Local Arts: Stephenville Theatre Festival

Celebrating their 39th season in 2017, the Stephenville Theatre Festival continues to serve as a hub for artistic development and cultural growth in Newfoundland and Labrador

Festival General Manager Christopher Vaughan caught up with The Herald for an in-depth look into the history of the festival, blanketing the storied past, thrilling present and future outlook.

  You have five productions on tap for your 39th season. How do you go about selecting a production? 

We know our audiences love music and comedy, so we select shows with that in mind. Our headliner this season is ‘Urinetown: The Musical.’ It’s a hugely funny and upbeat show that lampoons many things like politics and the legal system, and even musical theatre itself. ‘Rocket Man’ is a high-energy tribute to the music and life of Elton John, while ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes’ is a delightful look back at the music of the 1950s and ‘60s. Another show, ‘For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again’, is a heart-touching show about the relationship between a mother and son. And for families, we’re offering a fun re-telling of Cinderella. We’re also hosting special performances during the season. 

Trent McClellan, the hilarious comedian who’s joining the cast of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, will be performing a show; well-known actor Cindy O’Neill is returning with her one-woman show; and we also have ‘Legacy: Country Legends,’ which features some awesome west coast musical talent. So hopefully, there’s something for everybody to enjoy this summer.

  The festival itself has been an immense boost for town of Stephenville and the surrounding Bay St. George area. How important, as an organization, has it been for you to build the profile of the region?

We wouldn’t have made it to our 39th season without the support of the people from the Bay St. George area. We’re extremely grateful to call Stephenville home and wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a great place to live, and we’re pleased to play our part in helping promote this area of the province. We thrive on bringing live entertainment to area residents and visitors, and we’re also excited to hire and partner with talented people from this area each summer. It’s really a win-win situation for everybody.

  Is there anything on the schedule for this particular season that has you particularly excited? 

I’m honestly excited to take in every show. Artistic Director Heather Braaten has gathered some of the best entertainers and theatre technicians from across this province and throughout Canada to be a part of STF this summer, so it’s going to be a rockin’ good time. I’ve heard snippets of rehearsals and I’m absolutely thrilled by what’s in store for this summer.

  Of course the organization has always followed the vision and mandates of founder Maxim Mazumdar. I’d imagine that commitment to diverse and innovative theatre has only grown over the years?

Maxim had an overwhelming passion for fearless and innovative theatre, and that’s something we strive to continue every year. This summer’s ‘Urinetown: The Musical’ is certainly funny, but it’s also clever and insightful. It strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and engagement. Given the world’s current political and cultural climate, 2017 couldn’t be a more appropriate year to mount this show.

  Not to get too far ahead, but 2018 will mark the 40th season of the festival. Is there anything particularly grand in the planning?

Yes, planning is already underway for Stephenville Theatre Festival’s 40th season. We’re currently going through our archives to uncover some gems from the past, and we’re also developing a few surprises that audiences will hopefully really enjoy.  But as for right now, we’re keeping everything a secret!

  You’re the longest running professional theatre festival in the province. How much pride does that bring to the cast and crew? It’s a great honour to be a part of Stephenville Theatre Festival. To continue on with a legacy that was started nearly 40 years ago is both exciting and daunting, to be completely honest.

Many people have great memories and high expectations of the festival, so that’s something to live up to and even improve upon year after year. As a professional theatre company, our goal is provide stellar live entertainment at every one of our shows, and this year is no exception.

  For anyone who has not had the pleasure to take in the festival, what would your message be?

Come out and see a show! You’ll be blown away by the high calibre of talent on our stage (and behind the scenes) this summer. See you at the festival!

For more information visit http://www.stephenvilletheatrefestival.com

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