Apparently the appetite for 4th Line Theatre events is not just a seasonal thing.
Introducing a new program in the shoulder season, the firm launched a show of six performances of The Shadow Walk of Millbrook this month which was sold out weeks before the first performance. While the show is new, the theatre group has been considering the idea for quite a while. Paul Braunstein suggested a “walk-of-terror” type show to Managing Artistic Director Kim Blackwell more than a decade ago. Last year Blackwell invited locals to share their spooky experiences around the area at a Hallowe’en evening of stories and reminiscing at the Pastry Peddler.
This year, Braunstein got his wish, co-writing The Shadow Walk of Millbrook with Monica Dottor his colleague in the Bad Luck Bank Robbers. Using some of the inspirational fodder from last year’s event, the new play touches on a variety of unexplained deaths and disappearances in the area in near and distant past. The play has a bit of a circus vibe, featuring more than 10 actors, aerialists and dancers who are introduced along the way as the audience follows the “host” who has taken on the assignment of a modern-day Ghostbuster, cleansing the Township of unwanted paranormal inhabitants. From the play’s launching point at the Old Millbrook School, the crowd is led through paths in town and end up in the woods, being introduced along the way to stories of suspicious deaths in and around the area through chance encounters with the unsettled stars of those events. While the subject matter could easily head toward the creepy, the tone of the play is anything but, incorporating the sense of fun and humour reminiscent of The Bad Luck Bank Robbers.
Outdoor theatre always comes with more variables than traditional theatrical events, and the recent shows have offered a variety of challenges from driving rain to cold to blustering winds. The audience has taken it all in stride, some even commenting that the unpleasant weather conditions only add to the ambiance of the event, offering a soupcon of pathetic fallacy to the evenings’ exploits.
For the actors who are dancing in the dark or suspended in trees, rain and cold was just one more challenge to their performance, and they proceeded with their tasks with panache. It must have been inspiring for the performers to be accompanied in their efforts by company founder Rob Winslow, whose impersonation of “Uncle Jack” was a highlight of the evening.
Managing Artistic Director Kim Blackwell is also on hand for every performance, taking an active role in managing the crowd as well as production staff. The action moves swiftly from one location to another, and as Director, Blackwell knows where it’s headed. She tactfully encourages audience members to secure a spot which will afford them a clear view of the action, which moves swiftly from one location to another.
While the event has been made possible by a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the fact that it was sold out weeks before the first performance demonstrates the local enthusiasm for anything 4th Line.
This month the theatre company is trying another first, extending its reach beyond the immediate community by hosting a series of performances of a reworked version of the play Wounded Soldiers in three cities. Originally performed on the 4th Line stage in 2014, Wounded Soldiers written by Robert Winslow and Ian McLaughlin examines the lives of two Barnardo boys as they reunite as young men in a medical hospital in England during WWI. Set against the backdrop of WWI, the play follows three characters as they forge the bonds of a friendship that will not be defined by mental health, physical disability or race. The play takes place in southern England in 1916 and is a tragic and stunning examination of love, self-sacrifice and friendship. This will mark the first time in their 25 year history that the 4th Line will tour a play away from the Winslow Farm.
There will be five performances held at each location in Peterborough, Ottawa and Belleville in the month of November. For more information, contact the Box Office at 705-932-4445. KG