I was reading my Google News this morning when this headline
from the Toronto Star jumped out at me.
Back in the summer of 1994 Geraint Wyn Davies and Catherine Disher joined other actors in a benefit performance of A. R. Gurney's Love Letters. About a year or so ago I posted over at forkni-l asking for information on the performance. Surely someone from the list must have attended and I was hoping they could share their memories. Unfortunately, if anyone had, they were no longer on the list.
The loss of the venue is extremely tragic but the show must go on. Articles state that plans are underway to continue with the theatre's 60th season.
For those interested, the Toronto Star article that mentioned Geraint Wyn Davies' and Catherine Disher's participation in the benefit is behind the cut.
July 26, 1994, Tuesday, METRO EDITION
SECTION: ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. C5
LENGTH: 605 words
HEADLINE: Red Barn fund-raiser attracts a star lineup Readings of Love Letters include Stritch, Robards, Pinsent
BYLINE: by Robert Crew TORONTO STAR
DATELINE: JACKSON'S POINT, Ont.
JACKSON'S POINT, Ont. - So how did Lloyd Whiteway, the new executive director of the Red Barn Theatre, persuade a glittering lineup of stars to join him for an evening or two on the southern shores of Lake Simcoe?
People such as Elaine Stritch and Jason Robards, Gordon Pinsent, and E.N.G's Art Hindle and Sarah Botsford?
Simple. He just called them up and asked them.
Whiteway, one of whose three careers was that of theatrical producer at the now defunct Teller's Cage Theatre in Toronto in the mid-1980s, decided to put on A.R. Gurney's Love Letters as a fund-raiser for his financially beleaguered theatre.
The beauty of Love Letters is that actors don't have to learn lines but sit at a table and read the exchange of letters between two lifelong friends and lovers.
"No one I asked turned me down if they were available," Whiteway says. "Everyone was wonderful. I wasn't asking them to do something for me but for this grand old theatre."
Perhaps the most triumphant moment of all came when he called Stritch, currently starring in Show Boat at the North York Performing Arts Centre.
"She said yes immediately. And then later she asked if I would mind if 'dear Jason' read with her."
It took Whiteway a few moments to realize that "dear Jason" was, in fact, Jason Robards.
Which is how it came to pass that two Broadway stars will perform on July 31 at the 250-seat Red Barn, where bats regularly swoop down from the rafters and the last few rays of daylight shine through the chinks in the theatre walls until the sun finally goes down.
The fundraiser opened last week with performances by two pairs of respected Canadian actors, David Gardner and Patricia Collins, and Michael and Susan Hogan. Gardner and his wife, Dorothy, live in the area and are the Red Barn's artistic advisers. The Hogans also live nearby.
Tonight features one of the more intriguing pieces of casting, CITY-TV's Monika Deol, who performs with Clyde Whitham. Whiteway admits he hoped to enlist CITY-TV boss Moses Znaimer to read with Deol but it was not to be; Znaimer apparently had doubts about the casting.
Other performers are: June Callwood and Ian Downie (tomorrow), Arthur Black and Shelagh Rogers (Thursday), Pinsent and Charmion King (Friday), George Robertson and Sherry Miller (Saturday), Michael Burgess and Maya Toman (Monday), Botsford and Hindle (Aug. 2-3), C. David Johnson and Maya Toman (Aug. 4-5), and Geraint Wyn Davies and Catherine Disher (Aug. 6).
Tickets are $20, $25 for Stritch and Robards. Box office: (905) 722-3249.
The Red Barn opened in 1949 in a converted 19th century barn and is the country's oldest summer-stock theatre. But although many major Canadian performers have worked there, it has struggled for most of its existence.
It is also burdened by debt: last season's deficit alone was $26,000. Nor is it too popular with some of the local businesses, to whom it owes money.
Whiteway, who has also been a philosophy professor and a management consultant, aims to change all that. "What I would like to do is to take the Red Barn into the 21st century and to pay off its debts," he says. "We have to show this community that we are financially responsible."
Whiteway got to know and love the Red Barn when he and his children rented a small cottage at Roches Point. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be running it."
He approached the board on behalf of a friend in England and "ended up getting the job myself."
He has been walking a financial tightrope ever since: "We didn't know until June 4 that there would be a season," he says.