she’s technically capable of,” said Ritschel.

The play will run at Lighthouse’s Port Dover theatre from July 3-20 and at Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre from July 24-August 4.

For more information on the show, and to purchase tickets, visit lighthousetheatre.com/event/marys-wedding or call the box office at 1-888-779-7703.

After studying journalism at Humber College, Mike Renzella desired to write professionally but found himself working in technical fields for many years. Beginning in 2019 as a freelancer, he joined the team full-time later that year. Since then, Mike has won several awards for his articles thanks to his commitment to presenting an unbiased, honest look at the important news and events shaping our community.

Meet the cast of Mary’s Wedding | Evelyn Wiebe as Mary

Making her Lighthouse debut, Evelyn Wiebe is playing an iconic Canadian role. Mary’s Wedding is a play that tells a story that will make you think about first loves, about the sacrifices of war, and the triumph of the human spirit. Before Lighthouse, she played Cindy in The Darkest Dark, which was nominated for a Dora for best TYA ensemble at Young People’s Theatre, Phoebe in The Judas Kiss at Talk is Free Theatre, and as Janice in Murdoch Mysteries on CBC. We sat down with Evelyn to talk about the challenges of bringing this script to life on stage, why she wanted to be involved in Mary’s Wedding, and how she continues to learn and grow as an actor.

Evelyn Wiebe as Mary in Mary’s Wedding.

Lighthouse Festival (LF): What sort of person is going to love this show? 

Evelyn Wiebe (EW): Anyone and everyone who has ever fallen deeply and helplessly in love will love this show.

(LF): What’s challenging about bringing this script to life? 

(EW): This show isn’t any easy one – it’s a huge wave that we actors must ride. There are ups and downs and turns and twists in it, and aside from meticulously learning everything I can learn about The Great War, it really comes down to just letting go and letting the text do it’s thing. It’s best when you don’t try to control the narrative so much. 

(LF): Why did you want to be involved in this production of Mary’s Wedding?

(EW): Mary reminds me of Juliet. Young, in love, passionate, fiery, witty and curious. She feels everything so deeply and that’s just the most satisfying thing as an actor. To hear a woman in the 1900s being bold. A lot of folks tend to dismiss a woman falling in love as ‘typical’ or trope-like. Mary is so much more than that. She’s just a beast of a woman. It’s just the most fun to play. 

(LF): How do you build chemistry with your fellow cast members?

(EW): Since it’s just dear Daniel and I, I don’t think he has any choice but to build chemistry with me. We laugh a lot, poke fun at one another, grab teas and coffees and lunch breaks when we can, and are enjoying exploring Dover together. So even if he can’t stand me, he’s really just stuck with me. 

(LF): How do you continue to learn and grow as an actor? 

(EW): Oh boy. It never really stops does it? Even if we try. I think the heart of growing as an actor really comes down to practice in trusting oneself. Self doubt is a part of it, curiousity is a part of it, and passion is always there too. It’s often messier than we want it to be, growing that is, but little by little over time, you see small, but wonderful habits that form. Like when I feel, “wow, today I feel like a horrible actor!” (as one sometimes does), you learn that that feeling comes and goes, but the growth is really knowing that – it will do just that: it will come and it will go

Summertime plays at Lighthouse Theatre popular with audiences (Port Dover Maple Leaf)

June 26, 2024

Port Dover Maple Leaf

Port Dover Maple Leaf Staff        

LIGHTHOUSE Festival puts on six plays at Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover each summer, drawing about 40,000 visitors to our community annually. The theatre bills itself as Home of the Canadian Sense of Humour. The organization’s success has made the town a destination for theatre-goers across Ontario. With two plays already over in Port Dover, Lighthouse Festival’s summer season is well underway. It’s a great time to take stock of remaining shows and pick up tickets.

