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Atlantic Theatre Festival

Summer theatre festival held in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, founded in 1995 by Michael Bawtree who became the company's artistic director.

The company was housed in a well-renovated hockey arena that featured a thrust stage. The public supported the company from the start with the first season there (including Shakespeare's The Tempest, Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard - both directed by Michael Langham - and Feydeau's A Flea in her Ear) hailed by the national critical community.

The Festival's productions continued to span the history of theatre. 1998 saw productions of works by Shakespeare, Wilder and Shaw.

The Festival encoutered several fiscal challenges. The first two seasons had seen 65% attendance, the third only 50%. In autumn 1998 it carried a deficit of $1.3 million. The board, however, assured the press that there would be a 1999 season. In January, 1999, the board removed Michael Bawtree as artistic director and replaced him with Jerry Etienne who announced that the upcoming season would consist of three plays instead of four and that there would be no work by Shakespeare. The budget was cut from $2.4 million to $1.5. At the end of January, although a season was announced (Private Lives, Hedda Gabler and two short works by Georges Feydeau), it was also stated that if $750,000 in funds were not raised by mid-February there would be no season.

In early February actor Christopher Plummer responded and involved himself in the company's fund-raising drive, saying, "No theatre of this type has made an instant profit - it's not possible." February 16, with only $425,000 raised, the doors of the house were shut, the nine employees laid off. February 24, however, it was announced that the fund-raising had indeed succeeded and the company was prepared to launch a summer season. In autumn, 1999, general manager Bruce Klinger announced that he hoped that he would cut the debt by half and even have a balanced budget and surplus by year's end.

Things went well with figures in 2000, showing that the debt had been cut to $800,000 (including an $140,000 profit on its 1999 season). The 2000 season consisted of the musical revue High Notes, Macbeth and Billy Bishop Goes to War.

After several attempts to mount partial seasons, following a production of The Drawer Boy, the Atlantic Theatre Festival finally folded in 2007.

Source: Christopher Maika, "Dark Macbeth shares stage in Wolfville with light musical revue," The Globe and Mail, 1 Sept 2000.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois

Last updated 2013-01-14