A sure sign of summer in Nova Scotia? It’s high harvest for local theatre, with venues across the province lining up schedules of plays that are most certainly worth building a day trip (or longer!) around. Many are re-stagings of big-deal productions you might’ve missed when performed in Halifax; many more are performed outdoors. All are a reminder that Nova Scotia knows what makes a good show.
As You Like It: A ‘60s Musical at Highland Arts Theatre
The Cape Breton team that nabbed two Merritt Theatre Award nominations for the COVID-cancelled Dream & Disco Nights is back with more groovy goodness. This time around, it’s a 1960s-steeped take on Shakespeare’s pastoral play As You Like It, which sees two girls run off from home to find their own eden in the forest.
Highland Arts Theatre, 40 Bentinck Street, Sydney, June 21-26, Tue-Sat 7:30pm; Sun 2pm, 7:30pm; $25/Pay What You Can, highlandartstheatre.com
Hippoposthumous by The Unnatural Disaster Theatre Co goes on tour
Perhaps the darling of the 2021 Halifax Fringe Festival (where it won the Fringe Hit award), the play Hippoposthumous is zany, good-natured and big-hearted: A hippopotamus living in Colombia (thanks to the whims of Pablo Escobar) has to navigate the fact it’s a multi-generation-deep invasive species—just like starlings in Halifax or giraffes in France. The meandering, one-actor musical asks a lot of its lead, Katherine Norris—but when I saw the play at last year’s Fringe Festival, I noted her performance was the work’s strongest point, ready to please fans of Liza Minelli and Hamilton in equal measure. Staged outdoors, you can see this play in a host of watering holes around the province all summer long. See end note for details.
July 1, 3pm, Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, 55 Ross Creed Road, Canning; July 2-4, 7pm, Point Pleasant Park, 5530 Point Pleasant Drive, Halifax; July 8-9, 7:30pm and July 10 at 12:30pm, Benjamin Bridge Winery, 1966 White Rock Road, Wolfville; July 16, 7pm, King’s Theatre, 209 St George St, Annapolis Royal; July 17, 7pm, Bear River Waterfront Park, Bear River; July 21, 7:30pm, Open Hearth Park Amphitheatre, 190 Ferry St, Sydney; July 22, 8pm, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53, 37 Ross Street, Baddeck; July 24, 7:30pm, Rose Schwartz Memorial Park, 451 Plummer Ave, New Waterford; Aug 12-13, 7:30pm and Aug 14, 2pm, Richard P Eldrige Park, Hutt Lake, Chester; Aug 19-20, 7:30pm Shubie Park, 54 Locks Road, Dartmouth
Into The Woods at Highland Arts Theatre
A staging of the fractured fairy tale made famous by Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics, Into The Woods delivers a mix of broken promises, witch’s curses and wishes that come true while sharing snippets of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and other stories you think you know.
Highland Arts Theatre, 40 Bentinck Street, Sydney, July 5-10, Tue-Sat 7pm; Sun 2pm, 7pm; $25/Pay What You Can, highlandartstheatre.com
The Stranger at Two Planks and a Passion Theatre
Ross Creek Centre for the Arts is one of the province’s best-known offers of seasonal theatre, and the home base for Two Planks is keeping its reputation this year, opening its 2022 slate with The Stranger, a work adapted from a Robert Louis Stevenson novel. True crime fans and those who’ve had In Cold Blood on their bookshelf forever will race to Canning, NS, to see this small-town-set murder mystery that sees a lawyer and reporter create an unlikely alliance in search for the truth.
Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, 555 Ross Creed Road, Canning, July 8-Sept 4, Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat, 9:30pm, $25-$34, artscentre.ca
Unity (1918) at Two Planks and a Passion Theatre
Unity, Saskatchewan, is celebrating the return of some soldiers in the fall of 1918, when this play opens—but the arrival of a new, mysterious illness rocks the farming town as community members realize their lives are being forever altered. Winner of the 2002 Governor General Award, Unity is the type of ensemble drama that’s felt timely ever since its release two decades ago.
