Local Arts: Gros Morne Theatre Festival

The 22nd season of the Gros Morne Theatre Festival mixes first class entertainment with the trims & trappings of one of the island’s most picturesque locations


In the midst of its 22nd season, Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival continues to raise the benchmark for high quality and devilishly entertaining performances in one of the island’s most picturesque locations. “If you do well people keep coming,” shared Gaylene Buckle, General Manger of Theatre Newfoundland Labrador. “If you build it they will come and it’s about remaining true to who you are as a theatre company. We’re blessed to fit into the cultural tourism umbrella but we can never forget that we’re a theatre company. When you know that and you’re doing the shows and following your mandate it all works.” 

Over 166 Performances

The festival spans 16 weeks from June to September, with over 166 performances featuring 35 outstanding artists tackling six rotating productions. It’s a  juggling act keeping things firing on all cylinders, but all hands pitch together to make light work, on and off the stage.

“We have a great production team.” Buckle shares.

“The actors, directors and designers are all part of what you see on stage, but we have as many people who work backstage as we have in front of the curtain. That’s the key. We have an awesome production manager. We start our organization for the festival in the fall. This fall we’ll begin to plan and organize our schedule for next year and come January or February we’ll really be putting the finishing touches on everything. It’s a very detailed schedule so we know what every hour of every day where every actor, director, designer or lighting technician is. That’s not to say it’s easy – there’s nothing easy about it – but in order to do a quality festival of this magnitude you’ve got to be organized.”

This year’s itinerary includes quirky comedy Fly Me To The Moon, which centers on two home-care workers fighting over the unclaimed race ticket of an elderly gentlemen, Heroes, a World War I era play of three veterans who aim to escape a retirement home and The Out Vigil, which spotlights a Newfoundlander in Alaska.

Perennial Favourites

Of course there are perennial favourites Newfoundland Vinyl, dinner theatre S.S. Ethie and trad music show Neddy Norris Night, and while different performances and productions may thematically reside outside of the island, the trappings of home, by mandate, always linger.

“It is what our mandate is. This year we’ll tell a story written in France and written in Ireland, but it still is relevant to who we are,” Buckle says. “We create a lot of our own work, but every story that we tell reflects on our own people and our own culture. Fly Me To The Moon is as relevant to Cow Head and Paradise as it is to Ireland. It’s very much what we’re mandated to do.”

An Authentic Production

Of course, location is the name of the game when it comes to the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. Residing in the picturesque area of Cow Head, the festival arouses patrons from across the island and abroad, if for nothing else than the sublime atmosphere outside of the top notch entertainment.

“When people come to see a show at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival we consider it an extension of their natural vocation,” Buckle explains. “They come to Newfoundland and certainly Gros Morne for the nature and the beauty of their surroundings. What we feel like we’re doing is extending that into an authentic production. Whether it’s our musical shows, Newfoundland Vinyl, or Neddy Norris Night, all about the music and stories of Newfoundland,  they take away a piece of authentic culture with them besides the outdoor experience that they get.”

While word of mouth travels abroad of the legitimacy of the festival, heightening fan demand from out-of-towners, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians themselves are turning out in droves season after season, so much so in fact that the coordinators have had to turn patrons away. Thankfully, many have wised up and have booked performances in advance to one of the west coast’s hottest tickets. 

‘Word of Mouth’

“A lot of people are coming because of word of mouth. They’ve heard their neighbour in Digby, Nova Scotia or Poole, England that has seen the show and have told them ‘If you’re going to Newfoundland you have got to go!’ There’s a lot of word of mouth among travellers.

“This year our Newfoundland pre-bookings are way up. Newfoundlanders have travelled many miles to Gros Morne to see a show to be told that  there are no seats available. The message is getting out so people are planning their vacations well ahead and making sure to book. There’s nothing more terrible for a theatre company than to turn away people. It’s great to have full houses, but it’s heartbreaking with every person you turn away.”

Don’t be left out on one of the province’s more celebrated artistic showcases of the calender year!

For showtimes, ticket information and much more on the Gros Morne Theatre Festival visit theatrenewfoundland.com or call the box office at 1-877-243-2899.


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