Tag: port dover

Meet the Cast of Doris and Ivy in the Home – Brigitte Robinson as Ivy Hoffbauer

Lighthouse is pleased that Brigitte Robinson is making her debut on our stage as Ivy Hoffbauer in Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home, on stage in Port Dover from May 22 to June 8 and in Port Colborne from June 12 to 23. She played Frau Schmidt in Mirvish’s production of The Sound of Music, and in productions at Young People’s Theatre, Shaw Festival, and Manitoba Theatre Centre. We talked with Brigitte about what has been her favourite role, what drew her to the character of Ivy, and what are the challenges and rewards of live theatre as opposed to other forms of acting.

Brigitte Robinson as Ivy Hoffbauer

Lighthouse Festival (LF): What has been your favourite role to play and why?

Brigitte Robinson (BR): Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Young People’s Theatre in Toronto.  I had the good fortune to perform in this play in Toronto and all over Ontario for two years in the early ‘80’s with a remarkable group of actors who have remained close friends to this day. For this have Richard Greenblatt to thank: he hired me, directed the play and brought me into the world of professional acting.

(LF): What drew you to this character in Doris and Ivy?

(BR): I thought “Doris and Ivy in the Home” was Norm Foster at his best.  Not only is it very funny but it shines a light on the lives and relationships of women and men as they age.  What also drew me to play the part of Ivy was the chance to work with the director Jane Spence with whom I had acted in Calendar Girls at the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto and with Melanie Janzen whose work I had always admired in our days together at the Shaw Festival.

(LF): What are the challenges and rewards of live theatre as opposed to other forms of acting?

(BR): The biggest difference between acting in theatre and other forms of acting is that you are performing before a live audience.  Every night is different as every audience has its own character and energy – anything can happen.  This is what makes live theatre so exciting for the actors and audience alike.  Film and television is a different story.  Actors don’t have the benefit of developing their character over the run of a show.  Once they’ve shot their scene, that’s it – no second chances, unless they have the good fortune of a recurring role in a series.

(LF): How do you approach character development for a complex role?

(BR): I begin by reading the script five or six times, noting first what other characters say about me and what I say about them in the context of the play. Then I break down the script into “beats”, which represent the stages of progression of my character’s journey through the story told by the play. “Beats” are my guideposts to developing my character. 

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

(BR): Two pieces of advice that have stayed with me throughout my career:

“N.A.R.” – (“No acting required”) – in notes to the cast, “Petrified Forest”, 1995 Shaw Festival, from Neil Munro, the renowned director, playwright and actor. 

“You’ve done the work – now give it away.” –  from Christopher Newton, posted on the Call Board at the Shaw Festival on opening night of “Cavalcade” and other plays during his tenure as Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival from 1980 to 2002.  

Meet the Cast of Doris and Ivy in the Home – Melanie Janzen as Doris Mooney

Lighthouse favourite Melanie Janzen is back at this season in Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home, on stage in Port Dover from May 22 to June 8 and in Port Colborne from June 12 to 23. She made your roar with laughter in last season’s Where You Are and she’s been in a number of Lighthouse productions over the years. We chatted with Melanie about what challenges exist when working in the theatre, what drew her to the character of Doris, and what’s the best piece of acting advice she’s ever received.

Melanie Janzen as Doris Mooney

Lighthouse Festival (LF): What is the most challenging aspect of working in theatre?

Melanie Janzen (MJ): One of the most challenging aspects of working in the theatre is the sporadic, fleeting nature of acting contracts. I love the work, and am always eager to secure the next gig.

(LF): What drew you to this character in Doris and Ivy?

(MJ): Doris is very much ‘what you see is what you get’. I like her brashness and her confidence. There’s no beating around the bush with Doris…I could stand to be a little more like her.

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

(MJ):   ’Pick up your cues!’ ‘Act on the line!’ ‘A pause must be earned!’ All of these are helpful reminders not to leave ‘dead air’ on stage.

(LF): What role has had the greatest impact on you personally?

(MJ): The real-life role of being a mother to my daughter. It’s by far the most challenging and fulfilling role I’ve had to date. 

(LF): What inspired you to pursue a career in theatre?

(MJ): I’ve always adored being on stage and I relish the chance to tell a story theatrically – there’s a wonderful feeling of connection with an audience that satisfies like no other. 

Summer theatre returns this week

“Summer theatre has returned. The numbers are growing again, which is extremely encouraging.”

