Tag: port dover

Lighthouse Theatre preview: This ain’t your grandparent’s Jack and the Beanstalk…

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

November 23, 2023

PORT DOVER—This holiday season, Port Dover’s famous Lighthouse Festival Theatre is offering something new. Adding to their highly successful and frequently hilarious summer festival series, the creative team at Lighthouse is proud to present a new annual tradition: the holiday pantomime (panto for short).

This year’s inaugural offering, Jack and the Beanstalk: The Panto, is playing in Dover from November 29 to December 9 and at Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre from December 13-17.

While Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel has been thrilled to see the show develop behind the scenes, bringing together a mix of skilled comedic actors from across Lighthouse’s summer season, he said so far it’s been a bit of a tougher sell to the general public.

Allan Cooke & Katie Edwards rehearse a scene of Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto!

The common hurdle he’s faced has been the perception that the show is aimed at children. Not the case at all, noted Ritschel, describing the show, in essence, as, “How would a comedy sketch team do Jack and the Beanstalk?”

Show director Jonathan Ellul elaborated, characterizing the upcoming production as, “Imagine everything you love about the Muppet show, the Gong Show, and Buggs Bunny and you’re getting closer to what this show is going to be like! And the audience is as busy as the actors on stage cheering the good guys, and heckling the villain, and singing along.”

Ritschel added, “It’s a fairytale for adults. The kids can come too. Kids can always come to a panto.… The actors are using Jack and the Beanstalk as a loose storyline to follow and to mine for laughs.”

For those needing further explanation, picture the popular animated film series Shrek, which similarly takes familiar fairytale characters and then applies a Saturday Night Live style comedy approach as it skewers its source material.

“It’s just so good,” said Ritschel. “I really want people to see this show.”

Both Ellul and Ritschel know they have their work cut out for them, but they are looking ahead and excited about building the panto into a new beloved local tradition for families in the area.

“My wish is that after the show people will talk about it and think, ‘next year we’ll bring the grandparents too’, or ‘my sisters’ family will love this, let’s all go together next year’,” said Ellul.

Ritschel added, “We just need those people that come to have a good laugh and spread the word. What more can we ask for? When the team finally came together, we felt super confident that we may not have the biggest audiences because no one knows what the heck we’re doing, but the people that do come are about to have their heads blown off.”

While hopeful that this year’s panto comes out of the gate hot, Ritschel and his team have the patience to let their baby grow. 

“The next couple of years will be the education years,” said Ritschel. “Three years from now you won’t be able to get a ticket to the panto. In the UK, they sell their pantos out eight months in advance.”

Ellul called the creative process a “different sort of animal” than a regular production. 

“This script was written for the actors who were cast in the roles. Ken MacDougall has worked with most of the cast and knows their voices and humour, and he has written the script with those actors in mind,” explained Ellul. “Then when we go into the process of rehearsing and putting it on its feet, the actors improvise and riff on what was already written. You wouldn’t do that in a scripted play. Here, that’s what it’s all about!”

Sal Figliomeni & Eliza-Jane Scott rehearse a scene from Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto!

Ritschel praised the skilled cast: “In the summer, we expect the actors to be word-perfect to the script, but here, there’s a lot of improv. They’ll do the storyline, but if something happens, if the audience reacts a certain way, the actors are 100% prepared to go off-script. They almost always do.”

Ellul added, “The cast is a group of very smart and funny people. I have worked with all of them before, but this is the first time most of them have worked together. Their inventive approach and willingness to play has created a tight ensemble already!”

He encouraged the younger crowd to wear costumes to the shows, noting, “If you are the sort of person who likes to wear sparkly dresses, and fairy wings, and rainbow unicorns? This is the show to dress up in those costumes for! We have a princess and fairy who would love to see young people dressed up! We even love seeing ninja-turtles and Hogwarts costumes! This is the place to wear those awesome threads! All you need to do is show up, and we will make it worth your while! We can’t wait to see you!”

Ritschel concluded, “It’s comedy for the whole family. There’s nothing more powerful than seeing grandparents, parents, and kids, the whole generational span of a family laughing together. I don’t know how much more powerful that can be, especially in today’s day and age where we all need a laugh, and we need holiday cheer.”

For more information on Jack and the Beanstalk: The Panto or to purchase tickets, visit lighthousetheatre.com or call their box office at 519-583-2221.

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.

‘Just bring your joy’: Inside Lighthouse Theatre’s new all-ages holiday pantomime

By Nathaniel Hanula-James | Intermission Magazine

Friday, November 24, 2023

“There are no mimes in pantomime.

So said Derek Ritschel, artistic director of Lighthouse Festival, in an interview with Intermission. Next week, the company opens Jack and the Beanstalk, a production Ritschel hopes will inaugurate a new tradition in the Port Dover and Port Colborne communities that Lighthouse serves: an annual holiday pantomime.