Mary’s Wedding

The season’s third show is Stephen Massicotte’s play Mary’s Wedding. The drama explores the themes of love, loss, and the lingering shadows of war set against the backdrop of World War I. Mary’s Wedding begins the night before Mary is to be married. As she dreams, she revisits her memories of Charlie, a young soldier she fell in love with. The audience is taken on an emotional ride through their budding romance, the trials of separation, and the heartache of war, all told by blending reality and dream.

Daniel Reale, who plays Charlie, shared his thoughts on the play: “I think the audience will leave thinking about a few things. The absolutely stunning poetry and writing in the piece, the impacts of the First World War, the social constructs of the early 20th century — but mostly I hope they leave thinking about all those incredible sensations that come with first love. All of the joy, ease and excitement of finding a person that you can’t ever imagine living without. I love this show for giving me the opportunity to live in that world.”

Evelyn Wiebe, portraying Mary, added: “Mary reminds me of Juliet. Young, in love, passionate, fiery, witty and curious. She feels everything so deeply and that’s just the most satisfying thing as an actor. To hear a woman in the 1900s being bold. A lot of folks tend to dismiss a woman falling in love as ‘typical’ or trope-like. Mary is so much more than that. She’s just a beast of a woman. It’s just the most fun to play.”

The production is helmed by Lighthouse Festival’s artistic director, Derek Ritschel, who brings a unique perspective to the play, having starred as Charlie in a 2005 production. “Directing this play has been a deeply rewarding experience and a passion project of mine,” Mr. Ritschel said. “I fell in love with the show over 20 years ago and I’m thrilled to bring the show to the Lighthouse audience. The cast and crew have poured their hearts into bringing this story to life, capturing the delicate balance between the sweetness of young love and the harsh realities of a world at war. Their dedication and passion are evident in every scene.”

Mr. Ritschel continued: “Mary’s Wedding is not just a love story; it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of dreams to transcend time and space. Through Mary’s dreams, we experience the beauty of love and the harrowing impact of war, all while navigating the ethereal boundaries between reality and imagination.”
Mary’s Wedding runs from July 3 to 20 in Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre and from July 24 to August 4 in Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre

Upcoming shows

The fourth play of the season will be The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, a story about lifelong friendships. Audiences can enjoy the show at Lighthouse Theatre from July 24 to August 10 and at Roselawn Theatre from August 14 to 25.
Fifth this season will be the world premiere of Norm Foster’s Lakefront, which is about a pair of recently acquainted septuagenarians renting a lake cabin together. Open in Port Dover from August 21 to September 7 and in Port Colborne from September 11 to 22.

This year’s season topper is Memphis to Motown: from Soulsville to Hitsville, a live concert with music from artists such as Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and more. See it in Port Dover from September 10 to 28 and Port Colborne from October 2 to 13. 


For more information on what’s on stage at Lighthouse and to purchase tickets, visit lighthousetheatre.com/event/marys-wedding/ or contact the box office at 519-583-2221 or 888-779-7703.

For Immediate Release: Lighthouse Festival announces Evil Dead – The Musical as its 2025 Community Show production

First performed on stage in 2003 in Toronto, the show became an instant hit and moved on to an off-Broadway run

June 25, 2024 – Port Dover, ON – Lighthouse Festival is very thrilled to announce that its highly-anticipated 2025 Community Show will be Evil Dead – The Musical. Directed by Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, this over-the-top production promises to deliver an unforgettable theatrical experience filled with humour, horror, and high-energy performances. Auditions will be held later in 2024, with the production set to hit the stage in April 2025.

Evil Dead – The Musical is a campy, comedic adaptation of Sam Raimi’s cult classic film series. The story follows five college students who unwittingly unleash an ancient evil while vacationing in a remote cabin in the woods. As they battle the forces of darkness, hilarity ensues with plenty of over-the-top gore, catchy musical numbers, and outrageous antics. This show is perfect for fans of the original movies as well as newcomers looking for a wild night out.

Director Derek Ritschel, known for his dynamic and innovative productions, is particularly excited about bringing this unique musical to the Lighthouse Festival Theatre stage. “Staging Evil Dead – The Musical is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” said Ritschel. “The blend of horror and comedy, paired with fantastic music, makes for an incredibly entertaining show. We can’t wait to see our community come together to create something truly special on stage.”