May 22, 2024

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Jacob Fehr

LIGHTHOUSE Festival’s summer season starts this week with the opening of Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home on Wednesday, May 22, at Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover. The Maple Leaf spoke to Lighthouse Festival artistic director Derek Ritschel to learn more about the lineup.

Asked what audiences can expect from Lighthouse this summer, Mr. Ritschel said, “Variety for sure. This year, especially with the inclusion of Mary’s Wedding in the playbook, we’re taking audiences on a bit of a rollercoaster.”

The season opens with one Norm Foster comedy and closes with the world premiere of another, Lakefront. Both promise to provide the playwright’s blend of humour and heart.

Between those shows, audiences can enjoy the farcical whodunnit Murder at Ackerton Manor, the season’s second play. Next is Mary’s Wedding, a “guaranteed tearjerker” about love, hope, and survival during World War I. The season’s fourth show is The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, a comedy about friendships over time.

In Mr. Ritschel’s opinion, it’s good for Lighthouse to diversify its plays. “You never want to repeat yourself—always looking to keep it fresh,” he said.

Jane Spence & Derek Ritschel in front of Lighthouse Festival’s Port Dover theatre.

Surrounded by comedies, Mary’s Wedding sticks out for its serious tone and topics. Mr. Ritschel admitted it is “not what people would come to recognize as summer theatre in Port Dover—[it’s] more heart than comedy.” But he thinks audiences will appreciate it.

“There are certain shows you need to do regardless of the type of show,” he said. “[Mary’s Wedding is] so bloody good it doesn’t matter what genre it is; the audience deserves to see it.”

Mr. Ritschel is directing Mary’s Wedding, which he said is his “favourite play of all time by far” and “a piece of Canadian literature that is really special.” He emphasized the show has a beautiful message and said he’s excited about working on it.

“I can’t wait for people to see it. I really can’t,” he said.

Although he thinks variety benefits Lighthouse, he also thinks it’s good for Lighthouse to know its strengths and emphasize them. That’s why it now brands itself as the “home of the Canadian sense of humour.”

“Some theatres naturally evolve to certain styles,” he explained. For example, the Blyth Festival has a rural audience and puts on many plays appealing to rural people. Over time, rurality has become part of Blyth Festival’s identity.

“When people come to Dover, they’re getting a hot dog, ice cream… [and] they’re having a great time, so just naturally Lighthouse evolved to be a place you go to see thrillers, comedies etc.,” he said. In this way, comedy is part of Lighthouse’s identity.

Lighthouse will lean into its comedic legacy with Doris and Ivy in the Home. Jane Spence, artistic associate for Lighthouse Festival, is directing the season opener.

“From all reports it’s coming along great,” Mr. Ritschel said. He shared the show’s fittingly funny origin story.

While staying briefly at a retirement home, Mr. Foster was shocked and amused to discover staff had shut down hot tubs and saunas because residents’ behaviour was “out of control” and spreading venereal diseases. The experience inspired him to write Jonas and Barry in the Home, a play about two men living in a retirement home.

Mr. Ritschel said the success of Jonas and Barry in the Home motivated Mr. Foster to further explore its setting with Doris and Ivy in the Home, which is about two women living in a retirement home.

“It’s from a female perspective so there’s equity in laughing at the experience of living in a retirement home,” he said.

He also shared an enthusiastic update about Lighthouse Festival’s ongoing rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted all its productions from 2020–2022.

“Summer theatre has returned. The numbers are growing again since COVID-19, which is extremely encouraging,” he said. “It’s nice to know Lighthouse is going to be around for a long, long time.”

“We’re headed way in the right direction, which is thrilling,” he said. “If people love and support this theatre, she’ll make it, no problem.”

Lighthouse Festival launches summer season with Norm Foster comedy

Norm Foster’s comedic hit Doris and Ivy in the Home kicks off the 2024 summer season at Lighthouse Festival in Port Dover.

May 19, 2024

The Stratford Beacon Herald

By Postmedia Staff

Directed by Lighthouse Artistic Associate Jane Spence, the production runs from May 22 to June 8 in Port Dover, followed by shows in Port Colborne from June 12 to 23.

The play is a heartfelt comedy that examines friendship, age, and the transitions of life in a retirement home setting.

“Norm foster’s writing, rich with humour and poignancy, reminds us of the importance of seeking out meaningful connections at whatever stage of life we find ourselves,” Spence observed. “Through Doris and Ivy, we witness a dynamic and touching journey of self-discovery and companionship.