Although the pantomime — or “panto,” for short — is a thriving tradition with a long history, especially in the UK, it’s relatively little-known in Canada. According to Ritschel and Jack and the Beanstalk’s director Jonathan Ellul, the confusion of mime with pantomime is a common misconception. “I would say that 85 per cent of our audience has no idea what a panto is,” said Ritschel. 

But if a panto isn’t the Marcel Marceau-show, what the heck is it? 

“It’s as though the Muppets were going to do their version of Jack and the Beanstalk, but we got hold of the script,” said Ellul. “In terms of the humour, I always think panto must have been the precursor for all those Bugs Bunny cartoons. It’s a heightened telling of a familiar story, and it’s going to go every which way.” 

In other words, a pantomime takes a well-known fairy tale, throws it in a blender, and adds a healthy dose of zany hijinks. A traditional pantomime features a “pants role,” or a young male hero played by a woman, as well as a “pantomime dame” in drag. (Though the latter role is “more Miss Piggy than RuPaul,” said Ellul.) 

Panto hallmarks also include a good fairy, an over-the-top villain, original songs, a slapstick chase scene, contemporary references to the local community, and plenty of audience participation. (A classic example: yelling “THERE’S A MONSTER BEHIND YOU!” at a dim-witted character who just won’t take the audience’s advice.) Theatregoers can expect all this and more from Lighthouse Festival’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

If the experience sounds overwhelming, fear not. The level of panto knowledge required of a first-time audience member is none whatsoever. “We’re going to be setting up those things within the show,” Ellul assured me. “The audience member who’s never seen [a panto] will be able to fully partake.” 

There’s no question that Jack in the Beanstalk’s audiences will be in good hands: Ellul and Ritschel have assembled a dazzling team of Canadian comic talent. The cast of seven includes Eliza-Jane Scott as Jack, Cyrus Lane as the Villain, and Lori Nancy Kalamanski as the Fairy. “It’s been amazing for me to watch how they’re feeding off each other and coming together as an ensemble,” Ellul confided. “It’s been amazing to watch seven individual clowns develop.” 

According to Ellul, once playwright Ken MacDougall knew the casting, he tailored the script to fit the voices and talents of each actor. Even so, Ellul continued, “the script is very much a blueprint. There’s a setup and a joke, with the caveat that, if you’ve got a better one, let’s hear it in the rehearsal room. [The actors] didn’t waste a second.” 

On the day I spoke to Ellul and Ritschel, comic genius had struck twice. Eliza-Jane Scott had “realized that Jack didn’t have a moment where he kind of encapsulated everything,” Ellul told me. “So she went home and wrote a song based on a line that was in the script and summarized… everything that [Jack] had been through. She sent it as an email and I was listening…on my phone in a restaurant. I was laughing so hard I was in convulsions, all by myself — I looked like a crazy man in hysterics in the corner.”

Meanwhile, Ellul continued, Lane had completely rewritten the lyrics for the Villain’s big musical number, “and made it current and topical.” 

Pantomime’s embrace of improvisation means the show will keep transforming even after it opens. “The panto is like the ultimate playground for theatre,” said Ritschel. You get to interact with the audience and feed off [their] energy. If the audience gives you something that night, it’s going to be a different show.”

Unlike in more serious theat-ah, “the greatest gift that can happen is that somebody’s cellphone goes off in the audience,” Ellul added. “These [actors] will stop and say, ‘you better get it.’” 

Ellul and Ritschel took care to stress that all this fairy-tale funny business isn’t just for kids: this Jack and the Beanstalk has jokes for all ages. In fact, one of Panto’s superpowers is its ability to get every generation cackling. 

“I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than seeing three generations of a family laugh together in a theatre,” said Ritschel. “That doesn’t happen in other genres.”

Although this is the first time Lighthouse Theatre has staged a holiday panto, Ritschel and Ellul hope this is only the beginning of a new tradition. 

“The best thing I could hope for,” said Ellul, “is that people come out with a seed planted…‘Next year we’re bringing the grandparents, too.’” 

Panto “doesn’t care where you’re from,” insisted Ritschel. “[It] doesn’t care what other theatres you go to. It doesn’t care what your age is. Doesn’t care what your background is.”

So what does pantomime care about? 

“Joy,” said Ritschel. “Don’t worry about anything else. Just bring your joy.”

Jack and the Beanstalk opens at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover on November 30 and runs until December 9. In Port Colborne, the production opens at the Roselawn Theatre on December 13 and runs until December 17. You can learn more about the show here.

Magic Beans and Katie Edwards are set loose in Port Dover theatre’s ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’

Rehearsing is a blast and she has never laughed so much in all her life, Edwards tells Gary Smith.