Lighthouse Festival Artistic Director Derek Ritschel.

Ritschel also highlighted the fun and unpredictable nature of the show. “This musical is going to be crazy in the best way possible. From the outrageous costumes and lighting effects to the infectious energy of the cast, audiences are in for a rollercoaster ride of laughter and thrills. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done here, and I know people are going to love it.”

Why will people love the zaniness of Evil Dead – The Musical? The show combines the best elements of horror and comedy, resulting in a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience. The catchy songs, including “Cabin in the Woods,” “Do the Necronomicon,” and “All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons,” will have audiences singing along and laughing out loud. While the infamous “splash zone” will be replaced with something less destructive to the 120-year-old, mostly wood theatre, rest assured that the entertainment level and shock value will be out of this world, keeping the excitement levels high from start to finish.

Auditions for Evil Dead – The Musical will be open to all community members and will take place later in 2024 at Lighthouse Theatre. Lighthouse Festival encourages everyone, regardless of experience, to come out and be a part of this unique and thrilling production.

Mark your calendars for April 2025 and get ready to witness the hilariously horrifying & offensive spectacle that is Evil Dead – The Musical. Stay tuned for more details on auditions and ticket sales on our website at lighthousetheatre.com/community-shows/.


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
don@lighthousetheatre.com
Direct: (226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410


Meet the cast of Mary’s Wedding | Daniel Reale as Charlie

For his first time on stage at Lighthouse Festival, Daniel Reale chose one heck of a role! After all, Mary’s Wedding is a play that will reach deep into your soul and make you think about first loves, the sacrifices of war, and the triumph of the human spirit. Previous to Lighthouse, he’s been in productions at the Bruce County Playhouse, The Hogtown Collective, and Theatre by the Bay, plus as Dr. Bradley Wilson in DOC (Sony/Fox) and as the Handsome Man in Crave/Bell Media’s MADE FOR TV. In between learning all those lines, Daniel was kind enough to chat with us about how he builds chemistry with cast members, what’s the best piece of acting advice he’s received, and what he loves about the character he’s playing in Mary’s Wedding, Charlie.

Daniel Reale as Charlie in Mary’s Wedding.

Lighthouse Festival (LF): What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?

Daniel Reale (DR): I think the audience will leave thinking about a few things. The absolutely stunning poetry and writing in the piece, the impacts of the First World War, the social constructs of the early 20th century- but mostly I hope they leave thinking about all those incredible sensations that come with first love. All of the joy, ease and excitement of finding a person that you can’t ever imagine living without. I love this show for giving me the opportunity to live in that world.

(LF): What do you love about the character you’re playing?

(DR): Charlie isn’t someone who holds back what he is feeling. It’s a gift to get to experience the world of the play through the innocent, hopeful and sometimes naive colours that Stephen has used to paint him with. He speaks his mind and wears his heart on his sleeve, something we can all afford to adopt from him!

(LF): How do you build chemistry with your fellow cast members?

(DR): Since it’s just Evelyn and I performing in the piece, it’s important and has luckily been really easy to build rapport and find common ground in the world of the play. It’s also hard to not become close friends while hanging in the DREAM of a town that is Port Dover. At the end of the day, we’re stuck with each other, so I think we’re very lucky we get along as well as we do. 

(LF): How do you see the role of theatre in today’s society?

(DR): Oof a tough one. Theatre is one of the oldest forms of art and I think there will always be a need for it. As we move towards a world where we are just constantly taking in different forms of media and watching Oscar award winning films on our phones an inch away from our faces… maybe that’s just me… I think it’s important that theatre remains THEATRICAL. We shouldn’t go to the theatre to get something we could watch on TV- but to get a real intimate experience. Something unique to the art form. That’s where this show really sings for me. It has beautiful, grounded realism, but it’s wrapped up in poetry and theatricality that you couldn’t get in another medium. That theatre “magic” is special, it’s the key to the heart of this work and I think the key to keeping theatre relevant for years to come. 