“Our talented cast brings a wonderful blend of authenticity and warmth to their roles, embodying the essence of Foster’s characters with grace and charm.”

Actor Ian Deakin portrays a charming retiree named Walter.

“I’ve known playwright Norm Foster for decades and have appeared in several of his productions,” Deakin explained. “My character in Doris and Ivy in the Home is an eccentric and heartfelt role, but essentially fulfills the playwright’s promise of lots of laughs too.”

Actress Melanie Janzen stars as the wise and witty Doris.
“Doris is very much ‘what you see is what you get.’ I like her brashness and her confidence. There’s no beating around the bush with Doris,” Janzen shared. “I could stand to be a little more like her!”

Brigitte Robinson portrays the ever-optimistic Ivy, and said she was drawn to the role for the chance to work again with director Jane Spence with whom she had acted in Calendar Girls at the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, and with Janzen whose work she admired in their days together at the Shaw Festival.

“I thought Doris and Ivy in the Home was Norm Foster at his best,” said Robinson. “Not only is it very funny but it shines a light on the lives and relationships of women and men as they age.”

Tickets are available now at lighthousetheatre.com, by calling the box office at 1-888-779-7703 or by visiting the theatre.

Murder at Ackerton Manor pays homage to Agatha Christie with a puzzle box of laughs

By Nathaniel Hanula-James | Intermission Magazine

Thursday, May 16, 2024

“It’s Agatha Christie meets Mel Brooks.”

That’s playwright and director Steven Gallagher’s description of Murder at Ackerton Manor, a comedy homage to the mystery novels of Agatha Christie sure to leave audiences dying of laughter when it opens on June 12 at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover. 

“It’s set in 1950 on a dark and stormy night in a remote mansion,” Gallagher explained in a Zoom interview. “Megan Cinel, our set designer, is so collaborative and such a brilliant young artist. She came up with this beautiful, Gothic English country home set that looks like somebody’s real [house]. The detective is a French-Belgian detective,” which Gallagher says is a reference to Christie’s iconic character Hercule Poirot. 

Murder at Ackerton Manor Maquette – Designed by Megan Cinel

“All the tropes are in there,” Gallagher assured. “There’s a German professor, a dowdy British monarchist, a Southern belle.” Naturally, a murder ensues, and the culprit must be found. 

Step aside, Kenneth Branagh — Ackerton Manor is far from a straightforward adaptation of Christie’s novels. Virtuoso actors Eliza-Jane Scott (Lighthouse’s Jack and the Beanstalk), Andrew Scanlon (Drayton’s Peter Pan: The Panto), and Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski (Tarragon’s The Hooves Belonged to the Deer) play a total of seven roles, with quick changes and ridiculous accents galore.

“[Scanlon,] who plays the murder victim, also plays the detective,” Gallagher said. “He goes back and forth in flashbacks between the two. Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski, who’s six-foot-five, plays the Southern belle. [The costume changes] aren’t just hats. The actors leave and come on in full drag, then they leave and they come back as the next character. It’s a full quick change: costumes, wigs, everything. It’s an extra layer of fun and skill for the actors to really dig into.”

Murder mysteries aren’t a joke to Gallagher: they’re what introduced him to theatre in the first place. “I grew up in Quebec, in a small English town called North Hatley,” Gallagher shared. “It’s sort of like Muskoka in Ontario, in that a lot of wealthy people come from Montreal and go to this small town. It’s one of the only places [in Quebec] that has an English-language summer stock theatre, called the Piggery.” 

Gallagher would go to the Piggery with his mother, and one of the first shows he ever saw there was a murder mystery. Murder at Ackerton Manor is “an homage to my mom,” Gallagher continued, “and those times we spent together watching — probably not great plays — but the shows that really got me into loving, and going to, the theatre.”

When he began work on Ackerton Manor, Gallagher dove back into the genre he adored as a child. 

“I brought back all the [Agatha Christie] books that I had from when I was a kid,” said Gallagher. “I also watched about 50 episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and got my hands on every single murder mystery I could find, even Stephen Sondheim’s [film] The Last of Sheila that he wrote with Anthony Perkins in the ‘70s. I would get all these locked-room mysteries, [a genre in which it seems impossible for a killer to have entered and left a crime scene,] and try to figure out what I could steal. What are the tropes that are all the way through these things?