By Gary Smith | Special to the Hamilton Spectator

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Katie Edwards grew up watching her mom and dad act on local theatre stages.

“I have so many memories of watching them rehearse when I was quite young. I watched them in awe, feeling so proud to be related to them.”

Along the way, she just knew she would have to find her own place on a theatre stage one day.

“After watching my parents perform, it meant so much for me to follow in their footsteps. My parents’ passion for theatre greatly impacted my need to pursue a professional career in the arts.

“I had been a very busy kid. My parents enrolled me in children’s programs at Theatre Aquarius and at Student Theatre in Burlington. These were great, but my real joy was actually being on stage. My first show was in Village Theatre Waterdown in1997. It was called ‘Clowns.’ I was nine years old.

“By the time I got to high school, the stage was one of the few places I felt calm and confident.”

For Edwards, performing is a gateway to freedom.

“It gives me a creative outlet and allows me to escape my own reality and play characters that I admire. I love playing strong, courageous, intelligent characters and I hope they empower young girls in the audience, as much as they have empowered me.”

Allan Cooke as The King & Katie Edwards as The Princess rehearsing a scene from Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! at Lighthouse Festival’s Rehearsal Hall in Port Dover.

Edwards is getting ready to put on another princess dress and help Jack fight the giant in Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre production of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“It’s a pantomime and some people aren’t quite familiar with what that means. It’s not a silent mime show. It’s a musical comedy that includes singing and dancing, topical jokes and stock characters. It’s typically based on a well-known fairytale. Pantos are great fun because they provide dual entertainment for children and adults, by incorporating double entendres and adult humour into a children’s story. It’s also a form of participation theatre. The audience is encouraged to boo and heckle the villain, shout out to the performers, and sing along with some of the songs. I can’t wait to get in front of an audience with this show because they are such a big part of what happens.”

Edwards says rehearsing is a blast and she has never laughed so much in all her life.

“Working in the theatre is a challenge,” Edwards says. “It’s challenging to earn enough from theatre work alone. Some years all my money came from theatre contracts but I wasn’t able to save for my future. It took me a while but I realized I have many different passions and I didn’t have to choose just one of them. I went back to school 10 years ago to study sociology and women’s studies at York University. Since then, I have worked as a choreographer, director, drama and mindfulness teacher, theatre workshop facilitator and fundraiser. I’ve even written a few shows. Right after graduation I was asked to co-write the university’s orientation play on consent, which was a wonderful way for me to combine my education in women’s studies and theatre.”

Edwards has starred in “Anne” at Theatre Orangeville, playing Anne of Green Gables. She has played Grace in Rum Runners at Port Dover and was in Ross Petty’s Toronto pantomime “The Wizard of Oz.”

Sal Figliomeni at Jack’s Mum (background), Lori Nancy Kalamanski as The Fairy, and Katie Edwards as The Princess, at the Lighthouse Festival Rehearsal Hall in Port Dover working on a scene for Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! coming to the stage on November 29th to December 17th in Port Dover and Port Colborne.

“That one was my intro to panto,” Edwards says. “They are probably my favourite type of show to perform in.”

Edwards is philosophical about life and the arts world she inhabits.

“I took a break from acting for several years to gain experience in other fields. I’ve stayed connected to theatre by teaching drama and mindfulness classes at Forma Theater in Toronto. When COVID-19 hit, I felt very fortunate to have a stable job, as the pandemic was particularly challenging for actors.”

“Two years ago, my partner and I moved to Hamilton and we had our beautiful son Jamie. I love being a mom more than anything, but it does make it challenging. Almost every gig I’ve landed has been outside the city I’ve lived in. Of course, right now I’m living in Port Dover and I can only see my two-year-old on weekends. But, from the moment I was asked to be involved in this show I had to say yes. I just couldn’t turn it down. And I am so excited for my son to see the show and to have him watch me up there on the stage the way I used to watch my mom and dad when I was little.”

Jack and the Beanstalk — The Panto

Where Lighthouse Festival Theatre, 247 Main St., Port Dover

When Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1-9 at 7:30 p.m., matinees Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 2-3 and 5, 7, 8, 9. at 2 p.m.

Tickets From $34 adults. Children and students under 18 from $30. Call 1-888-779-7703 or lighthousetheatre.com

Gary Smith has written about theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for 40 years as well as for a variety of international publications. gsmith1@cogeco.ca.

Meet the Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! | Stephen Ingram as Simon

In addition to playing the part of Simon, Stephen Ingram is also the Musical Director for Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! We asked him about what people will be talking about after the show, how important music is in a pantomime, and what he enjoys about playing his character.

Stephen Ingram

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

Stephen Ingram (SI): My hope is that every member of the audience will take home a little spark of joy, a little spring in their step, a little warmth in their heart. To me, a panto is all about giving such a ridiculous amount of silly joy and heart that the audience can’t help but find it contagious.