(LF): What’s the best piece of acting advice you’ve ever received? 

(DR): I think the best piece of acting advice I’ve ever received is “Acting is hard. If it was easy everyone would do it.” I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this industry- it’s probably the most fun I could ever imagine myself having at “work”. But it’s important to remind myself that it’s hard. There is a level of athleticism and effort you need to bring to the table when working in theatre – it’s a marathon not a sprint. And without the stamina and rigour that you put into your training, you’ll never be able to perform. The other great advice that goes in tandem with that is “Do the work- work hard, then throw it away” When it’s time to perform you can’t show the audience how hard you are working. You’ve built the framework- now it’s time to live in it.

Mary’s Wedding promises to pack an emotional punch at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Intermission Magazine)

By Nathaniel Hanula-James | Intermission Magazine

Friday, June 21, 2024

This summer, Lighthouse Festival’s audiences are advised to BYOK — Bring Your Own Kleenex. 

They’ll need them for Mary’s Wedding, which begins previews at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover on July 3. Written by Stephen Massicotte and first produced by Alberta Theatre Projects in 2002, Mary’s Wedding transports audiences to the Canadian prairies of the early 20th century, where a young woman named Mary Chalmers, seeking shelter from a thunderstorm in a barn, stumbles upon a young man named Charles Edwards and has her world turned upside down. The ensuing love story, both epic and intimate, spans continents as Charlie sails off to fight in the trenches of the First World War. 

“I liken it more to poetry than I do to your standard text of a play,” said Derek Ritschel, the director of Mary’s Wedding and the artistic director of Lighthouse Festival, in an interview. “Sometimes when a writer writes a show they have all the right ideas, but the rhythm of the lines just doesn’t work. [Mary’s Wedding] is the opposite. It’s the right amount of syllables. It’s the right amount of pace. The scenes change just at the right time. It is, to me, the perfect Canadian play.”

The last time Lighthouse mounted a production of Mary’s Wedding in 2005, Ritschel played the role of Charlie. As the director of this new production, he brings not only a profound understanding of the text but a desire to lean into the sweeping, cinematic nature of the play’s love story.

“I get accused of directing films for the stage all the time,” joked Ritschel. “My style has always been very cinematic.” One example is Ritschel’s vision for the play’s opening, created in collaboration with sound designer Tim Lindsay. “There’s a sequence at the top of the show where we’re going to have audio from the Vietnam War, the Korean War, then World War Two, [then World War One],” explained Ritschel, “to the point where, at the end of the opening sequence, all we’re hearing is the wind in the wheat. We want to slow the audience down to [the world of] the prairies in 1916.”


Ritschel also plans to play with montage and slow motion as a way to capture Charlie’s terrifying experiences at the front.

“What would have been a brief moment in real time, I’m going to slow right down,” Ritschel said. “I’m creating these time pockets.” Ritschel compared the slow motion quality he’s aiming for to his experience of being in a car accident. “The car that drove into me — it took all of 1.4 seconds,” he shared, “but the amount of thought that went through my head in that blip is what I’m going for with Charlie and Mary. The train of events in their storyline is very quick, so I’m trying to create spaces where we can actually breathe and [sit with] thought and memory and love.”

Ritschel’s filmic approach to Mary’s Wedding doesn’t equal hyper-realism. On the contrary, Ritschel wants to embrace the opportunities for play and imagination that theatre offers as a medium. “We’ve gone uber-dream,” he said. “Nothing is what it seems to be. Charlie doesn’t have a gun in our show. It’s a broom.”

At the heart of this production are two incredible emerging actors: Daniel Reale (Charlie) and Evelyn Wiebe (Mary). This is Ritschel’s first time collaborating with both performers.