Ross Creek Centre for the Arts, 555 Ross Creed Road, Canning, July 8-Sept 4, Tue, Wed, Sat,6pm; Sun, 2pm; $25-$34, artscentre.ca
The Princess Show at Ship’s Company Theatre
Parrsborro’s point-of-contact for live art, Ship’s Company Theatre kicks off its season with The Princess Show, the Halifax Fringe Festival hit play that was also nominated for the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award last year. Mixing drag, claymation, music, anime and more, The Princess Show is wildly, wonderfully off-the-wall, telling the story of Princess Edward, a bearded beauty who’s putting it all on the line to save her beloved.
Making this show even sweeter? Halifax’s DJ Douvet will be spinning tunes for pre-and-post show parties—so wear your dancing shoes.
Ship’s Company Theatre, 18 Main Street, Parrsborro, July 15-16, 7:30pm; July 16, 2pm (family-friendly matinee); $15-$30, shipscompanytheatre.com
Coarse at the Chester Legion
The Chester Playhouse was badly damaged in a 2021 fire, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the landmark theatre is letting that keep the show from going on. Instead, while the space awaits a full 2023 reopening, it’s partnering with other venues in town to keep delivering the cutting-edge programming it’s known for.
Case in point? This staging of Coarse, a co-production from Halifax’s Villains Theatre and Sarah Deller. The play (which will be performed at the Chester Legion) explores the lives and minds of the Brontë sisters in 1845 Yorkshire. As the Chester Playhouse puts it: “At times hilarious and moving, blending physical theatre, and textual material from the lives and writings of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, this bold, inventive biographical play asks how to find the courage to live a meaningful, truthful life in defiance of conventional paths.”
Chester Legion, 14 Union Street, Chester, July 22-23, 7:30pm; July 24, 2pm, $35, chesterplayhouse.ca
Dayboil at Ship’s Company Theatre
Ship’s Company’s July-closing show, Dayboil examines the fragile, fraught relationship of two sisters as they gather with friends over tea. Written by Newfoundland playwright Sharon King-Campbell, it’s a small-town gossip fest laced with poignant themes on family.
Ship’s Company Theatre, 18 Main Street, Parrsborro, July 27-Aug 4, Wed-Fri, 7:30pm; Sat-Sun 2pm & 7:30pm; $15-$30, shipscompanytheatre.com
The Hobbit at Festival Antigonish
Andrea Boyd’s adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's opus of friendship and bravery sees Festival Antigonish doubling down on its COVID-era decision to make theatre outdoors: After its 2021 production of Robin Hood, the fest is once again taking to nearby Keppoch Mountain for a site-specific show that traces the adventures of Bilbo Baggins.
Keppoch Mountain, 193 Keppoch Road, Antigonish, Aug 3-18, festivalantigonish.ca for showtimes and tickets
KOQM at Ship’s Company Theatre
A quilt of stories about the lives of fictional L’nu (Mi’kmaw) women from the peerless, indomitable multi-hyphenate shalan joudry, KOQM wowed Halifax when joudry brought the show to Neptune this past April. Now, Ship’s Company will stage the multi-era story, delivering grief, humour and resilience in equal measure.
Ship’s Company Theatre, 18 Main Street, Parrsborro, Aug 11-13, 7:30pm; Aug 14, 2pm, $15-$30, shipscompanytheatre.com
The Happy Prince at Highland Arts Centre
Summer wraps in Sydney with this musical that’s based on a story by Oscar Wilde. The award-winning Canadian production blends magic, whimsy, wizards and pirates into an all-ages must-see.
Highland Arts Theatre, 40 Bentinck Street, Sydney, Aug 24-28, $25 or Pay What You Can, highlandartstheatre.com for tickets and showtimes
Salt Water In Your Socks at the Chester Legion
Billed as a Maritime musical, this Chester Playhouse performance (which will be shown at the nearby Legion hall as the Playhouse continues to repair after a fire in 2021) is a one-actor regaling of the life and times of an Atlantic fisherman, rife with sea shanties and laughs.
Chester Legion, 14 Union Street, Chester, Aug 26-27, 7:30pm, Aug 28, 2pm; $35, chesterplayhouse.ca