Gore Bay Theatre successful and unique in providing repertory theatre

The cast of ‘This is how we got here’ includes, back row left, Will Smith and John Robertson, front row left, Shannon McMullan and Tara Bernatchez.

GORE BAY – In three weeks Gore Bay Theatre will be producing its 26th summer season. Once again the accomplished group will be presenting two plays, ‘This is How We Got Here,’ a drama by Keith Barker and ‘Laughter is the Best Medicine,’ a comedy which features a cast of nine actors.

It seems appropriate to this reporter to do a profile of the group and their ability to produce more than one summer show and how this theatre group is able to do so well at regional and provincial competitions.

For the past 14 years Gore Bay Theatre has produced at least two, sometimes three summer productions, all in repertory. Repertory means that the group will present shows on consecutive nights so that audiences will be able to see two different shows on a weekend. In my research I could not find one theatre company in the province that did their production in repertory except the Stratford and Shaw festivals, which both have multiple stages upon which to perform. 

I asked co-directors Andrea Emmerton and Walter Maskel how such a small group can provide repertory theatre. Mr. Maskel said, “we do repertory theatre because we want to give our audiences the opportunity to see more than one show if they come to the Island for a two or three day visit. We always produce a comedy and a drama and some years a children’s play as well. Generally, most audiences prefer to see a comedy, but there are a number of people who prefer a drama and many people take the opportunity to see both. We keep our prices down to make it possible and the Gore Bay Rotary Club usually offers a dinner theatre package which is the most reasonable in the entire province.”

Ms. Emmerton added, “it takes a tremendous amount of work changing the sets and the lights switching from show to show and a lot of thought and creativity building sets that can be changed easily and stored in our small space. In May and June we are busy rehearsing and preparing for the summer season and in July we are busy running the shows. Walter and I take tickets at the door, run lights and sound, clean up afterward and so on. We do it because we have a love and a passion for live theatre and we do what it takes to make it possible.”

Both Mr. Maskel and Ms. Emmerton added, “we could not do what we do without a group of dedicated and committed actors who give up a good deal of their summer without being paid because they also love theatre. We and the community are so fortunate to have them. Also, we very much appreciate your taking the time and writing about the accomplishments of our group.”

What they are able to accomplish is quite amazing. In the past 14 years Gore Bay Theatre has won more awards than any other group in the province at the regional level, usually against significantly larger Northern Ontario urban centres and at the provincial level against groups from all the major cities in Ontario. There are close to 100 community theatre groups that compete each year in the province and Gore Bay Theatre has been awarded the prestigious Best Visual Presentation Award numerous times at the Theatre Ontario Festival. For a small group with 12 lights and a small stage to go up against groups that work in facilities with 200 hundred lights and huge stages is quite a remarkable achievement. 

This past spring Gore Bay Theatre’s production of ‘This is How We Got Here’ won the right to represent Northern Ontario at the Theatre Ontario Festival in Richmond Hill. The group placed second in awards won, four, including the Best Visual Presentation Award and an ensemble acting award for all the actors. Ms. Emmerton said, “the ensemble acting award is such an important award because it speaks about the overall chemistry and acting ability of the entire cast working as a team. We were the only group to receive an award for ensemble acting and we were extremely please it was awarded to our group.”

It is important to recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions Gore Bay Theatre has made putting the town, the Island and the region on the provincial theatre map. Their ability to do repertory theatre at such a high level of excellence speaks to the dedication, professionalism and talents of the entire company. We should all be thrilled, proud and supportive of these accomplishments.