“My poor partner was like, ‘Are you up again to one o’clock watching another Miss Marple?’,” Gallagher laughed. He shared that his all-time favourite Christie novel is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, about the mysterious death of a wealthy widower. “It sort of turns the genre on its ear,” he teased. 

With its fusion of hijinks and homicide, Ackerton Manor is also a reimagining of not one, but two classic genres. Was blending farce and murder-mystery a difficult task for the playwright-director? 

“[Comedy and mystery] are similar,” explained Gallagher. “Both genres need to be tightly plotted and tightly written.” He added that he’s done some tinkering with the mystery at the heart of Ackerton Manor since the play’s premiere last year at the Bancroft Village Playhouse in Bancroft, Ont. “I’ve changed a couple of things plot-wise,” he said, “just to make sure that the [murderer] isn’t something that everybody guesses; or even if they do guess it, they might not know why until the end. People love that puzzle box.”

Gallagher hopes Murder at Ackerton Manor will encourage audience members to check out Lighthouse Festival’s other offerings, and demystify how much exciting theatre is happening throughout Ontario. 

“People who don’t even think they like theatre might come [see Ackerton] and say, ‘what else would I love to see?’,” he said. “Not just [a farce] but something more challenging too. We’re so used to seeing stuff in Toronto, which is amazing; but there’s a lot of other stuff happening in smaller spaces that people are flocking to.”

Murder at Ackerton Manor runs from June 12 to 29 at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover, and July 3 to 14 at the Roselawn Theatre in Port Colborne. You can purchase tickets here.

What Toronto can learn from Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake: communities can thrive when they prioritize the arts

Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake, home to the Stratford and Shaw festivals, feel like artistic utopias, a dream that arts lovers and practitioners in Toronto can only imagine. 

May 17, 2024

The Toronto Star

By Joshua Chong

We build our cities around many things. 

Some are defined as centres of commerce and business. Others, like those great cities in Europe, are built around glorious cathedrals, whose spires tower above the skyline. Then there are yet others which, in place of churches and office towers, erect sports arenas and institutions of higher education. 

But it’s increasingly rare these days to find places where art is at the centre of their existence. It’s why destinations like Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford, Ont., home to Canada’s two largest repertory theatre companies, feel like lonely oases in an unending desert. 

I’ve been visiting both towns for the past decade and each visit always offers a welcome change of scenery from the humdrum monotony of life in the city. These are communities that are built differently, places where creativity and art aren’t swept aside but celebrated. 

It’s almost like a real-life “Schmigadoon.” Live music fills the air. Artists rub shoulders with audiences. And the talk of the town is not on the latest game score (I’ve yet to find a local sports bar in either town), but rather about the previous night’s performance. 

Stratford: things to do and see in Ontario’s mecca for arts and culture

In the evenings, restaurants are filled to the brim by half-past five; an early dinner here is not an exception but the norm, necessary for visitors to arrive on time for their evening performances. 

It’s these small quirks of life in an artistic town that draw a smile to my face. But more than that, places like Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake have much to teach us about how we benefit when we prioritize the arts in our communities.

It’s a lesson that feels important now, as major cities like Toronto reckon with the role that the arts play in their cultural identities. Add on top of that an affordability crisis that especially threatens creative industries and those who work in them. 

Comparatively, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Stratford feel like artistic utopias, a seemingly unfulfillable dream that arts lovers and practitioners in Toronto can only imagine for our city. But the two theatre towns also offer a blueprint of what’s possible when you pair leadership with a daring vision. 

It’s what turned Niagara-on-the-Lake into the regional economic engine that it is today, a destination for not merely its wineries but also its theatres. (The Shaw Festival, which mounts roughly 10 mainstage productions each year, drives more than $220 million in local cultural and tourism spending each year.)

In Stratford, its eponymous festival was established some seven decades ago, the dream of journalist Tom Patterson, who aimed to revive the town amid an economic downturn caused by the demise of its manufacturing industry. In just several years, the town on the banks of the Avon River shifted its focus from railway and train manufacturing to arts and culture.

Now, the success of the Stratford Festival has also spawned other cultural institutions in the city, including Stratford Summer Music and Here For Now Theatre. 

It’s telling that, so many Canadian artists who have the talent to make it big on Broadway or in London’s West End choose to remain in Stratford or Niagara-on-the-Lake — a testament to the artistic communities that both places have fostered. 

