‘A season-long story’: Gananoque’s Thousand Islands Playhouse kicks off 2024 season

Brett Christopher, Managing Artistic Director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse – Submitted photo

The 2024 season for Gananoque’s Thousand Islands Playhouse has officially begun.

The Playhouse, nestled along the St. Lawrence River, has been a staple in the arts community since 1982 when founder Greg Wanless and a passionate group of community members purchased the Gananoque Canoe Club. 

Wanless had a vision to convert the building into a 360-seat proscenium theatre. Now, theatre lovers and drama students alike travel from all over South Eastern Ontario to enjoy the abundance of talent on the Playhouse stage. 

Brockvilleist spoke with Brett Christopher, Managing Artistic Director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, to hear a little more about the behind-the-scenes process of choosing this year’s lineup of shows. Christopher is responsible for sourcing, scheduling, and casting all the performances that the Playhouse puts on. 

The director explained that while he typically begins organizing the next season’s lineup around October of the preceding year, he always has his eyes and ears open to uncover new shows that capture him and spark his creativity. 

Christopher shared a bit about his selection process with Brockvilleist, detailing “I have a pile of scripts and plays that I’ve amassed over the years. I have a long list and a short list that is always in flux and I occasionally pull from those lists to put them on the stage for the season.” He continued, “Then there are also things that come along when people send me scripts or I see a show I get excited by that I want to bring to our audience. So much of it is about creating a season-long story that flows throughout the seven shows.”

The Thousand Islands Playhouse. – Hollie Pratt-Campbell/Brockvilleist

The 2024 lineup kicks off with Liars at a Funeral, an absurd tale of messy family affairs written by Sophia Fabilli and directed by Krista Jackson. This show will be running from May 31 to June 22. 

Next in the lineup is the worldwide musical smash hit, Mamma Mia! Featuring musical classics by ABBA members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, audience members can sing along to every beloved song. This show, directed and choreographed by Stephanie Graham, will be running from July 2 to Aug. 4. 

Christopher noted that Mamma Mia will be their largest undertaking and budgetary demand this season, as the show alone requires 20 actors. He explained, “In a 350-seat theatre, budget-wise that’s pretty hard to do but sometimes you just have to throw in your passion projects.”

He shared that while selecting the lineup, he always tries to achieve a blend between household name shows that are instantly recognizable like Mamma Mia or Jesus Christ Superstar, with other Canadians’ work that would not be as globally popular. “Liars at a Funeral and Mary’s Wedding are both exciting Canadian plays. I want to truly celebrate Canadian playwrights,” said Christopher.

The third show of the season will be Mary’s Wedding, written by Stephen Massicotte and directed by Brett Christopher. Mary’s Wedding will be running from Aug. 16 to Sept. 4; it follows the tale of two lovers in rural Alberta during the First World War. Christopher is looking forward to collaborating with Kingston-born actress Maev Beaty to bring this show to a new audience.

It wouldn’t be a complete theatrical lineup without the musical stylings of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lloyd Webber’s legacy will be represented on the stage with the longstanding hit musical Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by James MacDonald. This will be a co-production between the Thousand Islands Playhouse and Western Canada and will run from Sept. 24 to Oct. 27. 

A second additional venue known as the Firehall Theatre was established in 2004, and will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. This venue is less traditional than the Springer Theatre and is designed for more intimate, edgy, or abstract shows that may break the fourth wall or interact with audiences more.

The three lesser-known but equally enticing shows that will be showcased in the intimate Firehall Theatre venue this season are Murder for Two, Doubt: A Parable, and Sequence.

Christopher described these three shows as equally entertaining as they are relevant. He explained, “That’s what we really attempt to accomplish. Many of these shows are really fun and entertaining but within the arc of the season there are also things that are really relevant to humanity right now, there are topics that people will want to debate long after the play is done. We want people whistling along to the songs but we also want people going to a local bar after the show and debating what they experienced.”

For those interested in taking advantage of the Playhouse’s 2024 lineup, the following subscription options are available:

  • The See 7 option allows you to see all seven plays this season.
  • The Flex 6 option provides six tickets which can be used for any show and shared with guests.
  • The Pick 4 option lets you select four shows for a customized lineup.

For more show details and to purchase tickets, visit the Playhouse’s website

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