The theme of looking at life differently, even as you’re aging, is a great lesson that Markham Little Theatre (MLT) takes to heart, now 52 years in.
The company starts off its 2018/19 performance season with playwright and screenwriter Ron Clark’s charming show about lifelong friendship, A Bench In The Sun. The show will be presented over three weeks in September at the company’s own intimate space.
“We are excited to have another go at presenting a play at our ‘Backstage’ location on the grounds of the Markham museum,” says producer Sarah MacDonald. “Our own venue allows for a far more intimate experience for both the cast and the audience.”
The company treasures its relationship with the Flato Markham Theatre and still produces the majority of its shows there, but the tradition of performing the first show of the season in a smaller setting, with only 90 seats, began last year. The company converts its rehearsal space into a performance venue and offers three full weeks of shows to allow its audience a chance to get one of the more limited seats. This style of show brings to mind the history of off-off-Broadway shows in New York City being performed wherever they might fit.
“The small setting of our space at the museum is the perfect venue to be welcomed to the bench of Burt and Harold,” explains show director, Marlene Foran. “A Bench in the Sun is a character driven play about relationships.”
The play introduces us to lifelong friends Burt and Harold, two older men who live at Valley View Gardens, a retirement home experiencing it’s own existential crisis. The two men spend their days sitting arguing about everything and anything while sitting on a bench in the sun. However, when Valley View attracts a new resident, retired film actress Adrienne Bliss, the friends spark a heated rivalry for her affections when she challenges them to look at life differently.
“Beyond the humour are the gentle but ironic reminders of one’s mortality and the fate that awaits some of us,” says Foran. “Retirement homes do everything to keep you alive and nothing to keep you living.”
John Sellens and Ray Porrill play Burt and Harold. Audiences will recognize them from a variety of MLT productions, they have even worked together a few times before. They’ll be joined by MLT newcomer, but regional-theatre veteran, Gerri Sefi, who plays Adrienne. MLT mainstay and audience favourite Michèle Browne rounds out the cast in her role as Announcer.
“They are wonderful actors with a great sense of comedic timing,” says MacDonald, “They are warm, likeable, and real. The audience will enjoy getting to know them.”
Of course any show, especially one produced in a non-traditional venue, requires many more people than just the performers to work as well as MLT shows usually do. The company is full of dedicated Markhamites, who love theatre, working hard to bring you the best quality theatre they can.
“Everyone is here because they want to be here and the love of what we do is reflected in our plays,” MacDonald said. “I think our audiences can see that.”
“The dedication of the many that make MLT possible is truly awe inspiring,” adds Foran.
A Bench in the Sun runs Sept. 5-8, 12-15 and 19-22. Tickets are available by calling 905-305-7469 or online here.
Photo: John Sellens, Gerri Sefi and Ray Porrill, in character and ready for the show.