Whale of a Tale Theatre program presents the Old Sow Theatre Festival

Submitted photo The St. Andrews Art Council’s Whale of a Tale drama program provides a number of opportunities for its younger participants, including this class of students.

SAINT ANDREWS – St. Andrews Art Council’s Whale of a Tale drama program has provided its age-diverse students with a high-quality education in playwriting, screenwriting, drama, dance and voice.

The program provides advanced students with the opportunity to collaborate with faculty and community members through their participation in plays and dinner theatre.

As well, the students gain experience performing in a variety of venues during their time in the workshop. Some venues the council has used in the past are Kingsbrae Garden, Ministers Island, and Dominion Country Inn’s barn.

“It blossomed around the same time (as the voice program),” said Jackie Guthrie with the St. Andrews Arts Council. “In 1999 I think it started.”

As uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the St. Andrews Arts Council has decided not to run its workshops this year. The unpredictable nature of the pandemic posed too big a risk to the staff and students.

“You can never be sure with COVID,” said Guthrie. “We didn’t know if we had the venues … we were thinking ‘where are we going to put all these people?’”

The St. Andrews Arts Council is ensuring that the presence of theatre is still felt in Saint Andrews this summer with its extensive event lineup.

Named after the largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere and the second largest in the world located in Passamaquoddy Bay, the Old Sow Theatre Festival presented by the St. Andrews Art Council includes a packed lineup of entertainment.

“We knew we had to do something,” said Guthrie. “Because of the turbulent times, we thought the festival would be good.”

The council expects the festival to bring tourism to Saint Andrews, elevating the presence of creativity in New Brunswick and educating the public about the vast and rich history of the Maritimes through high quality, Canadian-produced, theatre.

Kicking off the festival is the Aug 2. “I’m Not What I Seem” cocktail party and show. The evening beginning at 6:15 p.m. will include cocktails, mocktails, snacks, and a musical tribute to Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil with songs and stories by Charlie Rhindress starring Theresa Malenfant.

“Blues and country music in a play form about her life,” said Guthrie.

Following the tribute will be the Short Tales of the Sea playwriting competition and the MAD about Van Horne reading.

The five-minute playwriting competition is now closed for submission. The creators of the five scripts selected for live readings on Aug 7. on Ministers Island will also win $100.

“Budding and young playwrights have the opportunity to have their work presented in front of a live audience,” said Guthrie. “It’s a fast competition … It’s not easy, but it’s not a two-hour play. Keep it simple.”

Contestants were asked to keep their Maritime or sea-themed work to a maximum four-person cast, keeping in mind their plays would be read in front of a live audience without props and costumes, reiterating Guthrie’s sentiment to keep things simple.

“They can bring them (the actors), or we have people who could do that.”

The Good, the Bard, and the Ugly, a comedic Shakespeare play, will be performed on Aug. 7 at the Dominion Hill Country Inn. Written by and featuring Michele Daigle, Ron Kelly Spurles and Don Rigley, it’s been described as being a “hilarious spoof perfect for anyone who likes to laugh.”

Wrapping up the festival is the Power of Live show. Performance arts were completely changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This show intends to bring together 50 performing artists within the Maritimes for an evening of dramatic reenactments and readings by Saint Andrews historical figures to celebrate the importance of live performances.

“We have fewer than we normally do … we did as much as we could virtually,” said Guthrie. “It’s a chance to tell stories of how they survived when their whole industry collapsed.”

The volunteer-based council strives to bring the arts to Saint Andrews, regardless of the bumps they encounter along the way.

“A lot of people take this for granted … we do this for the love of the arts, to enrich the community and the people in the community,” she said.

The St. Andrews Art Council has successfully united the Saint Andrews community for years and continues to build Saint Andrews and the towns community.

“We’re so excited to see real people walk into Saint Andrews again,” said Guthrie.

heatherknight@stcroixcourier.ca