GRAVENHURST – The Gravenhurst Opera House presents its final theatrical production of the 2016 summer season; the award-winning “Wake Me When It’s Over…the 12-step musical”, an original comedy by Canadian stage and screenwriter Vince Grittani with music by Rosalind Mills. This comedic look at one man’s attempt to cope with change on his sixtieth birthday features Larry Herbert (Stratford’s “42nd Street”, Toronto’s ”Mamma Mia” and “Cats”) and the versatile Debbie Collins (Mirvish Production of “The Producers”), who was last seen in this year’s Opera House production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes!”
This high-energy comedy from the creator of hits “Yuppies! The Musical”, “Quiet! I’m Talking” and “Scenes From My Dock”, has been updated and features, in addition to the original, new scenes and songs like “Divorce of Course” and “I’ve Got An App For That!”
As Roger (played by Herbert) is about to celebrate his 60th birthday, he turns to Dr. Yolanda and her book “Flush, a 12-step program to happiness!” With each step Roger is confronted by a series of hilarious women from his life, past and present, all played (sometimes at the same time) by Collins. From his strap-happy grade school teacher Sister Mary of The Compassionate and Merciful Christ to the slightly wacky Margo, an Evita Peron wannabe, running for president of the condo association, Roger is forced to deal with each of these characters before moving on.
Award winning director Dayna Tekatch, who directed the 2016 season opener, “2 Across” as well as Mirvish Productions’ “Forever Plaid” in Toronto earlier this year, returns to direct and choreograph this production along with musical director Sherisse Stevens. The show opens Tuesday, September 13 and runs until September 30.
The smell of my “Vin-a-bon” cinnamon rolls and chelsea buns baking in the oven, combined with fresh espresso coffee brewing on top of the stove, filled the crisp morning air. Nick and Lynn, a young couple from Belgium, were in the front sunroom sluggishly rearranging their backpacks, preparing for their first canoe adventure into Algonquin Park. Dinner of homemade pasta and mussels, eggplant parmigiana and foccacia from the evening before, still filled their bellies with content. However, it did not stop them from enjoying my morning spread of hot lattes and tastey treats.
As I stood back and watched, recalling my own backpacking adventures when I was in my youth, I suddenly realized what I had created with the TWG GUEST HOUSE was a combination of all the things I loved most when travelling.
A place where the host was the owner. They were local, or at least well informed about the area.
You felt like you were stepping into a person’s home and so you got a glimpse of their personality and home life.
The food was their own. Freshly made and again reflective of their personality.
The atmosphere was casual, where you got to meet the owner’s friends, family & even pets.
The rooms were clean, comfortable and not pretentious.
It wasn’t expensive.
It was a gathering place, where people from many walks of life and from a variety of origins met, ate together, laughed and exchanged stories.
This is exactly what the TWG Guest House has become, a gathering place that is affordable, comfortable and personable, with good food to boot!
For years I have been hosting friends, visitors and many actors from my theatre company, all without charging them, because, well, I love doing it. But last fall when the actors returned to the city and suddenly I had an empty house, my cousin Lisa suggested that I list on AirBnB. Quite frankly I wasn’t even familiar with what is now the largest hotel in the world, a combination of all sorts of accommodations from urban condos to luxury recreational homes to campers vans parked on the street of Brooklyn, New York.
The Twin Singles
So, after photographing my home, I joined Airbnb and within days I started getting bookings. At first I simply rented rooms and people would use my kitchen to prepare meals or go out for dinner and breakfast. To be honest I wasn’t really comfortable with this arrangement. However, during the fall, when there are fewer dining options in the village, I found myself offering to prepare food. Soon that developed from preparing coffee and toast in the morning to making full-scale dinners.
When I opened in fall ’15, my visitors were primarily Europeans here to see the cavalcade of autumn colours or to experience a final canoe trip to Algonquin Park. During the winter I had only a few visitors but as spring approached I decided to take on this adventure with more of a commitment. In addition to rearranging my rooms, I also added a full continental breakfast that includes homemade bagels, muffins of sorts, chelsea buns, cinnamon buns, granola, smoothies, crepes and a selection of coffees and teas. Of course, dinners too became a favourite and guests started requesting my Italian specialties.
