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Caledon Townhall Players: Over the River and Through the Woods

October 29, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The gates have opened and the community theatres in our area are too opening again – conservatively but joyously.

First up is the Caledon Townhall Players (CTHP), with their opening production, Over the River and Through the Woods, by Joe DiPietro, on Nov. 5. The Citizen conducted a telephone interview recently with Director, Kim Blacklock. A veteran member of CTHP of over 30 years, Ms. Blacklock is pleased with how the rehearsals are going and thrilled to be welcoming audiences back into the theatre, albeit with all the Covid protocols.

In this show “…the playwright is based in the U.S. Joe DiPietro has written numerous plays,” as Ms. Blacklock explained, “this is the only one of his that we’ve produced and this is the second time. The first time was in 2002. I directed it then too.”

Producer Heidi Kachel had noted that there was such a good reaction to the show in 2002 that it was decided to revive it in 2019, for production in May 2020.

Said Ms. Blacklock, “But we were all shut down before then. I had just started rehearsals [early 2020], when we were shut down. Then, we got notice that we might be able to stage it in November this year. Four of the six actors [who were going to perform in it last year] came back. We cast the other two roles and we open on November 5.

“Ms. Kachel has been a member with CTHP for 35 years and I have been for 32 years,” Ms. Blacklock told the Citizen. “We’re coming to the 58th season this year.”

In brief, Over the River and Through the Woods, is about a family in New Jersey: a young man, Nick who has Sunday dinner with his four grandparents every week, as their only relative living nearby. These Italian grandparents are portrayed by very humorous dialogue and the exchange amongst them and their grandson may well remind audience members of their own families. At one point, Nick arrives with the news that he has been promoted to a bigger and better job in Seattle. In a rare mood of accord, they express reasons for him not to go, including an introduction to an attractive young nurse as a possible love interest to him keep close.

How that works out is for you to discover by coming to see the show…

As Ms. Blacklock commented, “We have all seen different things in it for those of us who had grandparents.”

Originally written in 1994, Joe DiPietro did some re-writing on Over the River and Through the Woods and the final version was ready in 1998. The play ran in the off-Broadway John Houseman Theatre for 800 performances over two years.

The happy opening of Theatre Orangeville and the strict Covid protocol they are following was mentioned in passing.

“We are too,” she confirmed. “We are offering 50% [audience capacity] gives the six-foot distance; double vaccinated; but no walks-ins: it’s too hard to coordinate. We’re fogging the theatre in between shows; the seats and arm rests sanitized – it’s a lot more work for the volunteers.”

It is all hands-on board: “Volunteers – just about everybody’s back,” Ms. Blacklock was happy to report. “We’ve really had rehearsal for the play itself. The Board members have been working online about the kitchen because we can’t really know what we’ll be able to offer… so, I’m still waiting to see how they’re going to do things. We have to adhere to everything during rehearsals – masks, sign in, contact tracing,” adding, “Everybody was so used to doing it in real life; when we came back to the theatre, we were all used to it.

“Most of our patrons, when we told them we’re still going 50 per cent, they were happy with that decision.”

The last show of the Caledon Townhall Players was their February production in 2020. They had had a good season that far, with audience attendance at 70 per cent, Ms. Blacklock informed the Citizen.

“Happily, between donors and all that, we’ve managed to keep the lights on,” she said. “The town helped with the hydro. Even though we shut down and everything was turned off, we still had to keep the building warm.”

In December, 2020, they had an online auction, to which people donated things. They put it all online and got back just over $2,000.

Even more to the point, as she added, “We wound up with people who didn’t know about us but found out about us through the auction and now we have people wanting to buy tickets. So, that was good. Especially with Covid, people were home a lot more and online more. We got the word out through social media – every little bit helps.”

Two more plays are on track as the rest of the Theatre Company’s season: Norm Foster’s Kiss the Sun, Kiss the Moon and the Farce of Nature by the collective Jesse Jones, Nicolas Hope and Jamie Wooten.

Ms. Blacklock commented, “It’s still kind of surreal being back but it will be good to see our patrons again.”

A soft sigh, “Wow,” greeted this writer’s query as to what keeps her and Ms. Kachel engaged at the theatre: “Especially me with my job, bookkeeping. It’s just being creative, just bringing a script to life. Nobody does it the same. This show is completely different from the first time I directed it – the different cast with a different outlook. It keeps you sane even when things are insane.

“Heidi has an organizing business (Harmonious Spaces) home: de-cluttering, staging and all that. This is a good outlet for her too.”

Encouraging patrons to come, she said, “It’s a great play; it’s well written… I think now that people realize how important to us our family is. I’m sorry it took a pandemic for us to realize that. And get everybody back. Our two Saturday evening shows are sold out and the dinners are running. The church has been able to social distance, which is also sold out.”

She related, “We’ve been in contact with the church every couple of months and when things calmed down, we went back and they were thrilled to start again. It’s been over 30 years since we’re been doing dinners at Knox United Church.” 

There are tickets available for the two Fridays, Nov. 5 and 12 evening performances at 8:15 p.m.

Also, there are tickets for the two Saturday, Nov. 6 and 13 matinees at 2:15 p.m.

“The actors are just going to be thrilled to back on there. One is a new member. Five of them have been with us before,” said Ms. Blacklock. “The Italian portion of it is very family, touching, funny. Really great characters; the cast have enjoyed the challenges. It’s a lot of fun, a really nice way to start the theatre’s year.”

For tickets, call 905-927-5480 or simply email:

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