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A version of this article will also appear in the October 2011 edition of The Business Link
Downtown Alliance for the Performing Arts previews the coming season

With the new performing arts centre just three years away from opening night, it is most encouraging to see eight Niagara arts organizations banding together to share their plans for the coming season with the media and many of the City of St. Catharines’ staunchest arts supporters.

Mayor Brian McMullan summed up the current state of our arts succinctly: “We’re blessed with having some very talented artists and performers in our community,” he told the large gathering in the Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre. “Artists and community are the light at the end of day.”

Acting as the no-nonsense master of ceremonies (presenters going past their allotted three minutes would face the appearance of the dreaded troll gloves), Carousel Players’ Artistic Director Pablo Felices-Luna—just as he does when bringing to life all manner of plays written for kids—kept everything moving on time and with an engaging sense of fun. Media events have seldom been as enjoyable.

His own troupe celebrates its 40th season with three plays that are performed at the Courthouse before extensive school tours. Linda A. Caron and Cathy Nosaty have combined their talents for Here to Hear, which will examine just what music is in January. Two months later, Jennifer Overton’s Spelling 2-5-5 takes a gentle approach with helping audiences begin to understand autistic children. Beginning in May, Water Under the Bridge (by Michael Washburn and Carrie Costello) is set in 1812 and delves into border security.

Prior to the plays, Carousel Caravan (October 19) will help raise funds to increase school performances and a showcase for plays written by local area students (Commotion ) can be seen on December 10 (at 3:00 and 7:00 p.m.).Finally, everyone is invited to the birthday celebrations June 3 at Market Square.

Speaking on behalf the Essential Collective Theatre, director/actor Stephanie Jones shared the exciting news that this year’s first production will be Trout Stanley by Claudia Dey—those who enjoy a little murder and mayhem on their night out won’t be disappointed; it runs at the Courthouse until October16. In March, Raoul Bhaneja will be in town for his solo take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Perennial favourite Educating Rita kicks off Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects’ three-play season on November 3. Willy Russell’s gritty tale of going back to school then getting involved with the professor stars Ric Reid and Jenny L. Wright. In February, veteran actors Jennifer Phipps and Lorne Kennedy step into the spotlight for Memoir: John Murrell’s study of French actress Sarah Bernhardt. Lyndesfarne’s Young Company will make their Courthouse début in April performing the much-beloved Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Growing Together: A Celebration of Niagara’s Migrant Workers will be neXt Company Theatre’s opener on September 18 (Sean O’Sullivan Theatre). Those wishing to relive or discover the musical zaniness of The Rocky Horror Show should make their way to the Courthouse February 23-26 to take in production of the ever-popular classic.

Dancer/choreographer Mary Jo Mullins provided details of the Niagara Dance Company’s workshops, mentorship program, presentation series and performances. Pearl will complete their season, June 8-10 and feature contemporary works by Mullins, Patricia Beatty, Valerie Calam, Elizabeth Chitty, David Earle, Kathleen Hughes and Graham McKelvie. Variety will be the order of the day.

Director Peter Feldman explained that John Patrick Shanley’s Where’s My Money? (previously scheduled but postponed due to a casting problem—waiting for the right cast is always preferable to going ahead with a compromise) will finally be produced in the late fall (November 25-December 3) by Stray Theatre. “It’s a dark comedy—haunting,” he said with a knowing twinkle in his eye. Ghosts and their admirers won’t want to miss it.

Suitcase in Point Theatre Company continues its popular series of cabarets throughout the season, alternating between The Merchant Ale House and the Courthouse. They will also continue to have a big role with the annual In the Soil – Niagara’s Hometown Arts Festival in April.

Theatre Beyond Words completed the presentations by describing their “Thought Made Visible” line-up which lifts off on both sides of the border (they also perform at Niagara University’s Leary Theatre) with an adaptation of Seymour Leichman’s The Boy Who Could Sing Pictures (December 9-18).

With such a varied program inventively concocted by dedicated artists and producers, it’s small wonder a performing arts centre is on the way.

Not surprisingly, the newly appointed centre’s executive director, Steve Solski, was on hand, getting to know even more of his constituents and offer a few words in a rare appearance on stage. “When I took the job, I wasn’t expecting to see so many companies working together already,” he said with obvious delight. “Starting from an amazing base in this community will go a long way to ensuring that the arts the artists will be at the building’s core.”

No need to wait until the new venue opens its doors. Why not make it your business to visit current favourites, but also discover new ones? For further details, click on the DAPA link below.

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Newsmaker - Steve Solski
Further information, future screening/performance/exhibition dates,
purchase information, production sponsors:
Centre for the Arts - Brock University City of St. Catharines Downtown Alliance for the Performing Arts