This year, what I found very popular, were young couples going to weddings at the JW Marriott, just a short ride down the highway and who didn’t want to, nor were able to afford the expense of a room at the resort. Also, I have had several parents staying who were dropping off, visiting or picking up kids at summer camp. Then there were the urbanites looking for a weekend getaway, and others; families, who were looking for an affordable way to experience Muskoka. My reviews, for the most part, have been excellent, except from those who were not comfortable with the cozy atmosphere and having to interact with other guests. I suspect they have not travelled much. I’m the first one to admit, the TWG GUEST HOUSE isn’t for everyone, especially the anti-social.
From my perspective the venture has been truly successful and beneficial. It has provided me with security while I write my next project. It’s given me the opportunity to test out new cooking and baking skills. But most of all, in a region of the province where the majority are longtime, permanent residents of several generations, it has assured me that Canada is still a nation that celebrates complex, wonderful and versatile individuals. This year I have welcomed members from every community; visitors from the likes of Germany, United Kingdom, Belgium, China, Italy, Spain, Australia and several African and South American nations not to mention all parts of Canada and the U.S.
As one guest commented “It’s not the Four Seasons!”, nor have I ever claimed to be anything close to it or any other hotel. I used to describe the TWG GUEST HOUSE as a “BnB”, which in fact, I am not. I am my own invention; a hybrid of a traditional North American BnB, an Italian penzione and a hostel found anywhere in the world. It’s a place where strangers gather, become instant best friends then leave feeling they have had the opportunity to experience the local culture, and maybe, a bit of Muskoka magic. It’s a place that has turned out better than I had ever imagined. #keepingMuskokaAffordable
“SCENES FROM MY DOCK” RETURNS…STILL AS FUNNY AND POIGNANT!”
The Rosseau Culture and Arts Project (R’CAP) is presenting another exciting summer season of entertainment here in Rosseau and now in Parry Sound. We opened “Scenes From My Dock 2.0” in Rosseau and have moved our hit summer show to our new venue in Parry Sound, the Upper Brunswick Playhouse in downtown Parry Sound. NOW PLAYING UNTIL AUG 14. This is an updated version of the original and is as much of a pleaser as all our shows! And what a great cast. It stars Toronto based jazz singer Christine Aziz, Mary Kreder, Brittany Cope and Oscar Moreno.
We have teamed up with the newly renovated Brunswick Grill and Sports Bar , 72 James St. on the main floor (formerly Don Cherry’s) . It’s worth just going into the place to see the renovations. And the food…simply the best. Great value too. We are offering a dinner/theatre package for $60 all inclusive (tax and gratuity)
AND THIS WEEK ONLY until Aug 1, when you purchase your tickets in advance online we are giving $10 off the theatre ticket.WHAT A DEAL! That’s $50 for dinner and a PROFESSIONAL show ALL IN! Or twenty for Show Only.
Part of this year’s “Destination Rosseau/P.S. I Love You”. R’CAP is presenting the return of our “UP AGAINST THE WALL” standup comedy night. This year we are expanding to two night’s in Parry Sound at the Upper Brunswick Playhouse Friday, July 31 and Sunday, Aug 2 plus Saturday, Aug 1 in Rosseauat the Memorial Hall. Dinner/Theatre Packages are available in both venues at $65 or show only $35.
Featured this summer are two very funny guys Mike Paterson and Tim Rabnett. Both have extensive bios that include appearances at “Just For Laughs”, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival and appearances on CBC’s “The Debaters”. These performances are sure to be a memorable experience. WARNING:Last year we sold out so get your tickets ASAP www.DestinationRosseau.com
2nd MUSKOKA INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL AUG 27-30
The films have been submitted and once again we have received entries from around the world, from comedies to dramas to animation. We are presently putting together the final programme and it will be available online at www.DestinationRosseau.com
In 2008 two of my biggest sponsors went into receivership pulling me down within an inch of bankruptcy.