(LF): As the musical director for the show, in addition to acting in it, how do you balance both of those roles? 

(SI): We’ll find out, won’t we! It certainly requires more preparation in the weeks before rehearsals start, prepping sheet music and figuring out part-singing assignments. Once we get intro the swing of things I always like to be able to focus on my acting role as much as possible, as that’s something that is difficult to do on your own — I can bring the songs home, just not the actors! 

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

(SI): Simon is the musical centre of the show, and is always looking for a way to drag music back into it. He also always just sort of seems like he’s living in his own little world, and as a bit of a space cadet myself, I can relate! 

(LF): If someone was going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

(SI): My life wouldn’t be a movie, it would be either a musical or some kind of interactive concert. Brent Carver and Stephen Sondheim would have to come back from the dead to make it happen – Brent to play me, Stephen to write the music!

(LF): How important is music in a pantomime? 

(SI): A pantomime is all about being more over the top, sillier, larger than life — and what’s more over the top than bursting into song? Music takes everything about a pantomime that is already heightened, and heightens it ten steps further.

Simcoe Little Theatre presents heartwarming musical White Christmas

A large cast of local talent will perform in Simcoe Little Theatre’s production of White Christmas.

November 14, 2023

Simcoe Reformer

By Staff Writer

White Christmas, Irving Berlin’s classic and heartwarming musical will take the stage at Simcoe Little Theatre later this month featuring a large cast of local actors.

The production tells the story of two Second World War buddies who become successful entertainers after the war, meet two singing sisters, and end up putting on a show at an inn in Vermont owned by their former commanding officer.

The cast of White Christmas at Simcoe Little Theatre

“White Christmas will always be one of my favourite musicals,” said director Janet Dickson. “I hope the audience will laugh, be impressed with the talented cast, sing along at the ending and feel inspired by the integrity of the characters in the show.”

Dickson noted that she is excited to feature members of the Lisa Naves adult tap dance class, led by choreographer Teagan Davenport, that will tap dance in two numbers during the show.

“Rehearsals are on track to be ready for a fabulous opening night November 23 that will begin 12 shows over three weekends. I’m impressed with the dedication of the cast; some attending four rehearsals a week,” Dickson observed. “The chemistry among our cast members is palpable, and their dedication to delivering a heartwarming and memorable performance is truly remarkable.”

Performances run on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and weekends at 2 p.m. from Nov. 23 through to December 10, 2023.

Tickets are available by contacting the box office at 519-583-0505 or online at simcoelittletheatre.org.

Meet the Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! | Sal Figliomeni as Dame (Jack’s Mum)

For his first appearance on the Lighthouse stage, Sal Figliomeni is making it an appearance to remember. He’s playing the Dame (Jack’s Mum), something he’s very comfortable doing. We chatted with Sal about why he wanted to be in this production, what will surprise the audience and what he does when he’s not on the stage.

Sal Figliomeni

Lighthouse Festival (LF): Why did you want to be in this pantomime production?

Sal Figliomeni (SF): I Love Pantomime. I have been in many Panto Productions over many years playing all the types of parts. From “Buttons character”, to “Villian” to “Dame”. To be part of a new experience of Panto being brought to an audience for the first time is an amazing opportunity. I am honored to be part of that experience and am excited to share Panto.

(LF): How is this production bringing something new to this story? 

(SF): This production is bringing surprise to its audience. The fun of call-outs from the audience in Panto. The built in audience participation. The fun of a new twist to a story that the audience THINKS they know.

(LF): How is your character like you? How is it different?

(SF):  My character, the ”Dame/Jack’s Mom”, is hard working, harsh but fair, rough but loving, campy yet sweet. This is just like me. That is why I love to play the traditional Dame role. 

(LF): What do you do when you’re not doing theatre?

(SF): I am part of a family-run spring water company called “Filane’s Canadian Spring Water” and bottles at source up north in Schreiber, ON. I am the sales manager and delivery man for the Greater Toronto and surrounding areas. My Dame persona has also grown into a full on drag character called “Shirley Happening” and I have created a one-woman show for her called “LIFE…. It’s Shirley Happening!”

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

(SF): This show is going to be loved by all. It has laughter, and joy, and excitement. Heroes and villains, and adventure, OH MY!!!!

A Panto is “absurd and joyous”

Lighthouse Theatre’s Head Technician Kassidy Sharp & Artistic Director Derek Ritschel look at a maquette of the set for the upcoming panto Jack and the Beanstalk, opening November 29th in Port Dover.

Local topics, slapstick comedy, music, dance, audience sing-alongs – all with laughter and family fun

November 1, 2023

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Jacob Fehr

From November 29 to December 9, Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover will put on Jack and the Beanstalk—The Panto. But what’s a panto? The Maple Leaf sat down with Derek Ritschel, Artistic Director for Lighthouse Theatre, to let him answer that question. 

