A Role To Play
When the season opens, the surging, creative energy of The Blyth Festival Theatre washes over everyone – performers, patrons and even the surrounding community. What started as gentle rain falling from the collective imagination of writers, directors and actors over the course of many months has now converged into a roiling lake of artistic expression. With wind from the audience whistling ENCORE! the waves grow bigger. Riding these flowing torrents is artistic director, Gil Garratt.
Working in theatre is a way of life for Gil. He feels it’s a great privilege to work with other artists, explaining “writers write, directors vision and I get to amplify their work.”
Productions here are only limited by the imagination of staff and there’s a long list of accomplishments demonstrating the performance power of this small, rural theatre. Works premiered in Blyth have gone on to win Governor General’s Awards for Performing Arts, have been reproduced in 29 countries and translated into nearly a dozen languages.
Theatre people work long days throughout the season. In spite of a late night the evening before, Gil starts each new day with a black coffee in hand and an early morning production meeting to assess progress on upcoming shows – even while plays are running on stage, others are in various stages of development behind the scenes. Stage teams provide briefings on set builds and demonstrate the latest sequence of light and sound requirements of this state-of-the-art facility.
Next, he’s off to a five hour rehearsal with actors and designers to work on scenes rewrites, sometimes with only a few hours before a show starts!
“It’s a very live art,” he laughs.
After the rehearsal Gil makes a point to check in on apprentices working in the Young Theatre Company, which is followed by a few hours in the administration office for necessary desk work – grant funding applications need attention, too. While in the office he gets the latest marketing and box office sales reports from staff, along with a morale boost from reading messages posted from patrons of the night before.
Then, after a quick shave in the office bathroom, he’s off to this evening’s reception event to welcome old and new friends to the theatre. Relationships are the lifeblood of The Blyth Festival Theatre. If he’s in the pending performance, Gil will eventually duck out of the crowd to get dressed into costume. If he’s not in the show then he invests himself in welcoming the audience and introducing the piece as Master of Ceremonies before taking a seat for himself near the aisle.
After the curtain falls and the performance is over, he helps staff and volunteers take down the show every single night – he wouldn’t miss these afterglow moments of camaraderie for anything.
Finally, when the production house is closed and everyone has left, Gil heads home to his spouse and young children to recharge for tomorrow. More than once a summer he’ll fall asleep with a glass of wine in hand watching the stars – there is no light pollution where he lives on Ontario’s West Coast.
The Blyth Memorial Community Hall that houses the theatre was built as a living cenotaph to celebrate the culture that soldiers of World War I died defending. Everyone who attends a play here walks past the Lest We Forget plaque and is reminded of this legacy.
“The theatre’s mission is a covenant with the community to tell, as accurately as possible, the stories of this place,” explains Gil. “Even if you’re not from here, you always leave with a profound sense of belonging.”
The Blyth Festival Theatre is where you experience authentic shows about rural Canada by Canadians.
The Blyth audience demands no less.
More Stories from Arts, Culture and Heritage
From Our Gallery
Theatre in Huron County
Since 1975, the Blyth Festival Theatre has put farmers and rural Canadians centre stage, telling our stories, sharing our history, and celebrating our way of life. A fully professional theatre, in the heart of Ontario’s bread-basket, the Blyth Festival’s ingenuity, tenacity, and creativity has irrevocably reinvigorated the region’s very imagination.