And now the bad news. A few months later Revenue Canada informed me that I had been selected to be audited for the years 2005 and 2006. It is still not resolved for they claim I owe them income tax on funds my biggest sponsor/partner lent us (long boring story). I did however learn that although the government tries to put on a happy “we are here to serve you” face, it is just a huge machine that tells its auditors not to come home empty handed. There is no room for compassion (although they pretend) or understanding.
I learnt a long time ago that in everything painful there is an element of humour. Isn’t that what the best humour is? Misunderstanding and fear? So I decided to take my fear, stress and sleepless nights and turn it all into a comedy…a dark comedy.
“The Audit” is about a dentist who suddenly gives up his practise to become a standup comic, his sarcastic dog and an auditor from Canada Revenue who has managed to bury her passion in order to do her job.
Don’t worry. Taxes and the audit process are only vehicles to tell the story.
It’s a play about surviving the challenges thrown at you during your journey…divorce, finance, kids and health. The fun stuff in life. It’s about the power of passion and conviction…and the lack of. The play also attempts to answer the age old questions “What is art?” and “What is funny?”.
I have been writing “social comedy” professionally since 1985when I wrote and directed the year-long Toronto production of“Yuppies The Musical”. Since then I have go on to lampoon cottage life, aging, wealth, consequences of disease, marriage, divorce, golf, more divorce, exercise and the Catholic church…to mention only a few. I totally believe in writing what you know….(less time researching and more time having fun writing). “The Audit” is no exception.
This past winter I approached an old (mature) friend Sharon Sproule, an accomplished actress and for years the force behind one of the province’s best community theatres in Espanola. I asked her to find me three actors to workshop “The Audit” for a public reading.She found me a teacher, a therapist/life coach and a contract worker for Revenue Canada. (Nice). Michael Bolvin (oops! name misspelled on poster), Jason Morrow and Theresa Laurenti did such a great job that I asked them to be part of Destination Rosseau. The results of their bi weekly workshops under Sharon’s direction is so impressive that I had to bump up the production value to meet their acting skills with a full set. This truly is a production that has exceeded all expectations and I am very proud of it. It’s the perfect way to spend a summer’s night or afternoon on Wednesday while in Muskoka/Parry Sound.
“The Audit” opens July 8 and runs Tues thru Sat 8:00 PM with Wed Matinee at 2:00 PM in the Rosseau Playhouse at 7 Ash St until July 19. For tickets and info visit www.destinationrosseau.com
The award-winning one-woman tour de force returns to Muskoka! Soon to be a feature film “The Grass Widow of Muskoka”, this is a new production and updated version. Summer theatre at its best! Always a favourite with men and woman! Written by Vince Grittani starring Patricia Vanstone as the wonderfully entertaining, 99 year old American socialite in Canada, Bunny Bevington-Smythe.
This summer the tiny Village of Rosseau plays host to The Muskoka Independent Film Festival (MIFF). It is the final event to mark the end of a larger, 2-month, Destination Rosseau, a festival of live theatre, art, music and film.
Personally, I have been wanting to produce a film festival here in the area for years. Although there are a few events that call themselves film festivals in the region, I wanted MIFF to be more than just a series of screenings in one large venue. Plus, I did not want to bring in a prepackaged series either. I see MIFF as being “an event” on its own.
In the early days of the Toronto Film Festival, way before it went all Hollywood, each year I would receive a VIP pass that allowed me into everything. Those were the days when one did not have to pre-register to see a film. You just ran around from venue to venue with the catalogue tucked under your arm and got in line! (Although with the VIP pass you got to go to the front of the line. 🙂 ) . After or before a screening, you and fellow cinefiles would gather in coffee shops or bars, discuss the films you saw and listened for reviews of great flicks that had a second screening. There were parties and yes there were stars, but it was a more subtle display of fan adoration and no red carpet. There were also panel discussions where filmmakers would disclose the stories behind the makings of their projects. This is my vision for MIFF.
