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COLUMN: Want to laugh? Derek Edwards set to yuk it up in Orillia

Orillia Opera House will welcome funny man Edwards, musician Sarah Harmer and more this month, while local arts scene heats up, says columnist
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Comedian Derek Edwards brings his stand-up show, dubbed In Praise of the Ostrich, to the Orillia Opera House May 12.

And just like that, it is May. Despite the late spring and cooler weather, plans are full steam ahead for a great spring and summer of cultural events in our area.

The Orillia Opera House (OOH) has something for everyone in its programming, and that is just in the next couple of weeks. May 5, Mudmen in Concert; May 6, Country Legends Tribute; May 7, Elton John Tribute; and then, Derek Edwards.

Edwards, an award-winning Canadian stand-up funnyman, is at the OOH May 12 at 7:30 p.m. as part of a 12-show tour of Ontario dubbed In Praise of the Ostrich, which has him cracking jokes from London to Ottawa and up to Pembroke, too.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Edwards over the phone and he certainly had me in stiches as he hopped around from topic to topic, including the definition of northerners and southerners in Ontario (he’s from Timmins, and has been as far north on tour as Baffin Island), and the inspiration for calling his show In Praise of the Ostrich.

As Edwards says, “Why in praise of the ostrich? Because the world is so crazy and it’s the only way to survive it. Avoid any unpleasantness. Keep your head in the sand. Hearken back to gentler times. These days, life feels like you’re in that rocking chair, and you’re almost going to tip back. Can you catch yourself? Who knows?” he quipped.

Edwards is a Stephen Leacock fan, and just reread the story, The Bank, a couple of months ago.

“It was so charming and so funny,” he muses, while remembering performing at Casino Rama with Dave Broadfoot. “He had me come out of a clam. It was a big deal, with dry ice, not something I ever thought I would say I had done, but for Dave Broadfoot …”

This is Edwards’s first tour since the pandemic began, and I asked him how he was feeling about it.

“A little anxious. There hasn’t been as much practice, so I’m counting on the generosity of strangers, the forgiveness factor,” Edwards said. “Hoping folks are ready to sit thigh to thigh, be part of a large group again, it’s like post-prohibition magic. I hope they are ready to let loose. Anxiety ridden and brimming with happiness, hopefully. I’m going into it eyes closed and fingers crossed, like when you’re skydiving with a guy you don’t fully trust.”

Tickets for the show are $53, plus fees, and are available through the OOH box office here or by calling 705-326-8011.

The OOH continues its excellent programming with Sarah Harmer’s COVID-delayed Are You Gone tour. As the album was released in February 2020, Harmer has had to wait two years to tour, but I am sure the show will be worth the wait.

Harmer’s publicist describes the album:

“A deeply personal and political collection of songs motivated by the beauty of life, the urgency of the climate crisis, and the question of loss, Sarah called the album a spiritual successor of sorts to her acclaimed 2000 debut, You Were Here, which made many year-end critics’ lists, and which Time called the year’s best debut album. Its simple title, Are You Gone, is a meditation on the idea of presence, and a bookend to the questions posed on You Were Here — a sharpened, more electric confrontation with the realities of nature and human nature.”

Harmer had taken most of the last decade off from music making as she co-founded the citizens’ organization PERL (Protecting Escarpment Rural Land) and led the coalition’s successful efforts to prevent a quarry from being built on the Niagara Escarpment.

Now, she is back, and fans couldn’t be happier. Harmer is at the Orillia Opera House May 21 at 8 p.m., and you can get your $50 (plus fees) tickets through the box office here.

Well done, Orillia Opera House.

A few notes on upcoming May events:

Miriam Goldberger has a new “Dance Balm” series at Creative Nomad Studios starting May 10 and running until June 14. Click here to sign up and discover what dance can do.

Hibernation Arts’ featured artist for May is Mike Sallows, and there will be an opening reception on Friday, May 13 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Peter Street Fine Arts’ guest artist for May is Norman Robert Catchpole, so when you are out and about, come check his work out, too.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History’s speaker for May is Charlie Ellins and he will be speaking on the history of the Trent-Severn waterway on May 18 at 7 p.m. on Zoom. Call Monica at 705-326-2159 to get the link to the talk.

Don’t forget the Orillia Youth Centre show this Friday, featuring Crabrat, Grant Mask, Mitch Sleeman and more, at the youth centre. You can grab your tickets here. Remember, it’s a fundraiser for the Jake Beers and Nelson Bell bursaries.

Lastly, DFF Productions, of documentary Underground Orillia fame, is filming a new project, Muskoka Kids, at Camp Couchiching on May 14. Here is the information: “Muskoka Kids strives to answer the question: If we brought a group of young people together and provided a safe physical and emotional space for them, what would they tell adults about childhood mental health? What would they tell us they are experiencing? What would they tell us they need?

“The media output will be a 10- to 20-minute short film that tracks the arrival, introduction, group development and intimate expressions of a small group of kids brought together for this purpose. ‘Camp’ is the magic sauce that will allow these kids to be safe and process a meaningful experience.”

DFF is looking for a local, mental-health-aware youth ages 18 to 23 to join the group on May 14. Reach out to Aaron at 416-629-0123 if you would like to be involved.

That’s all for this week. Stay safe, enjoy the sun, and if you have arts news, send it to annaproctor111@gmail.com by Tuesday at noon to be included.