If only the same could be said about Toronto, where artists have left the city in droves or decided that art is not a profession worth pursuing. That’s a terrible indictment of our city. So too is seeing historic theatres turned into drug stores. (I’m looking at you, Shoppers Drug Mart at the former Runnymede Theatre; if that doesn’t spell concrete-jungle mundanity, I don’t know what does.)

Arts and culture are ultimately what give a community life. We lose sight of that and we lose sight of our societal identity. 

Meet the Cast of Murder at Ackerton Manor – Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski as Curtiss + other roles

Last summer, Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski wowed audiences in Mark Crawford’s Bed and Breakfast, playing a number of roles, including Brett, one of the two main protagonists. To say that Bed and Breakfast was a success would be an understatement. In fact, over 400 people came to see this production who hadn’t previously been to Lighthouse Festival before. The ability to tell stories that sometimes aren’t typically told is often the crux of what theatre is meant to do; to inspire, to teach, to convey, and to entertain. Bed and Breakfast was all of these things and more, so we’re so pleased that Adrian is back this summer, playing Curtiss and other roles in Steven Gallagher’s comedic murder-mystery, Murder at Ackerton Manor. We caught up with Adrian to talk about the best piece of advice he’s ever received, the challenge of playing multiple roles, and how he maintains his performance energy.

Maquette for Murder at Ackerton Manor
Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski as Curtiss

Lighthouse Festival (LF): Can you describe your first theatre experience from an acting perspective? 

Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski (ASG): In Grade 2 I was the narrator of my class Hallowe’en play. I dressed as a vampire with plastic fangs that made it difficult to speak. I got one of my first-ever laughs when at the top of the show I announced to the audience, in my best seven-year-old deadpan, “Excuse me. I have to take my teeth out.” 

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

(ASG): My high school drama teacher boiled acting down to this: “Inhale…AND PROJECT!” Hard to argue with that.

(LF): What are the challenges and rewards of live theatre compared to other forms of acting?

(ASG):  The obvious challenge with live theatre is that you can’t go back and undo your dumb mistakes–it’s happening in real time. But that’s part of the energy and magic that’s totally unique to live comedy. Anything can happen, and very often it does.

(LF): What are the challenges of playing multiple roles in the same production, like you did in Bed and Breakfast and will do in Murder at Ackerton Manor?

(ASG): I’m a simple man who loves doing silly voices, and switching between them is just like learning a dance or a knitting pattern, or driving stick. The real challenge with playing multiple characters is making sure I’m not having so much fun with the silly voices that I forget to think about them as real people.

(LF): How do you maintain your performance energy throughout a long run?

(ASG): There are lots of technical tricks for staying energized in a long run, like concentrating on your character’s desires and intentions, finding different points of focus every show, doing jumping jacks, and so on. But it’s actually pretty easy to keep your energy up in a great comedy, which Murder at Ackerton Manor is. Every night there’s a new audience in the house to hear our jokes, and we truly can’t wait to share them with you.

Meet the Cast of Doris and Ivy in the Home – Ian Deakin as Arthur Beech

Ian Deakin is making his Lighthouse debut in Norm Foster’s Doris and Ivy in the Home, on stage in Port Dover from May 22 to June 8 and in Port Colborne from June 12 to 23. He’s worked at Stratford Festival in a number of productions, and state side in productions on New York and Chicago stages. We chatted with Ian about what roles mentors played in his career, what drew him to the character of Arthur, and how he sees the role of theatre in today’s society.

Ian Deakin as Arthur Beech

Lighthouse Festival (LF): What role did mentors play in your career?

Ian Deakin (ID): I was lucky enough to have as my mentors some of the Theatre worlds acting royalty. John Neville, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Tony Randall, Len Cariou, to name a few.  Watching observing, listening and being encouraged and nurtured by any mentor is vital to a young actor hoping to make it in this business, and have any chance of a lengthy career. Unlike the instant gratification world surrounding much of our society now, actors must be willing to adapt. 

(LF): What drew you to this character in Doris and Ivy?

(ID): I’ve known playwright Norm Foster for decades, and have appeared in several of his productions. My character in “Doris and Ivy in the Home “ is an eccentric and heartfelt role, but essentially fulfills the playwright’s promise of lots of laughs too. And Norm has been serving up his comedy style from the very beginnings of his long and prolific career, much to the delight of audiences across Canada and around the world. 

