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Opera House, MAT team up to help keep community theatre alive

Opera House is adapting amid COVID restrictions and its stage is getting busy again, says arts and entertainment columnist

Well folks it’s October and you know what that means! The Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards nomination deadline is almost here! The deadline is this Fri. Oct. 2 at 4 p.m. In this horrific year for the arts, where the industry has literally come to a complete standstill, please take the time to honour and celebrate those in arts and heritage in our community. They are the ones who add the FUN to our days!

There are five awards categories: Education in Arts, Culture and Heritage; Emerging Artist; Heritage: Restoration, Renovation and Publication; Event in Arts, Culture and Heritage; and the Qennefer Browne Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual or group of individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the cultural life of their community. Nominees may include artists, historians, volunteers, cultural organizations and donors.

To nominate someone or something, simply go here and fill out the fields. You will need a letter stating why you feel the nominee is worthy, and four pieces of supporting documentation. These can be links to media, websites, social media; pictures; supporting letters; or any other documentation you can think of.

Make sure you have contact information for your nominee, and your own contact information as a nominator. And that’s it! Everything can be uploaded online, and it is a very easy process.

Please take the time to nominate, this year of all years. The virtual awards event will be live on Facebook on Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. Stay tuned for more details on that, but in the meantime, get those nominations in now! Thanks so much for your support.

The Orillia Opera House (OOH) has some really fun and interesting programming coming up this month. The audience is limited to 50 people only, socially distanced and wearing masks, and from what I hear, the staff is doing a wonderful job of keeping things safe at our beautiful heritage building.

First off, everyone’s favourites, The Fitzgeralds, are coming for two shows only, on Sat. Oct. 3 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. The Fitzgeralds are a family group consisting of fiddling and step dancing "sensations" Tom, Kerry and Julie Fitzgerald.

These siblings, from the Ottawa Valley, include three-time Canadian Grandmaster Fiddle Champions and Ontario Open Step Dance Champions. "This unique act features high-energy fiddling and mind-blowing step dancing. Joining the siblings on guitar, lead vocals, and onstage antics is Nate Douglas (guitarist for Cape Breton’s Natalie MacMaster in 2013)," notes the OOH website.

This will be a high-energy and uplifting show to lighten your spirits. Tickets are $35 and you can buy them here.

From Oct. 15 to 18, a new series at the OOH, Artist Life Stories, will begin. Similar to Inside the Actor’s Studio, this will include four events with four different arts and culture folks, with stories, music, interviews and more, all live on stage. You can purchase individual tickets for each show for $55 or tickets for all four for $180. Here is the rundown of each show, again, from the OOH website:

Ian Thomas – A Life in Song on Thursday October 15 at 7:30 p.m. This Juno Award-winning singer, songwriter, actor, film scorer and author brings many stories often filled with humour. The evening is sure to include some magical musical moments!

Luke McMaster – My Life is a Song on Friday October 16 at 7:30 p.m. Luke has had an award-winning song writing career with collaboration with global superstars Rihanna, Nick Lackey (98 degrees) and 4 seasons of Canada’s Instant Star. Luke’s latest project ‘Icons of Soul’ features collaboration with iconic Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier and the King of Blue-Eyed Soul, Felix Cavaliere.

Amy Sky – Love Pain and The Whole Damn Thing on Saturday Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m. A gifted singer-songwriter, record producer, theatre actress, and television host. Sky started classical music lessons at the age of five, and plays piano, guitar, cello and recorder. As a writer she has penned songs for artists including Diana Ross, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Reba McEntire, heart, Cyndi Lauper and many more.

Maureen Jennings – Murdoch and Beyond, on Sunday Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. Born in the UK and now living in Toronto, she is best known for her Murdoch Mysteries Series, which was adapted to film and television and translated into eight languages. She has been nominated eight times for awards from the Crime Writers of Canada. In this session she shares selected photos from her personal collection along with thoughts on writing.

This will be a thought-provoking and fascinating series, do come check it out and support the OOH. For tickets, click here.

And more big Orillia Opera House news! Mariposa Arts Theatre and the OOH have teamed up to present a show this November. The play is Norm Foster’s The Christmas Tree and it will be presented sometime in mid- to late-November. To produce this one-act play, MAT is looking for two actors who share a bubble, one male and one female, the same age, but any age.

Rehearsals will start as soon as possible. If you are these actors, please reach out to James Fairbairn via email at before the deadline at 9 p.m. Sunday Oct, 4. Congratulations MAT and the OOH on working together to keep community theatre alive.

Coming up, the Orillia Museum of Art and History’s (OMAH) Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition opens Oct. 2. She Shoots She Scores, an exhibition on the history of women’s hockey, is opening Oct. 3.

You can arrange your private tour of each exhibit by contacting the museum at 705-326-2159. Kudos to the OMAH for continuing to put on quality exhibits in these very challenging times. I am excited to have a private, safe tour of these fine works.

Fionn MacCool’s is presenting live music each week, this Friday featuring Jakob Pearce starting at 8 p.m. Hibernation Arts has an opening for guest artist Mike Bailey this Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., Come and see Mike’s beautiful photos for yourself.

And finally, I just want to give a huge shout out to Kevin Gangloff and his team of supporters, organizers, and sponsors for an amazing night last Saturday at the Sunset Drive-In. Safely in our car, my partner and I thoroughly enjoyed a night of music, live and on the big screen.

Everything in this very complicated show went off without a hitch and we enjoyed one of the best nights we have had, post-COVID. Kudos to everyone who made it happen, and thanks for keeping live music alive.

Have a great week, and send your arts news to to be included in next week’s column.