“It’s not Shakespeare, I’ll tell you that,” Mr. Ritschel joked. He explained that a panto is a kind of theatrical entertainment popular in Great Britain. Pantos include references to current events and local topics, slapstick comedy, music, dance, and audience participation, and are usually based on fairy tales and nursery stories. They subvert and “destroy” stereotypes with humor, often involving male actors playing female roles and vice versa, he said.

Pantos are typically performed at the end of a year to celebrate its conclusion. Mr. Ritschel emphasized that they bring family members together for “intergenerational laughs” because they are designed to appeal to all ages and to provide families with a shared activity around the holidays. He said tickets for pantos in England usually sell out quickly because families buy their tickets together.

Mr. Ritschel thinks pantos are “absurd and joyous.” They’re intended to unite families by providing everyone with something fun to enjoy, he said. And as he put it, there’s “nothing more powerful” than bringing families together through laughter.
“[A panto is] such a feel-good event, and now we’ll have it in Norfolk,” he said. 

In his opinion, Jack and the Beanstalk is “terrific” material for Lighthouse Theatre’s first panto because it is funny and full of tropes to subvert. He thinks it will be a great introduction to the style for local audiences. “It’s a strong opener,” he said. 
Lighthouse Theatre is fully producing the show, which will be split across two 45-minute acts. It was written by Ken MacDougall and will be directed by Jonathan Ellul. Mr. Ritschel said Mr. MacDougall has written pantos for decades and wrote this panto’s script specifically for Norfolk County. The theatre’s team has helped shape it too.

Mr. Ritschel stated he first contacted Mr. MacDougall in January 2022, meaning the play has been in production for nearly two years. “We want this panto to be something that Norfolk is super proud of and rallies behind,” he said.
He praised the panto’s cast, who he said are all accomplished Canadian theatre actors. “These guys know panto—they know comedy,” he said. 

The show’s cast includes Lighthouse favourites Allan Cooke (A Pack of Thieves), Katie Edwards (Rum Runners), and Eliza-Jane Scott (Come Down From Up River). Actors Lori Nancy Kalamanski and Cyrus Lane will perform in Port Dover for the first time. “I was stunned when Cyrus Lane signed on to be in the first panto at Lighthouse,” Mr. Ritschel said. Mr. Lane’s prior roles include recurring appearances on CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries. As for Ms. Kalamanski, Mr. Ritschel said she is “one of the funniest comedians you could possibly want.”

The theatre’s office and carpentry staff are working together on the panto’s set. They collaborated to construct props and paint set pieces. He said that with a break between the end of Lighthouse Festival’s summer season and the panto’s debut, the whole staff wanted to collaborate “hands on.” “That’s the beauty of theatre—it’s the most team-oriented kind of process,” he said.

Mr. Ritschel has plans for more pantos to come, including Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but whether they happen depends on how their first panto does. “It’s now up to the audience to show up or we can’t do it again,” he said. “It’s an expensive gamble.”

Nevertheless, he predicts Jack and the Beanstalk—The Panto will be a hit, and tickets for future pantos at Lighthouse Theatre will be the hardest to get. He hopes to make holiday pantos an annual tradition for the theatre.
“Let’s all have some fun to close this 2023 out,” he said.

To learn more about or purchase tickets for the panto, visit www.lighthousetheatre.com/event/jack-and-the-beanstalk/. Tickets can also be bought at the box office in the Main Street lobby at Lighthouse Theatre.

Meet the Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! | Lori Nancy Kalamanski as The Fairy

Lori Nancy Kalamanski is making her Lighthouse debut in Jack and the Beanstalk but has an amazing theatre and television background, as well as a new sing along album to boot. We chatted with her about why she wanted to be in this show, what’s going to surprise people about it and what makes a good scene partner.

Lori Nancy Kalamanski

Lighthouse Festival (LF): Why did you want to be in this pantomime production?

Lori Nancy Kalamanski (LNK): One of my earliest theatre experiences as a child was seeing a pantomime. I am delighted to now be onstage sharing this fun tradition with the Lighthouse Festival community in their very first panto.

(LF): When you have a five-minute break during rehearsals, what do you spend your time doing? 

(LNK): A fairy never tells their secrets, but I assure you, it’s something good!

(LF): What’s going to surprise people about this show?

(LNK):  This is quite a modern take on the ‘Jack & the Beanstalk’ story. Keep your ears open for nods to local community & current events. And though you’re welcome to just sit back & watch, we’d actually love it if you made a lot of noise!! Cheer for the good folks and boo the baddies. Don’t worry if you don’t know panto rules yet. Come to the show and my character will guide you through it.  

