Miles Potter returns to Blyth to direct 'Chase the Ace'
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Miles Potter, who has a long and storied history with the Blyth Festival, is back this season to direct one of the first shows to premiere on the Festival’s new Harvest Stage.
Potter will helm Mark Crawford’s new play, Chase the Ace, a one-man show about a small-town radio host who’s simultaneously running the community’s Chase the Ace draw and investigating municipal corruption. All the while, the COVID-19 pandemic breaks out.
Crawford and Potter have worked together on many shows in recent years. Potter has directed Stag and Doe and The New Canadian Curling Club, both at the Blyth Festival, but for Chase the Ace, Potter also worked closely with Crawford to develop the show, serving as a dramaturg, as well as its eventual director.
Potter says Crawford contacted him last year about the project, asking if he’d like to direct and Potter accepted. Work soon began on the show with rehearsals in Crawford’s garage, with Potter providing notes.
While Potter hasn’t directed many one-person shows over the course of his career, he has done some - notably The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe with Seana McKenna. With Crawford and Chase the Ace, Potter said it’s important to create the feeling of there being numerous people on stage, which includes “blocking” and ensuring that Crawford makes sure to inhabit the same space when he shifts characters, to help retain the realism and authenticity of the scene.
On a personal level, Potter, like so many theatre professionals, welcomed the opportunity to be working on a stage production again. In-person theatres were among the first entities to close when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and indoor theatre buildings will likely be among the last to reopen, so many in the industry have had lengthy waits in between projects.
He said that getting back to work with Crawford, with whom he’s worked extensively before, was “quite fun” and that working out a new dramatic work in Crawford’s garage was the perfect way to ease back into work after months of being home due to the pandemic.
He said he hopes that while the play is full of laughs, which has become a trademark of Crawford productions, Chase the Ace also contains an important reflection on the importance of telling the truth. That’s one of the things Potter says he’d like for audiences to take away from the show, thinking back to the old adage: “the truth will set you free.”
This is far from Potter’s first foray with the Blyth Festival. In fact, Potter has been a member of the Huron County theatre community since before the Festival was even created. He came to the area with the Theatre Passe Muraille group that would go on to create The Farm Show under the direction of Paul Thompson, which would prove to be a watershed moment for Canadian theatre.
Potter would also go on to direct The Drawer Boy, another of Canada’s most famous plays. Written by Michael Healey, it tells a fictionalized story of Potter and others as they worked to create The Farm Show. Potter directed the first production of it for Theatre Passe Muraille, while David Fox, one of Canada’s great actors and another who was part of The Farm Show, acted in the show.
At the Blyth Festival, Potter has directed many shows, including memorable collaborations with playwrights Beverley Cooper - Innocence Lost: A Play About Steven Truscott and If Truth Be Told - and Mark Crawford with Stag and Doe and The New Canadian Curling Club.
Chase the Ace opens at the Blyth Festival on Wednesday, Sept. 8 and closes on Sunday, Sept. 19.