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

(ID):  Live performance is a fragile art form, and we could see that when our whole industry shut down for three years during the pandemic. We rely on an audience for our existence. It is returning  like a phoenix  from the ashes, but it is different, and will continue to evolve moving forward. We continue to fight against film and television, and for a minority of the general public’s hard earned entertainment dollar.

(LF): How do you balance personal life and the demanding schedule of theatre productions?

(ID): Life in live theatre can be difficult. You have to sacrifice home life for much travel, low wages, constant rejection, short contracts, and you are only as good as your last performance. But you make a career doing the job you love, and that is worth all the hardships that may come your way. 

(LF): What advice would you give to aspiring theatre actors?

(ID): If  have any advice for young actors, make sure you get your training before you take to the stage. Pay your dues, and don’t think stardom is either entitled or the goal. Experiencing the joys of collaboration to produce a well crafted play in truthful storytelling is what will give you the most reward.

For Immediate Release: Lighthouse Festival Presents the first production of the 2024 Summer Season, Doris and Ivy in the Home by Norm Foster

Production runs from May 22 to June 8 in Port Dover and from June 12 to June 23 in Port Colborne

Port Dover, ONMay 6, 2024 | Lighthouse Festival is excited to present the highly-anticipated production of Norm Foster’s comedic hit, Doris and Ivy in the Home. Directed by Lighthouse Artistic Associate Jane Spence, this engaging and hilarious play features the stellar talents of Ian Deakin, Melanie Janzen, and Brigitte Robinson. The production runs from May 22nd to June 8th in Port Dover, before moving to Port Colborne from June 12th to June 23rd.

Doris and Ivy in the Home is a heartfelt comedy that explores the dynamics of friendship, age, and life transitions within the walls of a retirement home. With Foster’s signature wit and empathy, the play promises to deliver both laughter and poignant moments.

Ian Deakin, playing the role of the charming retiree Walter, expressed his excitement about the project. “I’ve known playwright Norm Foster for decades, and have appeared in several of his productions. My character in Doris and Ivy in the Home is an eccentric and heartfelt role, but essentially fulfills the playwright’s promise of lots of laughs too. Norm has been serving up his comedy style from the very beginnings of his long and prolific career, much to the delight of audiences across Canada and around the world.”

Melanie Janzen, who stars as the wise and witty Doris, shared her thoughts on her character, stating, “Doris is very much ‘what you see is what you get.’ I like her brashness and her confidence. There’s no beating around the bush with Doris…I could stand to be a little more like her!”

Brigitte Robinson, taking on the role of the ever-optimistic Ivy, added, “I thought Doris and Ivy in the Home was Norm Foster at his best.  Not only is it very funny but it shines a light on the lives and relationships of women and men as they age.  What also drew me to play the part of Ivy was the chance to work with the director Jane Spence, with whom I had acted in Calendar Girls at the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto and with Melanie Janzen, whose work I had always admired in our days together at the Shaw Festival.”

Director Jane Spence praised her cast and the play. “Norm Foster’s writing, rich with humour and poignancy, reminds us of the importance of seeking out meaningful connections at whatever stage of life we find ourselves. Through Doris and Ivy, we witness a dynamic and touching journey of self-discovery and companionship.” She continues, “Our talented cast
brings a wonderful blend of authenticity and warmth to their roles, embodying the essence of Foster’s characters with grace and charm. I invite you to join us in celebrating these incredible stories—stories that are not just observed, but deeply felt.”

Lighthouse Festival’s production of Doris and Ivy in the Home offers a unique blend of humour and heart. With a talented cast and a seasoned director at the helm, this show is set to be one of the most talked-about theatrical events of the season.

Tickets are available now and can be purchased through the Lighthouse Festival’s website at www.lighthousetheatre.com, by calling the box office at 888-779-7703 or dropping by the theatre. Don’t miss your chance to experience this captivating play that promises to entertain and inspire.


Ian Deakin as Arthur
Melanie Janzen as Doris
Brigitte Robinson as Ivy

Creative Team

Director: Jane SpencePlaywright: Norm Foster
Set Designer: William ChesneyCostume Designer: Alex Amini
Lighting Designer: Kevin FraserStage Manager: Laura Grandfield
Assistant Stage Manager: Ben Tuck 

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
Direct: (226) 290-0070
Cell: (289) 541-7410

Review: Broadway magic comes to the shores of Lake Erie

By Mike Renzella | The Haldimand Press

April 18, 2024

PORT DOVER — Lighthouse Festival Theatre’s 2024 Community Show The Producers proves that you don’t need to travel to Toronto to get top notch entertainment, bringing all the laughs and memorable tunes from Mel Brooks’ iconic musical to Port Dover’s famous theatre.