(LF): Besides this one, what’s your favourite stage show?

(LNK): Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine wrote a pretty fantastic musical called ‘Into The Woods’. It mashes together a whole bunch of fairy tales (including Jack & the Beanstalk) and cleverly explores what happens after you get your wish.

(LF): What do you think makes a good scene partner, especially in a pantomime? 

(LNK): An artist who is playful & smart, with the ability to improvise – not only with other castmates, but with the audience as well – is a dream. Pantomime has a long theatrical history of good standing up to evil. As the good fairy, I hope my evil scene partner is ready, because I promise to fight whatever they have in store for us & Jack!

Meet the Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk – The Panto! | Eliza-Jane Scott as Jack

Eliza-Jane Scott made her Lighthouse debut in this past season’s production of Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River, but she’s no stranger to the stage! She starred as Captain Beverley Bass in Come From Away (Mirvish Productions/Junkyard Dog), Mamma Mia! (Charlottetown Festival), Maria in The Sound of Music (NAC), The Music Man (Stratford Festival), and The Producers: Canadian Company and 1st American National Tour (Mirvish) to name just a few productions. We asked Eliza-Jane why she wanted to be in our very first Panto, what will surprise people about this show, and what makes a good scene partner.

Lighthouse Festival (LF): Why did you want to be in this pantomime production?

Eliza-Jane Scott (EJS): I grew up on SNL, Monty Python and Zucker Brothers and Mel Brooks films. I could literally quote you lines from History of the World Part II, Life of Brian or Airplane. I had the good fortune of meeting Mel Brooks when I was cast in the musical The Producers. What a dream come true! In some way or other, all of these films and sketch shows had elements based in British panto. I love farce, slapstick, physical comedy and music: panto is my unicorn! And to top it all off, it will mean a reunion with director Jonathan Ellul, who I went to school with and who is a comedy unicorn of his own.

(LF): What’s the last thing you do before stepping out on stage? 

(EJS): Usually the last thing I do before I step out on stage is to perform a little focussing ritual: life doesn’t stop when you step on stage so  it’s important to take time and ground yourself in the space, the story and with fellow actors and stage management. This allows you to sort of “ leave your baggage at the door” in order to allow the best mindset to serve the play and the audience. For me this might look like a little focussed deep breathing, shaking out the body or a little prayer or mantra. This also allows you to keep your heart and mind open for what might be coming in the show that night, because as you know, no two performances are alike.

(LF): What’s going to surprise people about this show?

Ralph Small & Eliza-Jane Scott in Norm Foster's Come Down From Up River
Ralph Small & Eliza-Jane Scott in Norm Foster’s Come Down From Up River from Lighthouse Festival’s 2023 season.

(EJS):  I think the most surprising thing will be how much people will laugh. Panto’s are riotous fun. Not only that but the audience actually participates in the jokes and is encouraged to engage, which can be really enlivening and joyous.  

(LF): Besides this one, what’s your favourite stage show?

(EJS): One of my all time favourite stage shows was a farce that was produced back in the 80’s called B Movie: The Play by Tom Wood. He wrote and performed in this incredible farce about a besotted movie star. It is one of the biggest hits in Canadian history and won a Chalmers Award as well as Five Dora Awards. The thing that made the show so magical was the comedy and Tom Wood’s portrayal of this manic and intense movie icon: he ripped up the stage in a way I have not seen any actor do since. It brought me such joy and delight. I have never forgotten it.

(LF): What do you think makes a good scene partner, especially in a pantomime? 

(EJS): The qualities of being a good listener and being generous make the best scene partners: you doubly feel safe and heard inside of the scene work. Sometimes in comedy it is easy to make scenes all about your own ability to connect with the audience to get laughs, but a true comic actor will use offers and take other cast members with her on that journey, so everyone is in on the joke.

An Army of Volunteers Help Keep LFT Running Smoothly

September 1, 2023

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Donna McMillan

In 1996, Nancy Sherwin was new to Port Dover and wanted to get involved in the community and meet new people. She heard Lighthouse Festival Theatre was looking for volunteers and decided to offer her time. She is still volunteering and reaping the benefits of greeting people who come to the theatre. “Everyone is here to have an enjoyable time. It’s a nice vibe,” she told the Maple Leaf in an interview.

Stephanie Grant is the Patron Experience Supervisor at Lighthouse Festival Theatre and is responsible for the box office and bar areas at the theatre. She also is the Volunteer Coordinator for the 105 volunteers who work as greeters, ushers, 50/50 draw sellers, ice cream vendors, helpers with hors d’oeuvres opening night and more during the season playbill and special events held at LFT. “Our volunteers are dedicated and willing to go above and beyond due to their love of theatre or desire to be helping others,” Stephanie told the Maple Leaf. Volunteers range in age from being in their 20’s to their 80’s, she shared. Some have been with the theatre for more than 30 years, she added. “Some may work one performance per show while others might work ten per show,” she said. Volunteers sign up for when and how many shows they wish to cover.  