“There’s something thrilling for me to work with people I don’t know,” he said. “It makes me think about my words a little more, and how I’m delivering a thought. “I kind of hate the term ‘director.’ I like to think of myself as on the outside looking in for [actors] and watching their backs, and saying ‘here’s what I’m seeing.’ [Wiebe and Reale] are so open and so smart, and so willing to say ‘No, Derek, I think it’s this.’ I love it. It challenges me, and I love the energy of young actors and new people.”

Mary’s Wedding will be quite the tonal shift from Lighthouse’s current offering, the madcap mystery farce Murder at Ackerton Manor

Ackerton is nuts,” said Ritschel. “The characters are huge caricatures of [murder mystery] archetypes. It’s so absurd and fun and ridiculous. It’s very funny. Then [the audience is] going to get Mary’s Wedding, and it’s going to be the biggest 180 — which I’m loving. 

“We always do a show that has some serious heart and drama to it,” he continued. “I something refer to it as ‘the one for the heart.’”

How does Ritschel hope Mary’s Wedding might touch the hearts of Lighthouse audiences and subscribers? 

“I hope that people who see Lighthouse as a comedy house will give it a chance,” he said. “What these two fine actors are about to do is going to be something pretty spectacular.”


Mary’s Wedding runs July 3 – 20 at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover, and July 24 – August 4 at the Roselawn Theatre in Port Colborne. You can learn more about the show here.

For Immediate Release: Lighthouse Festival presents heartfelt drama Mary’s Wedding as the third production of the 2024 summer season

Written by Stephen Massicotte and directed by Derek Ritschel, the production runs from July 3 to 20 in Port Dover and from July 24 to August 4 in Port Colborne

June 21, 2024 – Port Dover, ON | Lighthouse Festival is thrilled to announce its third production of the season, Stephen Massicotte’s evocative play Mary’s Wedding. This poignant and deeply moving drama explores the themes of love, loss, and the lingering shadows of war, set against the backdrop of World War I.

Mary’s Wedding is a beautiful, lyrical journey that begins the night before Mary is to be married. As Mary dreams, she revisits her memories of Charlie, a young soldier she fell in love with. The audience is taken on an emotional ride through their budding romance, the trials of separation, and the heartache of war, all told through a seamless blend of reality and dream.

Daniel Reale, who plays Charlie, shared his thoughts on the play: “I think the audience will leave thinking about a few things. The absolutely stunning poetry and writing in the piece, the impacts of the First World War, the social constructs of the early 20th century – but mostly I hope they leave thinking about all those incredible sensations that come with first love. All of the joy, ease and excitement of finding a person that you can’t ever imagine living without. I love this show for giving me the opportunity to live in that world.”

Mary’s Wedding director Derek Ritschel.

Evelyn Wiebe, portraying Mary, added: “Mary reminds me of Juliet. Young, in love, passionate, fiery, witty and curious. She feels everything so deeply and that’s just the most satisfying thing as an actor. To hear a woman in the 1900s being bold. A lot of folks tend to dismiss a woman falling in love as ‘typical’ or trope-like. Mary is so much more than that. She’s just a beast of a woman. It’s just the most fun to play.”

The production is helmed by Lighthouse Festival’s Artistic Director, Derek Ritschel, who brings a unique perspective to the play, having starred as Charlie in the 2005 production. “Directing this play has been a deeply rewarding experience and a passion project of mine,” says Ritschel. “I fell in love with the show over 20 years ago and I’m thrilled to bring the show to the Lighthouse audience. The cast and crew have poured their hearts into bringing this story to life, capturing the delicate balance between the sweetness of young love and the harsh realities of a world at war. Their dedication and passion are evident in every scene.”

Maquette of the set for Mary’s Wedding designed by William Chesney.


Ritschel continued: “Mary’s Wedding is not just a love story; it is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of dreams to transcend time and space. Through Mary’s dreams, we experience the beauty of love and the harrowing impact of war, all while navigating the ethereal boundaries between reality and imagination.”

Mary’s Wedding promises to be a standout production in Lighthouse Festival’s season, offering audiences an unforgettable experience filled with heartfelt performances and stunning storytelling.

