Go play: Canada’s summer theatre festivals

Hollywood and Broadway have stolen some of Canada’s finest actors. Ryan Gosling. Kiefer Sutherland. Kim Cattrall. Mike Myers. Christopher Plummer. But any fan of great theatre knows that there’s plenty more where they came from. I was lucky enough to catch Chris Plummer in Anthony & Cleopatra at Ontario‘s Stratford Shakespeare Festival last summer — astonishing stuff (though he’ll always be The Sound of Music‘s Captain von Trapp to me).

From fringe to fully produced, Canada’s summer theatre season is packed with amazing performers and great theatre fetivs.

A sampling (by start date) for 2010:
Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, April 1 – Oct. 31, 2010. Between the too-cute town and the nearby wineries, it’s hard to go inside for a show. But the fest of plays and musicals related in some way to George Bernard Shaw and his times is always fun — not to mention top-notch.

What’s cool about it? Plenty of wit and comedy.

Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, ON, April 10 – Oct. 31, 2010. Theatre fans throughout the eastern US and Canada know that Stratford, one of the world’s great theatre festivals, always delivers great performances. Christopher Plummer returns to Stratford, this time in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and some of the continent’s finest musical theatre will feature Brent Carver in Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

What’s cool about it? The variety of perfectly produced shows.

Magnetic North Theatre Festival, Kitchener-Waterloo, ON, June 9 – 19, 2010. This fest of new Canadian theatre alternates between Ottawa, ON, and other Canadian cities every other year.

What’s cool about it? “Magnetic Encounters” allows audience members to get personal with the actors, maybe even have a sing-along.

Charlottetown Festival, Charlottetown, PEI, June 17 – Oct. 9, 2010. Canada’s most famous redhead, Anne Shirley,comes to life every summer in an astonishing musical production — Anne of Green Gables – The Musical — on her “home” island, Prince Edward Island. This festival offers other uniquely “island” productions like Abegweit — The Soul of the Island, which was performed at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, BC.

What’s cool about it? The focus on local lore.

Theatre Under the Stars, Vancouver, BC, July 9 – Aug. 21, 2010. While the performances are fun and earnest, the outdoor Stanley Park setting makes this annual summer theatre worth a visit. Plus, the possibility that they’ll have real rain for Singin’ in the Rain is just too rich to pass up.

What’s cool about it? Frequent impromptu, onstage appearances by the park’s famous raccoons.

SummerWorks, Toronto, ON, Aug. 5 – 15, 2010. Known as the “largest juried festival in Canada,” and held in funky spots like the Gladstone Hotel, this fringe-style fest in Canada’s largest city focuses on new, indie plays that reflect both Toronto and Canada — a great way to get a taste of truly up-to-the-moment Canadian culture.

What’s cool about it? Local and funky productions.

Edmonton Fringe Festival, Edmonton, AB, Aug. 12 – 22, 2010. North America’s original fringe festival — and still one of the continent’s largest — brings Alberta’s capital city a huge dose of cultural variety every August. Performers from around the globe vie for a chance to strut their stuff at this legendary fest.

What’s cool about it? You really don’t know what you’ll see until you see it.

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission.
Photo copyright Theatre under the Stars.