Entertainment Local

Hoedown hits the stage

By John Swartz

The Orillia Stage Company’s (OSC) inaugural play, Hank and Patsy’s Heavenly Country Hoedown, opened last week at the Orillia Community Church (OCC).

The theatre is the former Cinema 4. One of the original four theatres has been retained. It has been used as a movie theatre for various events since being taken over by the OCC. As a theatrical venue, it works, but the OSC is finding out there are some limitations and anomalies.

The backstage area is not the same as the Orillia Opera House, with only six feet of room for actors to hang out in between scenes and for props. There are no wings to await the moment of entrance to the stage. That means the director, David Fanstone, has to come up with ways to make scene changes and entrances work.

Sound is another issue. In this case, the play takes place at HEVN, a radio station for deceased country musicians. This is how, as the writer, Fanstone puts Hank Williams (Duff MacDonald) and Patsy Cline (Samantha Windover) together, since the country stars never met in real life.

Fanstone has given Hank a bit of an ego. Hank is about Hank being the star until the music starts. Then, he’s on the same level as his cohorts making music. Cline is youthful, maybe a little naive.

As actors, it’s amazing how much MacDonald looks like Williams, which becomes obvious when comparing the overhead projection of Williams with the actor. MacDonald is a seasoned stage actor, so there aren’t complaints about his turn.

Windover is in her first play and does well, with an exception. Her inexperience with microphones presents a challenge to keeping her dynamic range in check. The softs are too soft and the louds overpower the electronics occasionally. It’s worth noting period mikes are used, which were great for recording, but not so much for live renditions. Fanstone is swapping with modern mikes.

In the first half, the sound was generally uneven with Gino Del Sole’s guitar dominating in the first half, but it was brought back into line in the second.

Del Sole, Duncan Cameron and music director Michael Leach all play characters and the music. Cameron gets to be the kid with corny jokes trying to fit in with the older musicians.

There is a learning process all of the cast and crew need to go through in the new venue for live performance and I’m willing to cut them some slack because of it. It presents some potential when the glitches are overcome. The music, well, it’s Hank and Patsy; you know it (even if you think you don’t) and you’ll enjoy hearing it performed.

The play runs to Saturday and you can get tickers by calling 705-242-8011. Angie starts June 26.


This year’s Streets Alive project will be unveiled Saturday at 9 a.m. downtown. Art Grows Here is the theme; planters are the items artists have decorated.

Thirty of them will be positioned throughout the downtown, the streets will be closed and, once again, members of the public will be able to vote for their favourites. In addition, another dozen wooden planters, built by OD/Park Secondary School students, will be used to grow real food for The Sharing Place food bank.

Over the years, Streets Alive founder Leslie Fournier has turned the unveiling into a show and, to that end, there will be music throughout the day as well, including WinnieBrave on the street at 1 p.m.


The 31st annual Arts for Peace Festival will take place Sunday at the Leacock Museum from noon to 5 p.m.

This is a great day for families. There will be storytelling and lots of hands-on activities, like learning to paint with Jeff Miller’s Look See Paint system.

Music will be performed by Murray Cleland and friends, the Arts for Peace Fiddlers, Cassiopeia, Sassafras, Marg Raynor, the Raging Grannies, the Lions Oval choir, Thundercelts, Alex the Folk Band and Bryan Sutton and Brian Clappison.

This year, the festival will honour John Hemsted, chair of the Food Partners Alliance of Simcoe County, and the late Pete Seeger, who advocated for peace with his music throughout his life. Admission is free.


The annual Coldwater and Area Studio Tour happens this weekend. It’s the 14th version and there are 14 studios on the tour with 36 artists showing their stuff.

You can see the usual paintings and sculptures, typical for a show like this, but atypical in the context of art. There are also textiles, glassware, rugs, jewelry and metalworks to see.

The studios are spread out all over Coldwater, so you’ll need a map. Go to coldwaterstudiotour.com for that and a list of where your favourite artists are going to be.

Rants! Raves!! Info? Write John at watchthisproductions@encode.com.


• The Orillia Opera House theatre season starts this week with Mixed Doubles, featuring Debbie Collins and Dean Hollin. The revue has them weaving their way through the history of famous duos, starting with Adam and Eve. Some of the others are fictional (Scarlett and Rhett, Archie and Edith) and others were real (Sonny and Cher, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.). It runs to July 19. Get tickets at the box office or by calling 705-326-8011.

• The Orillia Folk Society is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a potluck Saturday at the Blue Heron Room in Moonstone. There will be outdoor activities for the family. Bring your axe to play some music. The day will conclude with a concert by John Prince and the End of the Road (an awesome band). Tickets cost $20 and you can get them at Ironside Electric Company downtown. Email cyberfolkie@hotmail.com for directions.

• Jim Dwyer and Marcello Tulipano are doing a performance of Tuesdays with Morrie at the Orillia Public Library Tuesday at 7 p.m. Dwyer produced the play (about Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom's weekly visits to an ailing Morrie Schwartz) in 2009 at the Opera House. It’s pretty powerful and Dwyer is doing this one-off in support of ALS Awareness Month in Canada. It’s free, but you have to call the library at 705-325-2338 or email info@orilliapubliclibrary.ca to reserve a seat.

• The local branch of the Canadian Authors Association has its last meeting until the fall at Brewery Bay Food Company’s Down by the Bay room June 26 at 6:30 p.m. with Karleen Bradford as the guest author.

• The sound of music wafting through the air from the Rotary Aqua Theatre to the deck Sunday evening meant the Concerts in the Park program has started for the summer. I could hear the Orillia Silver Band playing Meadowland, one of my favourite pieces. This week, the Metropolitan Toronto Silver Band plays the 7 p.m. concert.

• Zephyr Gallery is holding its third annual Sunshine Sketches by Our Little Town show July 8 to Aug. 16. Anyone can enter something into the show. The fee is $20 for individuals or $60 if a family is entering. Email zephyrgallery@yahoo.ca to enter or for more details.

• Coming up: Dennis Gauthier is at The Brownstone Thursday night; James Clarke is in Saturday night. Goddo is playing the new club, Encore, June 26. Jamie Drake leads a jam at McCabe’s Thursday nights starting at 8 p.m. Steph Dunn is in Thursday night at Sixteen Front; Dave Hinschberger is in Friday. Chris LeMay plays Era 67 Friday. Everyone is welcome to watch the Little Big Band rehearse at the Orillia legion Wednesday evenings. Duck Soup’s production of Cats happens at the Orillia Opera House July 15, 22 and 29 and Aug. 5, 12 and 19. The Orillia Museum of Art and History opens Disarming Beauty, photos and paintings by Amanda Clyne, Thursday at 7 p.m. Christmas in June happens at the Port of Orillia Saturday. Movies in the Park, at the Aqua Theatre, starts Wednesday with Ghostbusters at 9:30 p.m.

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