It has been a very rich summer for theatre in Kingston with literally hundreds of presentations happening in the downtown core. The Storefront Festival converted empty spaces into unique venues that offered a wide range of productions over about 10 days. My favourite was Cul de Sac, a Daniel MacIvor play. In this one woman show, Anne Marie Bergman, under the direction of Will Britton, presented an engaging story told by several memorable characters. And they were characters indeed.
Blue Canoe, with their usual enthusiasm and energy, presented Chicago at the Baby Grand. This show kept my toe tapping and face in a steady grin throughout. On a balmy Wednesday night in Market Square behind City Hall, I enjoyed an evening of Shakespeare – Driftwood Theatre’s Taming of the Shrew. Outdoor theatre-in-the-round always seems to be the perfect venue for Shakespeare.
For a few weeks, I worked with a group of Kingston theatre friends on a Single Thread production of Ambrose – Re-imagined. I loved this unique theatre experience last year when it was presented for the first time so I was delighted when creator Liam Karry asked me to join the cast for this newly re-imagined version. Liam likes to surprise audiences and have them experience theatre in non-traditional settings. In this show, audience members made a journey through many hidden areas of the Grand Theatre to meet up with characters who have had some connection to the mysterious Ambrose Small. Ambrose was an Ontario Theatre magnate who disappeared on December 2, 1919 the day after receiving a million dollars for the sale of the many theatres in Ontario that he owned, including Kingston’s Grand. His spirit is known to haunt the theatre with many people over the years, actors and employees, having had a ghostly experience in the Grand. The mystery of his disappearance was never solved.
No two audience members at Ambrose had the same experience, ever. Their exploration of the Ambrose Small history was their own. Liam told me that he likes the idea that the audience participants are invited to play with us with this material. People who expected to sit and snooze and be entertained may have been a bit overwhelmed but most of our audience members were wildly enthusiastic. When they let go and engaged in the process it was delightful and unique – and a lot of fun. Fun, too for the actors who never knew exactly what was coming next.
In mid August I also took in a Single Thread production of Salt Water Moon that was “staged” on the steps of the University Club, outdoors on a sultry summer evening. This is a great little play and was wonderfully presented. The setting was absolutely perfect for this piece.
Kingston has a vibrant theatre community all year around. It takes no summer break. In fact, this summer it ramped up to provide audiences a wonderful selection of productions in a variety of settings. Thanks to everyone who entertained us so well.