The play runs from July 3 to 20 in Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre and from July 24 to August 4 in Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre. Don’t miss this chance to witness a powerful narrative brought to life by an exceptional cast and creative team.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://lighthousetheatre.com/event/marys-wedding/ or contact the box office at (888) 779-7703.


Cast

Daniel Reale as Charlie
Evelyn Wiebe as Mary

Creative Team

Director: Derek RitschelPlaywright: Stephen Massicotte
Set Designer: William ChesneyCostume Designer: Alex Amini
Lighting Designer: Wendy LundgrenSound Designer: Tim Lindsay
Stage Manager: Josephine Ho Apprentice Stage Manager: Katherine Hunter

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, cast interviews and further information, please contact:

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


Review: Murder at Ackerton Manor a Must – See Comedy Thriller on LFT Stage (Port Dover Maple Leaf)

“It’s an outrageously funny murder mystery thriller!”

June 19, 2024

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Donna McMillan

It’s an outrageously funny murder mystery thriller! It’s an homage to Agatha Christie with more than a few threads of Mel Brooks woven in and out of a fabulously comedic storyline written by Canadian playwright Steven Gallagher. Directed by the playwright and acted flawlessly by three actors in seven roles, this second play of Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s 45th anniversary season had everyone laughing non – stop through the hilarity being performed on stage opening night. Oh yes, there was a whodunnit murder or two to solve amongst the antics of the quirky characters who found themselves at the English Gothic Ackerton Manor on a dark and stormy night.  There is also a theft of the Eastern Star diamond and the revealing of some very shady financial dealings.

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski & Andrew Scanlon in Steven Gallagher’s Murder at Ackerton Manor. Lighthouse Festival 2024

As the play opens, the audience is treated to an amazing set design of a Victorian  wood panelled study created by Megan Cinel.  Lighting (Steve Lucas) and sound ( Hussein Ismail), with flashes of lightning visible through windows, sets the gothic horror scene of the murder of the dastardly Roger Ackerton, lord of the manor so to speak.   Andrew Scanlon, who toured the US in Kinky Boots and performed in many other shows, plays the haughty owner of the manor as well as the detective, leading the audience through murder, mayhem and mystery stacked upon continually revealing clues. He was perfect in these roles.

Of course, there is a butler, who was often discounted and mistreated by Ackerton, making one wonder if the butler really did do it.    Adrian Shepherd – Gawinski, who is a familiar face to LFT theatre goers from past plays and has performed at many other Canadian venues, is the very proper butler, Curtiss.  “You rang sir?” He was amazingly good in his three roles that lead to multiple accent usages and such very impressively quick costume changes as he transformed into the gardener and most hilariously as a “scarlet” southern belle who chases after rich men.   She is the recent widow of a 93- year- old, no less. He was hysterically funny.  Bravo!

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, Andrew Scanlon & Eliza-Jane Scott in Steven Gallagher’s Murder at Ackerton Manor. Lighthouse Festival 2024

The plot thickens as one takes a close look at Roger Ackerton’s younger sister Ariadne, who is a bit dowdy but is surprisingly working on the writing of a historical, romantic, erotica novel!  Eliza- Jane Scott, a veteran LFT performer, who has also acted in Come From Away, Mama Mia and many more, was drawn to the comedic aspect of the play and performed this character as well as the zany German professor, amusing the audience in her lederhosen poses and “vacky and vonderful” accent!

Kudos to the three actors as well as the Creative Team of Megan Cinel, Steve Lucas, Alex Amini, Costume Designer, Daniele Guillaume, Stage Manager, Sara Allison, Assistant Manager.  The Production Team also includes Alice Barnatt, Hailey Parker, Colin Mahon, Kassidy sharp, Nolan Cortes, Stephen English, Wyatt Hoskin, Aidan Bridge, Clare Padgett.

As I was entering the theatre, a couple of people wondered how this murder mystery would be.   Upon leaving, audience members were still laughing, commented on how amazing it was and wondered if I could be effusive enough in this review.   It’s a must see!   