This year as my associates, members of the Rosseau Culture and Arts Project and fellow village residents, embark upon the launch of Destination Rosseau 2014, I was lucky enough to meet this wonderful woman Catherine Mondragon. Originally Catherine was going to assist me with grant writing, but I quickly realized that it was a waste of her talents. Catherine was a filmmaker and as I discovered, a film lecturer. And Bbesides film, Catherine has been a student of urban studies, a wonderful asset for my overall vision in this tiny hamlet of Rosseau as an arts destination. So I assigned her the position of coordinator of MIFF.
The great thing about Catherine is that she is from a generation a few below my own and so her contacts and view of the film world are different from my own. As a result, our programme for the first MIFF is forming into a “sweet celebration of the silver screen”. Although at this point we are not ready to announce the final lineup, I can tell you that everything is going as planned.
The first Muskoka Independent Film Festival will take place from August 28 through 30th in three venues here in the Village of Rosseau. The Village of Rosseau is a quaint hub at the top of Lake Rosseau, part of the famous Muskoka Lakes system. From Rosseau one has a choice of direct access to Huntsville, Bracebridge, Port Carling and Parry Sound. If there’s one word I hear over and over that describes the Village is “quaint”. It boasts fine restaurants , a gourmet general store, LCBO, coffee shops, nursing station, churches, gift stores, art galleries and a few B&Bs. Just south of us one finds the JW Marriott Resort “The Rosseau” and Clevelands House with more restaurants and other facilities. To the east there’s the famous Windermere House and to the west, the newly reopened Grand Tappattoo resort.
Our village is known as the place where it is not uncommon to find movie and sports stars, famous musicians or captains of industry casually having dinner, strolling through our Friday Farmer’s Market or haggling over the price at our Sunday antique market. All of this is located within a two block radius. Our venues, the new Rosseau Playhouse in the Agricultural Hall, The Memorial Hall and Frost Hall, part of the Anglican church, are within a two to three minute stroll of each other, as are the coffee shops and restaurants, the perfect location for pre and post viewing discussions.
Although we are not tapping into the local celebrities we have confirmed a few who are coming on board to kickstart MIFF. As informal discussions are very much part of our festival format, who better to lead them than my friend Dini Petty, who for years interviewed in depth, artists, “A” list movie stars and even over zealous cottage TV hosts like myself. Catherine has and continues to bring on board a great variety of filmmakers and there’s more to come. We are accepting submissions up to the end of June. For details visit http://www.rosseaucultureandarts.com/Muskoka_Independent_Film_Festival.html or email Catherine Mondragon at email@example.com .
Day and festival passes are available now online at www.rosseaucultureandarts.com or after May 16th at the Destination Rosseau Box Office in the TWG Gallery in Rosseau. As our venues are “intimate, passes are limited…and there will be parties.
It’s been eight years since Bunny has been seen up on the stage here in Muskoka. Last year she did make it to the Muskoka Lakes Association’s 2013 yearbook in an exclusive interview. And soon she’ll be seen up on the silver screen where she’ll be immortalized forever in “The Grass Widow of Muskoka”.
Since she first came to the public’s attention back in 2001 to celebrate the 100 years of the Gravenhurst Opera House, Bunny has been presented by a variety of ladies throughout the province. Some have tried to steal her but failed to capture her inner soul ending up with a caricature that lacked elegance and spirit. People have compared her to the likes of Brooke Astor and even to the recently deceased Bunny Mellon. Yet no one comes close to her wit, her insight and her inner beauty.
This summer actress Patricia Vanstone, who some may recall from “Road to Avonlea”, was recently on stage touring opposite Norm Foster in his play “On A First Name Basis”, and who directed the original production of “Quiet! I’m Talking”, plays an updated and revised version of Bunny Benvington-Smythe as part of “Destination Rosseau 2014” theatrical presentations. For a limited run, July 29 to August 9, Trish shall take audiences on a journey of Bunny’s life, much of which was spent at her Muskoka retreat, Finnigan’s Point. WIth tales of the the rich and famous, comments on the world today and shared secrets of a personal life that most can only dream of, Bunny welcomes audience members to the launch of her book “Quiet! I’m Talking”.
