Five plays over five nights
Nestled in The Ward in Guelph’s east end, Guelph Little Theatre (GLT) will soon be the hosting venue for the Western Ontario Drama League (WODL) Festival from March 11-15. WODL has been an umbrella organization of 30 theatres in Western Ontario since 1932. The annual festival celebrates a selection of five adjudicated shows from the region, with this year’s playbill including productions from Cambridge, Burlington, Guelph, Paris, and Sarnia.
Each production will compete for the winning spot to represent the WODL at the Theatre Ontario Festival in Toronto. An adjudicator will be at each show and after the last bows audiences will experience a special insight into the assessment process as the production receives a 10 minute judgement.
For this year’s WODL Festival, Guelph Little Theatre’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane is up for consideration. A modern classic of Irish Theatre, the play is set in the mountains of Connemara and tells the story of Maureen Folan, a plain and lonely woman in her early 40’s, and Mag, her manipulative mother. Mag’s interference in Maureen’s first and potentially last romantic relationship sets in motion a chain of events that are tragically funny as they are horrific. It’s a smaller production for GLT, with a cast of four. But, as GLT publicist Lynne McIntee explains, “each actor brings their own flare and are a mix of professional and amateur actors”. This blend of shining light on collective skills of a variety of levels is an initiative that GLT is focusing on as they enter their 84th year.
GLT offers something special
The theatre has been bringing quality amateur theatre to Guelph since 1935. So, what contributes to their longevity in Guelph’s theatre community?
“The people and community. The opportunity for people to come in and work collectively on a project,” says Lynne, “Whether it’s 1935, establishing our self in the community, or 2019 where we are inviting new stories in, it’s the presence for people to express their voices.”
GLT attracts volunteers from all walks of life and prides itself in being an open door for anyone to come and experience live theatre. From an 18 year-old discovering a love of theatre outside of high school, to a retired teacher looking to connect with her community, to those who have been working in theatre as their professional career.
For GLT’s treasurer, Peter Busby, starting in theatre at the age of nine led to a career in lighting. Now happily retired, he enjoys that his profession has turned into a hobby. He had shopped around the area for a space to volunteer and when he walked in the doors of GLT he knew it was the right fit. “It’s a fabulous space and a well-equipped theatre. I love the art and it has been a welcoming artistic community here.”
Walking through GLT’s space, it’s easy to understand how this place can quickly feel like home. The theatre itself seats 250 in an intimate space but with one of the larger stages offered in Western Ontario. Between the theatre’s own
Behind the scenes, over 40 active volunteers make these shows happen. With an onsite rehearsal space, costume department and workshop, there always seems to be something going on. Walking through the workshop, sets are being built for the upcoming production of Romeo and Juliet, but can’t move in until The Beauty Queen of Leenane wraps up for the WODL Festival.
Experience Guelph during the festival
The Western Ontario Drama League Festival runs over five days with evening shows at 8pm each night. “It’s a flurry of a week,” says Peter as he breaks down the day, “the technical crew arrives around 7:30am to load in, a dress rehearsal runs at 2pm, the show at 8pm, then immediate take down by (hopefully) midnight – and do it all again the next day.”
While production crews are preparing for the evening’s entertainment, Lynne and Peter encourage visitors to get out and explore the city. Why not start with an early lunch at Guelph’s newest eatery, Park Grocery – you don’t want to miss their signature piri piri chicken. Discover the historic downtown with a trip to the Guelph Civic Museum, where you can learn all about the history of Guelph’s theatre community. Then just walk down the block for pre-show dinner at Miijidaa Café + Bistro, the spot to be for Canadian cuisine.
Or spend the day seeing the sights of Guelph by hitting up the Basillica of Our Lady, the McCrae House (the childhood home of Col. John McCrae), The Arboretum at the University of Guelph, or simply walking the trails along the Speed River. Prep for the evening’s show with dinner at Borealis Grille & Bar which brings focus to the local food scene. At the theatre, enjoy a bevvy from GLT’s season sponsor, Royal City Brewing. You’ll fall in love with a brew that is made just one block away, it doesn’t get more local than that! Post-show, keep the party going at The Wooly Pub to grab a drink and some great grub in a classic pub atmosphere.
The Guelph Little Theatre has become a namesake in Guelph’s arts community and are ready to showcase the best of what Guelph has to offer at the WODL Festival. Guelph is ready to welcome our theatrical neighbours for a week of drama, comedy, and show-stopping performances.