Out and About Ontario

Talk about a blast from the past. The Gravenhurst Opera House is hosting a celebration of the “good ol’ days,” a time when the townsfolk would dress up in their Sunday best and parade along Main Street sporting straw hats and parasols. It’s been almost 100 years since the historic building – one of only five Opera Houses in Ontario – opened its doors, starting a tradition of summer theatre and entertainment that’s gone on almost uninterrupted ever since. It’s a tradition that has also been responsible for spawning some of Canada’s greatest actors – Donald Sutherland, Ted Follows, Don Harron, Kate Reid, David Gardner, Eric House, Barbara Chilcott, Charmion King… even the king of comedy, Dave Broadfoot, trod the boards in Muskoka in the early days of his career.

To celebrate the upcoming birthday (it’s actually not until 2001, but organizers wanted to get a head start), the Opera House has announced details of its 1999 Straw Hat Festival (through to Labour Day) show- casing what promises to be a thrilling summer of theatre. Brought in for the occasion, the Straw Hat Players, under the direction of John Holden and Donald Davis, are producing seven plays, including &l;E>It Had To Be You, Deathtrap, A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline and Songs Sinatra Taught Me. Other highlights include Celtic music from Richard Wood, Canada’s top fiddler; jazz with the Joe Sealy Quartet and the Norman Amadio All-Star Jazz Band. Muskoka’s very own Jack Hutton, said to be Canada’s number one ragtime pianist, is also putting in an appearance.

For further details, call the Box Office at (705) 687-5550 or 1-888-495-8888. A little further south, the folks at the Orillia Opera House will also be busy. Home to the Sunshine Festival Theatre Company, the Orillia Opera House (it’s 104 years old) has for the past 10 summers presented a smorgasbord of great live professional theatre – this summer’s no different.

Shows scheduled for the 1999 summer season: Don’t Dress for Dinner (July 1 – 17), an adulterous farce that takes place around a gourmet dinner; The Mikado (July 22 – Aug.7), Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular work; Wrong for Each Other (Aug. 12 – 28) by Norm Foster, one of Canada’s most popular playwrights; and Beyond the Rainbow: The Judy Garland Story (July 20th – 22, Aug. 10 – 12, Sept. 21 – Oct. 7), a musical tribute to a woman whose career spanned three decades of television, film and concert appearances.

Buzzin’ around Looking for something a little different to do with dad? The Hamilton International Air Show has been set to take to the skies over the Father’s Day Weekend (June 19 – 20), and once again promises some top- notch acts, including the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the United States Air Force Thunderbirds, two of the world’s best jet team performers.

Fly-bys and “fast-jet” demonstrations are also slated for this 25th anniversary event, including the flashy US Navy F-14 Tomcat and a Canadian CF-18 Hornet, as well as fast-paced aerobatics. Another highlight is a special tribute to the Canadian Armed Forces, marking the 75th anniversary of the formation of the RCAF – participating will be some vintage Second World War aircraft on loan from he Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association, and a flight of WWI biplanes, all adding a touch of nostalgia.

The gates open at 8 a.m. For more information, call (905) 528-4425. The Hamilton International Air Show is located at the Hamilton Mount Hope Airport, an hour’s drive west of Toronto along the QEW.

Special people, special needs
If you or someone you care for has a disability or special needs, you’ll want to check out People in motion ‘99, the largest show of its kind in Canada (June 4 – 5, Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition Place, Toronto). More than 120 exhibitors will be on hand, showcasing the latest in barrier-free designs, home healthcare products, sports and recreation opportunities and equipment, accessible vacations, rehabilitation and special government programs. Displays by major corporations featuring various products and services, as well as employment information, will also be available. A comprehensive selection of adapted vehicles, wheelchairs, scooters, lifts and ramps will be available to test, too. For more information, call (905) 455-4141.

Play those (heart) strings
Those busy folks at Toronto Senior Strings have just announced their sixth exciting season, under the tutelage of conductor Victor Feldbrill and concert master Jascha Milkis. First up is an afternoon concert on June 10 at 2 p.m., being held at downtown Toronto’s St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (wheelchair accessible), King and Simcoe Streets (at St. Andrew subway station). The concert features music by Purcell, Bach, Haydn, Delius and Porter. Of particular interest is a commissioned work for English Horn and Strings by renowned Canadian composer, Lou Applebaum. Tickets are “pleasantly priced” (so says the press release!)at $14, available at the door. To order in advance, send a stamp and self-addressed envelope to: TSS, 65 Huntingdale Blvd., Suite 102, Toronto, Ont. M1W 2P1. For further information, call Ann C. Harris at (416) 769-5071.

Soulpepper Theatre Company
Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company has a bevy of interesting theatrical events lined up for the summer. Getting the ball rolling is Ferenc Molnar’s The Play’s The Thing, in an adaptation by P.G. Wodehouse. Co-produced with the National Arts Centre, Ottawa, this witty play (originally produced in 1926) features C. David Johnson, star of CBC’s Street Legal, Dora Award-winners Diego Matamoros and Karen Robinson. Where? Premiere Dance Theatre, Harbourfront. When? Opens July 15, runs to Aug. 28, 1999. Also up for grabs: Samuel Beckett’s excellent Endgame, directed by celebrated Canadian author Daniel Brookes (opens July 22 and runs Aug. 28); Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Diana Leblanc at du Maurier Theatre Centre (July 16 – Aug. 28); and Anton Chekhov’s Platonov (Sept. 7 – 17). Four performance passes are available from $80 – $125. For further information and to book tickets, call the Soulpepper Pass Line at (416) 952-3692.

Strawberry social at Spadina
Strawberries, flowers, music, magic and old-fashioned costumes are on the menu for this year’s Strawberry Social at Spadina on Sunday, June 20, 12 noon to 4 p.m. Based on traditional summer garden parties held by the Austin family, one-time owners of this historic Toronto estate (next door to Casa Loma), visitors are welcome to stroll the grounds and gardens and tour the magnificent mansion with its collection of Victorian and Edwardian furnishings. Heritage horticulturists will lead tours of the splendidly restored Victorian gardens. Also, social historian Joseph Hisey and other representatives of the Costume Society of Ontario will offer informal chats about the period and vintage clothing and accessories (hats, shoes, etc.) on display. Admission to the house and grounds is $2 per person at the main entrance gate, 285 Spadina Rd. Paid parking is available next door at Casa Loma. Call (416) 392-6910 for further details.