For a single performance, Stephanie shared four ushers work the main floor, two in the balcony, two sell 50/50 tickets, one sells ice cream and there are greeters at the front door. At times, they might also hand out tickets when large groups arrive. To assist new volunteers, there is a volunteer handbook outlining job descriptions, policies and procedures. As a thank you, volunteers can attend a performance if there are empty seats. Or, if they are scheduled for two shifts during a performance, they are provided two tickets to a preview performance, Stephanie said. LFT also holds a Volunteers Appreciation Night with all staff and board members attending to thank volunteers. “It is hard to show how thankful we are,” Stephanie said.   Just to show how dedicated volunteers are, Stephanie said during a power outage at the theatre, two volunteers who were in the audience came forward to help a wheelchair patron get out of the building. Volunteers help decorate for Christmas and some enjoy a bit of dancing before patrons arrive as the opening night music group are warming up.   

Nancy, who has worked most volunteer jobs over the years, spoke of all the positive changes  she has witnessed at the theatre from the new seat installation, the new front entrance and exterior look to the back section on the theatre level with the Long Bar. Nancy said it is great to work with a great team. “Everyone jumps in to help out and LFT is good to their volunteers.”   

Review: Norm Foster’s latest play premieres at Lighthouse

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

August 24, 2023

PORT DOVER—Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s 2023 summer season is ending the way it began, with a Norm Foster show on stage bringing the big laughs and memorable characters that could only come from the mind of one of Canada’s most well-loved and prolific playwrights.

PORT DOVER—Pictured on stage planning the heist are (l-r) Brad Rudy as Padre, Allan Cooke as Dale, Derek Ritschel as Rubber, Jeffrey Wetsch as Chef, and Brad Austin as Chip in a scene from Norm Forster’s world premiere of A Pack of Thieves at Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. — Photo submitted by Lighthouse Festival

While the season began with an excellent rendition of Foster’s ‘Come Down From Up River’, directed by acclaimed Canadian actress Sheila McCarthy, it ends with the world premiere of Foster’s newest work, ‘A Pack of Thieves’, directed by accomplished writer, director, and actor Jamie Williams.

The show brings together a powerhouse five-man comedy team of Lighthouse favourites to pull off the ultimate heist. Starring as best friends and neighbours are Jeffrey Wetsch as Chef and Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel as Rubber. 

The play sees the pair presented with an out-of-the-blue opportunity to score a million bucks each by ‘stealing’ a prize racehorse from a local businessman, who is in on the scheme, and cashing in on the insurance money together.

Chef, owner of a failing restaurant, and Rubber, a tire salesman, are two men struggling through their own personal crises, both financial and personal. Neither have any experience pulling a heist, but Rubber has a plan. 

He brings in three partners: a serial criminal with a serious distaste for potty mouth named Padre – played by Brad Rudy – and ‘the twins’ (not biological), a pair of hilariously dimwitted thugs with Brad Austin as Chip and Allan Cooke as Dale, who are brought in by Rubber in a bid to score favour with his girlfriend, who happens to be their cousin.

Foster describes the show as a “flat out comedy”, noting how he purposefully tried to challenge himself to write a show that didn’t rely on the heartfelt moments he is known for: “Feelings are good. But this one has none of that. Feelings be damned!”

Director Williams, who stages the action in a fast-paced, joke-a-minute pace that gives the audience just enough time to catch their breath before throwing another red-hot zinger at them, credits all five actors for making the show as memorable as it is: “I can’t think of five better gentlemen to tell this particular story.”

He’s not wrong. Each of the five performers bring a unique vibe that, when combined, makes for some great, belly-laugh-inducing moments throughout the show.

Wetsch and Ritschel are a great duo, with Wetsch wound tighter than a drum and Ritschel amiably clueless to the gravity of the situation they have placed themselves in. Rudy imbues Padre with a steely demeanour driven by a (deserved) lack of faith in his partners’ abilities, while Austin and Cooke steal the show, leaning right into the absolutely ridiculous characters they’ve been served and bringing big laughs with them.

After a summer full of shows with big themes about aging, acceptance, and illness, all delivered with a healthy dose of laughter notwithstanding, it’s great to kick back and enjoy a show with no greater ambition than to make you laugh solidly for two hours. ‘A Pack of Thieves’ accomplishes this goal with ease and brings Lighthouse’s perfect 2023 summer festival to an end in style.

Tickets and showtimes are available at lighthousetheatre.com. The play will be at Port Dover’s Lighthouse Theatre until September 2, before moving on to Port Colborne’s Roselawn Theatre from September 6 to 17.

