Archive » Arts and Entertainment

New Norm Foster plays to be previewed at this year’s Foster Festival

February 8, 2024   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Nine years ago there was the visionary idea of creating a festival based on the writings of a single playwright. There are other such festivals but they all follow artists long dead. This plan was to follow a living playwright – Norm Foster. The Foster Festival was launched by Emily Oriold, Norm Foster and Patricia Vanstone in 2016. It takes place in St. Catharines, Ont.

Mr. Foster agreed with the plan to premier his plays at the Foster Festival but his proliferation of new plays, in particular during the shut-in times of Covid-19, created more than the Festival could premiere and some began their on-stage lives in other theatres as well.

After seven seasons at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, the Foster Festival productions found a home in the Mandeville Theatre at Ridley College in St. Catharines in 2023.

In a conversation with the Citizen, Emily Oriold told us, “We first produced [the play] ‘Outlaw’ at the Mandeville Theatre and the audience loved the space. Last year, we showed Outlaw and ‘Jenny’s House of Joy,’ as companion pieces, which they are, as a Premiere.

“We would like to stay long term at the Mandeville Theatre,” she said, “for the foreseeable future.”

“The grounds are lovely at this private school and there is free parking,” she commented. “We just keep doing what we’re doing. During Covid, we had to be site specific, had to move around and be creative. Now we’re in a proper theatre.”

There are two World Premieres coming up in 2024. From July 4 to 14, “Those Movies” (a rom-com) takes us on a double date and Foster pokes fun at that style of romcom movies.

The second is Whit’s End, running July 24 to Aug. 4. It’s about a dad whose two grown children are coming to visit. He has a new lady in his life to introduce to them. But the dad and his lady are selling the family home and moving to another town. 

The third and last Foster play in the summer season: the 40th anniversary of the “Melville Boys,” running Aug. 15 to 25. This treasure is the second play Norm Foster ever wrote.

“Theatre,” said Ms. Oriold, ”is a world onto its own.” 

Coming up, on Sunday, Feb. 11, is Norm Foster’s Birthday Bash.

Emily Oriold was very enthusiastic to say, “Norm’s Birthday – we’re very excited to throw him this bash and he’s coming. We want to honour all this work he has created for so many theatres, keeping actors and crews employed. This is so close to his birthday, on Feb. 14. It’s a token of our love to Norm.”

She outlined the program of lunch and a group of “favourite Foster artists performing, reading from Halfway There – the first play the Festival produced.

“He will be sitting at the tables with our guests,” she assured us. 

The birthday party is at the Club Roma in St. Catharines, from noon to 3 p.m. Tickets for the fundraiser are $115 as support for the festival’s Local Hero Program that is making live theatre accessible to anyone in need, economically, from hospice or other inhibitors.

“Families need escapism,” she emphasized. “We give tickets for those occasions and also transportation.

“We share the news about our shows and encourage people to get out and have a good time.”

Jamie Williams joined the Foster Festival in November 2022 as an artistic associate. He has acted in and directed plays over his time there and works on the creative side, production and administration.

He talked about the wonderful work the first Fostered Playwrights Festival is doing for new playwrights, with staged readings, developing three new Canadian playwrights that “are not Norm.”

Norm Foster has mentored others and Foster Festival has formalized this. The plays will be workshopped by Mr. Foster and the festival’s creative team.

Over the weekend of April 5 to 7, are readings of the three plays for audiences, after which the playwrights can engage the audience to respond and give important feedback. From a first-time reading, authors gain invaluable insights into how they can strengthen their plots, sequence and dialogue.

“These are ticketed events” Mr. Williams explained. “Weekend passes or single readings are open to the general public. We hope the playwrights themselves are asking friends and family to come, for them to display their work.”

Naturally, sponsorships are being sought to assist with fees for actors and a director based on daily ACTRA standards. They have begun working with business wineries.

Patrons come from all over the northern US and Canadian towns and cities.

“It is a fantastic theatre weekend,” Mr. Williams declared. “We’ve read over 70 new plays in trying to find three for the festival from both established and new playwrights.”

The three are “Mechanically Inclined” by Steve Ross from Stratford; Jody Stevens brings “Time and Tide” from Halifax, N.S. and “Go for Gold, Audrey Pham” by Camille Pavlenko from Calgary, Alta.

More to come after the summer main stage, on Sept. 28, a Comedy night with three comedians and host Joan O’Sullivan. They are calling it Happy Funny Amazing Comedy Night.

The full production from the winner of the Fostered Playwright Festival is set for November.

From Dec. 11 to 15 is the Foster Festival’s “A Niagara Christmas Carol,” telling the story of the wondrous “1840s, [when] the second Welland Canal was built,” Mr. Williams informed us.

This is a staged reading with music, “Irish Christmas carols are of the time,” he said, “and whatever was locally sung.”

 The hope is A Niagara Christmas Carol will be a full production in 2025. A Christmas Carol is much more than a story about Christmas, as it is also about redemption, Jamie Williams pointed out.

“We wanted to ‘Canadian-ize’ it. Our mandate is Canadian work and, with this, re-awakening that time when the Welland Canal was news. It’s very important around here.”

Tickets to Norm Foster’s 75th Birthday Bash Fundraiser may still be available.

For all the details and to get tickets for any part of this 9th season of the Foster Festival, check the Home page at

Norm Foster is a popular name at Theatre Orangeville and is the Canadian playwright behind their current show, “Doris and Ivy in the Home.” He has written several plays performed by the local theatre group.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.