Garratt says he's grateful for the return of live theatre in Blyth
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Last week, the Blyth Festival officially began welcoming people to its new Harvest Stage and Artistic Director Gil Garratt said he couldn’t be happier to have live theatre back in the community.
On Aug. 11, Garratt, members of his staff and board of directors, as well as Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb, MPP Lisa Thompson, Huron County Warden Glen McNeil and North Huron Reeve Bernie Bailey all opened the stage as part of a special ribbon-cutting ceremony. That night, the first preview performance of Sheryl Scott’s The Downs took to the stage, delayed slightly by questionable weather. The next night, The Downs officially opened the season, and Garratt said that was emotional for him.
“I’m just so grateful to have everyone back,” Garratt said in an interview with The Citizen on Monday.
To be able to open a show at the Blyth Festival for the first time in two years, he said, was very special and not something he would soon forget.
And while he said he’s happy for what’s happening at the stage right now, Garratt said he’s even more excited about what it means for the future, both for the Festival and for the community.
The audience response to the stage, he said, has also been very encouraging. People are happy to be back, enjoying live theatre in a safe setting, he said, but it runs even deeper than that. He said he’s spoken to several audience members who have been impressed with the permanence of the stage and who are looking forward to seeing what it will bring to the Blyth Festival for years to come.
Garratt said he has also talked to long-time patrons who have been impressed with what has been accomplished at an unused soccer field, including local accessibility consultant Julie Sawchuk. The two spoke last week at one of the shows, even taking a selfie together, and Garratt said Sawchuk was very impressed with how accessible the site is.
As for the stage itself, Garratt said there have been some hiccups in the first few days, including having carpentry crews still working on the location on the morning of the ribbon-cutting ceremony. There have also been some changes, including the addition of sun-blocking shades, after the first matinee, to try and provide some shade during sunny afternoon shows. However, for the most part, Garratt says things have gone pretty smoothly at the Harvest Stage.
He also said that The Downs was the perfect show with which to welcome people back to live theatre with the Blyth Festival. As a warm, welcoming show with which Festival audiences already have a history, he said it was nice having the show on stage for the first week of shows.
Garratt also cited a recent Globe and Mail review of the show, which called the Festival a “special little theatre”, but added that it had become a bit more special with the addition of the Harvest Stage. Those thoughts, Garratt said, really helped to sum up how he feels about the new addition.
Garratt also went back to what he said on opening night, saying that the Harvest Stage isn’t a theatre, but a community-building machine and he says he really feels that is true. For that machine to be turned back on, he said, is a very special feeling for him and for the community.