Performers talk love of Prince Edward County crowds and community

The vineyard at Rosehall Run in Wellington. Photo provided by Festival Players.

Handcrafted wine. White sand beaches. Picturesque trails. All those delicacies of life have become tightly associated with the southern Ontario community of Prince Edward County. But what you may have yet to discover is that at night, when the beaches are quiet and the wineries close, local theatre thrives. Adding to that theatre culture is Festival Players, the region’s only professional summer theatre company.

“The county boasts a wealth of riches in terms of artists and artisans,” says Graham Abbey, the company’s artistic director. “The region encompasses everything from the classical arts to the culinary arts to the wine industry, which is an art form itself. [We at Festival Players hope to] enrich the experience of residents and tourists alike who can come and see great theatre and great artists perform.”

Festival Players’ 2019 summer season features small cast ensembles, one person shows, improvisation, and traditionally scripted plays. We had the opportunity to speak with some of this season’s performers about what they were looking forward to most about working in Prince Edward County. Two responses seemed to echo from one interview to the next. Actors anticipated enjoying the daytime activities the Prince Edward County is known for, like beach going, winery tours, and exploring the surrounding nature. And, everyone was unanimously most passionate about performing for the audiences that Festival Players attracts.

“I love the audience,” says Melody A. Johnson, writer and actress of her solo show Person of Interest. “They’re so responsive and pretty raucous in a good way. They’re up for a show and laughs.”

Actors attributed this responsive and encouraging atmosphere to the county itself. They described the county as a welcoming and relaxed community with a strong appreciation for the arts. Many of the actors we spoke to mentioned the abundance of art-centred attractions available in the area. These attractions include, but are not limited to local craft shows, art galleries, a sculpture garden, and the rustic barns scattered around the region that have been refurbished and are now used as functioning establishments.

The dining room at The Drake Hotel is located just across the street from the Studio Theatre. Photo provided by Festival Players.

“The thing about performing in Prince Edward County is that the atmosphere during the day is a little more relaxed than in larger cities, so the audience tends to be a little more relaxed as well,” says Gavin Crawford, solo performer in the Festival Players’ production of Every Brilliant Thing. “Sometimes in Toronto you get a Friday night crowd who’s been working all day and they’re kind of like, ‘Alright, buddy. Entertain me.’ Whereas in Prince Edward County, when people go to see theatre, they’re looking for a fun night out, but it’s not the only fun thing they did that day.”

For some, the love of the arts and the supportive environment cultivated by the county is what drives them to perform there.

“We often look for places to work locally and create new work together,” commented the duo developers and stars of The Script Tease Project, an improvisational play. “There are so many places in our own backyard that support live theatre and independent productions. We really want to treat those folks to our latest ventures.”

In addition to running a full summer theatre season, Festival Players is also hosting an event known as Wellington Water Week. The music and art festival gathers artists from around Canada to raise awareness of issues surrounding water and to appreciate water as a resource. Water Week musicians also acknowledged the uniqueness of Prince Edward County audiences.

“Performing in the county is so special!” says Danika Lorèn, a vocalist singing in Water Week. “They have an amazing community of artists and art lovers. It’s the perfect audience for new ideas. I have been able to both perform and create in Wellington and some of my best work has come from those experiences.”

The gates of Huff Estates Inn & Winery in Prince Edward County. Photo provided by Festival Players.

“Prince Edward County is a very artistic region and I’ve always been attracted to it as an artist,” notes Abbey as he reflects on the community in the area. “The county is a real muse and as I go out there, [I continue to] get inspired by the region itself.”

It seems Abbey was inspired by the region to select this season with the theme of community front and centre. We had the chance to chat with several performers from the 2019 summer season about the idea of community in regions like Prince Edward County and in the work they’ll be doing this season. 

Editor’s note: Please note that these responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Festival Players of Prince Edward County’s 2019 summer season runs from July 9 to September 1. For tickets and more information, click here.


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Written by

Ariana Longley is a writer and video creator with a master’s of science and a passion for connecting with people through art. She produces weekly content for her YouTube channel, Ariana Alexis, where she combines in depth script writing and video editing to craft insightful and entertaining videos connecting life and pop culture.