The cast of Lighthouse Festival’s 2024 Community Show, The Producers. From L to R: Daniel Traina, Justine Draus, Lisa Shebib, Jaden Banfield, J.P. Antonacci, Nikki Wiltac, Mac Buchwald, Don Kearney-Bourque, Jada Dawson, Shelby Mulder, Jason Mayo, Melissa Schoeman, Lyndsey Dearlove, Naomi Auld, Charly Buck, & Carmen Davis. Photo Credit: Keri Lynne Photography.

Directed by Lighthouse Artistic Director Derek Ritschel, ‘The Producers’ is impressive on multiple fronts. From Lighthouse’s trademark high production values to a cast full of local talent, the show is sure to tickle your funny bone while you marvel at its many theatrical tricks. From snazzy dance numbers to scene-stealing Nazi pigeons, Lighthouse’s rendition shines.

‘The Producers’ first appeared in 1967 as a movie starring Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. It was launched as a Broadway show in 2001 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, who would go on to star in a film adaptation as well in 2005.

Stepping into the famed role of Max Bialystock in this rendition is J.P Antonacci, who shines as the sleazy, failed producer who cooks up a scheme with his rookie accountant Leo Bloom, played by Mac Buchwald, to get rich by producing the worst show possible.

That scheme revolves around Bloom’s observation that, as the IRS rarely investigates the books on a flop, it could be theoretically possible to make up to $2 million by selling an excessive amount of shares in the show, and then embezzling them when the show flops and cannot produce a return on investment.

Antonacci and Buchwald make for an amiable comic pairing, playing off each other’s quirks and quips effortlessly as they work to secure the rights to, and then mount a production of the worst script they could possibly find, titled ‘Springtime for Hitler’. This ramps up later in the show when they both fall for their new assistant Ulla, played by Jada Dawson.

The script for ‘Springtime for Hitler’ is a hilariously tone-deaf tribute to one of history’s greatest monsters, written by a former Nazi soldier now living in New York City and played by Carmen Davis. The best scene of the show involves Davis and her Nazi-flag waving pigeons intimidating Bialystock and Bloom as they attempt to secure the rights to produce.

The show features 16 performers, many who don multiple roles, including memorable turns as the senior socialites that Bialystock convinces to invest in the show through unconventional means, in a series of hilarious comic seductions that run throughout the play.

Also great are Jason Mayo and Don Kearney-Bourque, who play the show’s director and his assistant. Mayo ends up performing as Hitler in the titular musical, portraying the Fuhrer as flamboyantly gay.

‘The Producers’, it should be noted, is a decidedly adult show, featuring some language and scenarios that might not be appropriate for the younger set. That said, if you have laughed at a Mel Brooks film in the past (and who hasn’t with a lineup of comedy classics that includes Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights), then you should make it a priority to get out to Dover and laugh the night away.

‘The Producers’ runs until April 28 at Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover. Tickets are $29 at 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.

“The Producers” is 2024 Comedic Musical Community Show at LFT

March 19, 2024

Port Dover Maple Leaf

By Donna McMillan

Lighthouse Festival will be kicking off its 2024 theatre season opening with its hilarious community production of the Mel Brooks Musical The Producers.  Always a huge hit with audiences, this year’s community production has drawn 16 Norfolk/Haldimand actors to LFT three times a week since rehearsals started the beginning of January. The Producers, with its outrageous story line, zany characters and uproarious music, will be playing in Port Dover April 12 to 28.  Derek Ritschel is the Director.

Mel Brooks fans may remember The Producers as a movie that hit the silver screen in 1967 and then again in 2005. The Broadway Musical ran in New York from 2001 to 2007, with 2502 performances and winning 12 Tony Awards.

“I’ve been wanting to do it (The Producers) for five or six years,” Derek told the Maple Leaf last week. “This was the right time. We got the rights and it all came together.” He reflected on the success of an earlier Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein performed as a community play on LFT stage. “It was a big hit.”