To see it in Port Dover, it is on stage until June 29.    For tickets, visit the Box Office at the corner of Main and Market in Port Dover, www.lighthousetheatre.com or call 1 – 888 – 779 – 7703.         

Review: Inspired comic lunacy awaits those who enter ‘Ackerton Manor’ at Lighthouse Festival Theatre (Haldimand Press)

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

June 20, 2024

PORT DOVER—Three amazingly manic performances from the three stars of Lighthouse Theatre’s latest comedy, ‘Murder at Ackerton Manor,’ are sure to equally delight fans of absurdist comedy and good ol’ fashioned whodunnit mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle.

Those performers are: Andrew Scanlon, pulling double duty as both murder victim Roger Ackerton and the detective sent to investigate, alongside Eliza Jane-Scott and Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski performing a cavalcade of suspects, each more ridiculous than the last.

While the mystery pleasantly unfolds, comedy is the star of the show. 

The play zips along with a slapstick style akin to classic Looney Tunes, or one of the classic spoof comedies, like Spaceballs or Three Amigos.

Scanlon pulls off the admirable task of playing two characters, often within the same scene, costume changes and all. 

His French detective is constantly a step behind and proves a perfect foil to the gallery of suspects, while switching easily into the role of Ackerton in a series of flashbacks where he continually finds new ways to make the audience loath the character more and more.

Pictured (l-r) are the stars of ‘Murder at Ackerton Manor’ Eliza Jane-Scott, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, and Andrew Scanlon in a scene from the show.  —Submitted photo.

Jane-Scott is electric in her appearances, throwing caution to the wind in a masterclass of a comic performance that sees her playing both a sexually repressed sibling of Ackerton, and a crotchety old scientist. 

If you didn’t know better, you would swear the characters were performed by different actors.

Not to be outdone, Shepherd-Gawinski is the third lynchpin in this trio of gifted comedic performers. 

Following up on his masterful turn in last summer’s ‘Bed and Breakfast,’ Shepherd-Gawinski once again impresses with his ability to, like Scanlon, play multiple characters within the same scene. From a stuffy family butler to a shrewd temptress in full drag, Shepherd-Gawinski draws some of the show’s biggest laughs, amiably popping up in doorframes and windows to deliver a line of dialogue between one of his many backstage costume changes.

The show is the brainchild of writer/actor/director Steven Gallagher. 

While the actors bring the thunder with their manic, committed performances, Gallagher’s script is the anchor that ties the zaniness together. The jokes come fast with a high hit-percentage, and the mystery, while absurd, holds together logistically as clues are planted throughout to help audiences try and outsmart the detective.

Andrew Scanlon and Eliza-Jane Scott in Steven Gallagher’s Murder at Ackerton Manor. -Submitted photo.

Gallagher has a firm grasp on physical comedy, employing a number of fun theatrical tricks. 

From perfectly placed lightning strikes at a shocking revelation, to the elegant way spotlights are used to highlight a monologue (allowing other performers to magically switch characters in the darkness), the play is the clear result of a talented creative person let loose to full effect.

He is aided in that effort by the stellar workmanship of Lighthouse’s backstage team, who have created a wonderful, versatile set and ensure everything runs smoothly to amplify the physical comedy happening on stage. 

Like always at Lighthouse, it’s a perfect marriage of performance and backstage craft.

So, if you are the kind of person that cracked up watching Spaceballs when actual jam leaked out of the computer screen after a cadet yells, “They jammed our transmission!” then you owe it to yourself to check in for a night’s stay at Ackerton Manor.

The show runs at Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre until June 29. 

It will then enjoy a run at Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre from July 3-14. 

For tickets and information, visit lighthousetheatre.com.


After studying journalism at Humber College, Mike Renzella desired to write professionally but found himself working in technical fields for many years. Beginning in 2019 as a freelancer, he joined the team full-time later that year. Since then, Mike has won several awards for his articles thanks to his commitment to presenting an unbiased, honest look at the important news and events shaping our community.