Known for her wit and humour, some of this great lady’s observations of the world are best demonstrated in her many notable quotes…
“The information highway stops at the city limits. Up here at the lake all one needs to know is what’s for dinner and is there enough booze.”
“With wealth comes great responsibility. The problem with the nouveau riche is they think blue chip stocks come with a jalapeno dip!!
This year, for matinee performances, Bunny invites the public to afternoon High Tea following the show at the TWG Gallery. This is a perfect excuse to get the gang together, put on your fancy hat, observe fine art and enjoy tea and fine pastries. RSVP in advance for show and high tea, of course.
“Quiet! I’m Talking” at the New Rosseau Playhouse in the Agricultural Hall, Village of Rosseau, Hwy 632 & Ash St.
Tuesday, July 29 to Friday, August 1 and Tuesday, August 5th to Saturday, August 9th 8:00PM $30.00
Matinee Performances Wednesday, July 30 & August 6th $30.00 with High Tea $35.00
Getting audited is no fun. Believe me, I’ve been through it. However, it did inspire me to write my new comedy, appropriately called “The Audit”. I started writing it in 2010 in response to my own experience. In fact, my original intention was revenge. I was going to expose Revenue Canada for the dirty rotten bastards they are…But the truth is everyone was really, really sweet. So helpful and quick to give advice. However, in the end it didn’t stop them from them claiming I owed money. I appealed and threw myself at the mercy of the court. Okay, there was not court. More like the mercy of the Canada Post. Correspondence was always by phone or written snail mail. Something to do with privacy issues…(I guess Heartbleed proved them correct.)
But I digress….Oh yes, my play. So finally I finished the play and in the end the characters took me on a journey in a whole different direction. Yes, the audit procedure is still there, but only as a vehicle. The true story is about how a divorced dentist quit his thriving practice to become a stand-up comic. I’ve always found comedians a strange bunch. No fourth wall to hide behind. You believe what they say is actually their own words, thoughts and experience, not some character they are playing. They have terrible sex, the kids hate them and the ex-wife is a bitch.
I study comics. I watch their body movements. I can always tell when they are talking about a subject that is not true. Those who make me laugh, really laugh are the ones telling the truth…or at least it’s based on the truth. Most often the darker the humour the closer to the truth they speak.
Creating the main character Ray Halliday in “The Audit” wasn’t easy. When you first see him his jokes are topical and usual, but as we the audience learn more about his dark side, so too does his humour reflect it. He begins to ridicule his own problems. If someone else did the same jokes it would be considered bad taste. It’s the old rule that you have to be one to ridicule one, otherwise you are racist, sexist, homophobic etc.
The most difficult thing about writing “The Audit”, or any work that involves humour as a topic, is trying to stay funny. I think of movies where actors play comedians. Most of the time it doesn’t work. I find even now, when watching old Seinfeld episodes, the stand up club bits are often lame. The laughter is canned and humour isn’t spontaneous.
So in the end I decided to approach the whole subject as a playwright, not someone writing for a standup comic. Of course, I have inserted certain devices that I know will get laughs. The most prominent is Zeus the wise cracking dog. Yes, we have seen it done before but I wrote this dog from the point of view of my own, Iago.This summer’s production comes out of a workshop I did in Espanola this past March under the direction of an old friend Sharon Sproule. The actors, Jason Marrow, Michael Boivin and Theresa Laurenti although they all have other careers (one even works for Revenue Canada) did such a splendid job I asked them to come and perform this summer as part of Destination Rosseau. The show runs July 8 to 19, Tuesday thru Saturday at 8:00 PM with a Wed Matinee at 2:00 PM. Tickets are available online at www.rosseaucultureandarts.com , at our box office in the TWG Gallery or by phone after May 1 at 705-224-3542.