The Producers sees a formerly successful Broadway Producer, now down on his luck,  scheming with an accountant on how to get rich by convincing investors to put their money in the worst show in the world called “Springtime for Hitler.”  It features a bad script and lack lustre performers. Rather than fail, it is wildly successful; all resulting in a recipe for lots of laughs and riotous songs from “The King of Broadway”, “Der Guten Tag Hop – Clop” and “When You Got It, Flaunt it” to “In Old Bavaria”, “Keep It Gay” and “Along Came Bialy.”

Nikki Wiltac is performing in her first community play with LFT. Last week, she told the Maple Leaf she is thrilled to be part of the Ensemble, playing a number of roles including a bad chorus girl, a pigeon, an old lady, a police officer and a Bavarian peasant to name a few. She has been interested in acting since elementary school, remembering her first performance to be in Ramona and Beezus. She has also done community theatre in Simcoe and Tillsonburg as well as being in a 10-minute play competition in Brantford. “I wanted to step up and do something more professional,” she said. “It’s been an incredible learning experience. I’m learning so much from everyone from the director, the leads, ensemble and costumes.”

Mac Buchwald has always done theatre from Old Town Hall kids in Waterford to Simcoe Little Theatre. He told the Maple Leaf he was thrilled to get his first role in a LFT Community Show, playing one of the leads, Leo Bloom. “I’m a big Gene Wilder fan,” he said, noting Gene played Leo in the 1967 film version. Leo is a neurotic accountant, obsessed with his blue security blanket, he shared. Buchwald, who is working as a new English teacher at WDHS, is enjoying seeing the LFT Professional Production team supporting the amateur actors.   

For Melissa Schoeman, performing in The Producers is her first play since university ten years ago, she shared.   A number of people suggested she should act and she loved the movie, The Producers, she said. She remembers her first role was in Surfing Santa at Oneida Central School.  She performed in elementary school and in high school at Cayuga Secondary.  She has a degree in English from Wilfrid Laurier University.   Melissa plays a montage of many people as part of the ensemble, she said, including old lady, auditioner, prisoner, cop, chorus girl and more. “Oh my Gosh. It has been an amazing experience,” she told the Maple Leaf. “A lot of work. There is a certain ‘vibe’ around theatre people.  This feels like home.”   

This writer attended an hour of rehearsal last week. Without a doubt, this will be another “must see” community play that will have the audience in stitches in their seat and “wondering how something so outrageously offensive could be so funny,” as mentioned in the playbill. There is a great cast of new and popular return actors we know from past community plays. It runs from April 12 to 28.

The full cast includes: J.P. Antonnaci (Max Bialystock), Mac Buchwald (Leo Bloom), Jada Dawson (Ulla), Carmen Davis (Fran Liebkind), Jason Mayo (Roger De Bris), Don Kearney–Bourque (Carmen Ghia); Ensemble: Naomi Auld, Jaden Banfield, Charly Buck, Lyndsey Dearlove, Justine Draus, Shelby Mulder, Melissa Schoeman, Lisa Shebib, Daniel Traina, & Nikki Wiltac. For tickets, contact Lighthouse Festival Theatre at their Main Street, Port Dover box office, call 519–583–2221 or visit the website www.lighthousetheatre.com.

For Immediate Release – New Interim Executive Director Appointment at Lighthouse Festival

April 2, 2024 – PORT DOVER, ON

We are pleased to announce that the Lighthouse Festival Theatre Corporation’s Board of Directors has appointed Caitlin O’Neill, our current Operations Coordinator, as Interim Executive Director, effective Monday, April 8th, 2024. This appointment comes as our current Executive Director, Nicole Campbell, embarks on her maternity leave beginning Friday, April 5th, 2024. The Board, alongside the entire staff of Lighthouse Festival, is thrilled to welcome Caitlin into her new role. Caitlin brings a wealth of experience and passion for the arts that is sure to lead our organization through this transitional period with grace and innovation.

Nicole Campbell (Left) & Caitlin O’Neill

We also extend our warmest wishes to Nicole during her maternity leave. We celebrate this joyous occasion with her and look forward to the new addition to her family. Nicole’s leadership and vision have been instrumental in the growth and success of Lighthouse Festival in Port Dover and Port Colborne.

Please join us in congratulating Caitlin on her new role and in wishing Nicole Campbell a safe and happy maternity leave. We are confident that the Lighthouse Festival Theatre will continue to thrive under Caitlin’s interim directorship and look forward to an exciting future ahead.

For all enquiries regarding this transition, please contact Caitlin O’Neill, Interim Executive Director, at caitlin@lighthousetheatre.com or call 226-290-0068.