That’s not all from the fine folks at Lighthouse though, as they will bring their season-topping music revue show ‘Leisa Way’s Opry Gold’, featuring the Wayward Wind Band and running from September 5 to 16 in Dover and from September 20 to 24 in Port Colborne. 

Plus, new for this season, their holiday pantomime ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ promises “uproarious comedy, fantastical costumes, and musical numbers that will knock your socks off” when it hits the Lighthouse stage this holiday season.

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 Director of A Pack of Thieves | Jamie Williams

Jamie Williams is happy to be back at Lighthouse Festival for his first time as a director at the theatre. He’s starred on the Lighthouse stage in Skin Flick (Byron Hobbs); Melville Boys (Lee); and Baskerville (Dr. Watson). He’s directed at a number of theatres, including productions at the Foster Festival & the Upper Canada Playhouse. Jamie has recently been brought on board with the the team at The Foster Festival as their Artistic Associate, and is also thrilled to be starring with his wife Melanie Janzen (who is currently starring as Suzanne in Where You Are in Port Colborne) in the upcoming production of The View from Here, which he wrote, at Theatre Orangeville this coming fall, Oct 11th-29th. We chatted with him about what it’s like to direct a play that has never been produced before and what a daily routine of a theatre director looks like.

Lighthouse Festival (LF): When did you become interested in working as a director, and what influenced your decision to pursue this career?

Jamie Williams (JW): After some time in the business as an actor, which I have been primarily for the majority of my career, you certainly begin to develop thoughts on how you might do things. Especially when you have done a number of different productions of the same play which I have several times. But honestly the first time I seriously considered directing was when I had written my first play “It’s Your Funeral”. The opportunity came up and I thought “I’ve been living with these characters for a couple of years now, I’ve worked and reworked the logic, been envisioning the action of the piece since I set fingers to keyboard, so if there was ever a play I’d direct…” And I took the opportunity. It was a great experience, exciting in a whole new way from acting and writing, and I fell in love with the process. Since then I’ve had the great privilege of directing a number of Norm Foster’s shows and hope to continue doing so.

(LF): Describe your daily routine as a theatre director?

(JW): I don’t know that I have a routine per se, and maybe as I gain more experience one will certainly develop, but outside of the hours in rehearsal I like to arrive early and look forward over what we’re working on and write my thoughts, notes and general goals for the day down. Spending time in the rehearsal space when its quiet definitely opens me to new ideas dropping in, working through challenges that are yet unresolved. The most effective tool I have, and whether it is set in a routine or not, is writing out and through my thoughts and ideas alongside revisiting the script. All the answers are ultimately in the script after all. And at the end of the day I tend to review and again write down the next steps we need to consider the next day. Honestly, regardless of my routine or homework, the real work accomplished, and strides made, are in the rehearsal hall with the actors. It’s a collaborative art form and a director’s process can only be facilitated with the actors and vice versa.

(LF): What are the challenges of directing a play that has never been produced before?

(JW): No frame of reference. If a show has been produced and you’ve seen it before, or been in it, you have a starting point based on what you thought worked or didn’t work in that prior production. A new piece is a blank canvas which is exciting but daunting. However, the script, a good script, functions as a blueprint, everything you need is within it. Sometimes some real scrutiny is required but if you consider every word, punctuation mark, phrase and what is actually being said and the context it’s being said within, as a director you have everything you need.

(LF): Besides this one, what’s your favorite stage show?

(JW): I couldn’t possibly say. Julius Caesar the first Shakespeare I read and saw at Stratford? The Melville Boys, the first Norm Foster play I read and was later privileged to perform here at Lighthouse? Or Norm’s The Writer, arguably his most beautiful and heart wrenching script, in which I originated ‘Blake Wellner’? Long Day’s Journey Into Night which I saw performed several times by my idols Tom McCamus and Peter Donaldson alongside the greats William Hutt, Martha Henry and Martha Burns? Or Arcadia by Tom Stoppard in which I played Bernard Nightingale out at The Citadel in Edmonton? Or Hadestown? Or In and Of Itself? Or Possible Worlds…? I think you get the point.

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

(JW): I hope they’re still laughing all the way home! A Pack of Thieves is a full out comedy and I think we’re hitting all the right notes that’ll elicit a lot of laughs. But it’s not silly and it’s not a farce and there are moments where Norm has deftly allowed the characters to reveal themselves as truly human with desires, needs, and flaws. They are a disparate group of unlikely partners each with their own quirks and yet they grow through this piece and reflect thoughts and feelings about friendship, love and brotherly affection that we can all relate to and identify as the stuff that really matters in good times and more importantly desperate times. Maybe some of the audience will talk about that. Good theatre is a good story with characters that matter, that we grow to care about, and this story, I think, is just that.