Mazumdar had adjudicated an amateur drama festival in the town of 10,000 when he saw the possibilities for a mini-Stratford Festival. He envisaged productions of professional quality and a training ground in a range of theatre skills. He was able to seduce some class acts into the town including Gordon Pinsent in 1984, to perform in Cyrano de Bergerac, as well as British ballet stars, playwright/critic Eric Bentley and high-profile actors from across the country.
By 1985 the Festival employed a professional company augmented by students from Newfoundland Drama Academy, the Festival's summer school. Attendance had grown to 7,000. It was also supported by corporate sponsors, business and government grants. The content was popular (as it still is) with some works by Canadians like Allan Stratton's Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii.
After Mazumdar died of AIDS in 1988, Sean Mulcahy became artistic director, but accumulated considerable debt during his brief tenure. Stephenville alumnus Cliff LeJeune took over the reigns from 1990-93, building up audiences with productions of musical theatre, followed by Edmund Maclean (1994-2000), who produced more Canadian works; Jerry Doyle (2000-05), who encouraged more local productions; Eva Moore (2006-2010); Keith Pike (2011-13); Lois Brown (2014); Thom Currie (2015-16); and Heather Braaten (2017-21).
In July and August the Festival produces or hosts up to a dozen shows. Productions of seminal Canadian plays include: Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-soeurs (1983); John Murrell's Memoir and Waiting for the Parade; George Ryga's The Ecstasy of Rita Joe (1983), Michael Cook's Therese’s Creed (1994); Linda Griffiths' and Paul Thompson's Maggie and Pierre (1995); Tomson Highway's The Rez Sisters (1995); Antonine Maillet's La Sagouine (1995); John Gray's Billy Bishop Goes to War (1996); Tom Cahill's As Loved Our Fathers (1999), David French's Salt-Water Moon (1999), Cindy O'Neill's Woman of Labrador, Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy (2003); Robert Chafe's Vive la Rose (2004); and Stephen Massicotte's Mary's Wedding (2012).
Profile by Gaetan Charlebois
Last updated 2021-11-18