Stage Door News

Stratford: Two new outdoor theatre shows on offer in Stratford August 15

Friday, August 14, 2020

As Stratford’s arts and culture scene continues to find creative ways to keep audiences safely entertained during the pandemic, a former Stratford Festival actor who’s recently re-joined the local theatre community will be chipping in this weekend.

Stratford Festival fans might remember John Beale’s performance opposite actor/playwright Daniel MacIvor in the world premiere of The Best Brothers in 2012. 

More recently, Beale, a teacher at Seneca College’s School of Creative Arts and Animation, waved goodbye to the intensity of the big city in favour of theatre-loving Stratford, where he and his family will host a pair of live performances Saturday.

The first is a free show for kids by improv comedy troupe Spontaneous Theatre, the group of performers who were supposed to stage the Stratford Festival’s first-ever improvised comedy, An Undiscovered Shakespeare, prior to the pandemic. 

Part of the troupe’s ongoing Sidewalk Scenes series, Saturday’s show will take place at 3 p.m. on the green space across the street from Schatzii, the pop-up kids clothing store opened by Beale’s wife Eva Reimann at 13 York St.

Later that evening, Beale and Reimann — the parents of five-year-old daughter Elida — are hosting a performance of MacIvor’s Here Lies Henry in their new backyard on Caledonia Street, a unique opportunity to see the work of an upstart Toronto-based company focusing on pandemic-friendly outdoor theatre.

“I think people who are really passionate about this are going to find a way to make it work safely because people crave that connection and gathering,” said Beale. “Everyone wants to have these parties online … but there’s something still missing. There’s something about being in the same space watching the same thing and experiencing something together which only theatre can give you.”

The challenge these days, of course, is doing theatre safely. Although the Spontaneous Theatre show has plenty of breathing room, Toronto’s Twilight Theatre Company is asking people to register in advance for the pay-what-you-can performance in Beale’s backyard. There will be 16 seats, with about half a dozen still available Thursday.

Twilight was created by actor Christopher Sawchyn (Shakespeare by the Sea, Queer as Folk), a colleague of Beale’s at Seneca, after he was commissioned to stage Here Lies Henry in the backyard of a Toronto couple celebrating their anniversary. 

With permission from MacIvor, Sawchyn said he’s updating the 25-year-old script and hoping to find reliable outdoor venues where he can perform the one-man show safely.

The first show “worked beautifully,” Sawchyn said. “It’s your classic guerrilla theatre. We’re just going to come here and make this work because we need it, we need to keep telling stories.”

Here Lies Henry is about a gay makeup counter salesman at The Bay many audiences and reviewers find difficult to describe. Henry’s darkly comedic story is often bizarre and unreliable, but still manages to reveal powerful universal truths, part of the charm of MacIvor’s writing.

“Here we have a man who’s so used to lying his whole life that when the truth must come out, it’s painful for him, and I think that’s a direct tie-in to what’s happening now,” Sawchyn said. “The truth is coming out (around racism) and all the rest of it, and people are being held accountable. It’s a hot time. The angle for me is that as a gay man, (Henry) has felt this oppression, felt like he had to hide and he couldn’t be himself. I feel there’s definitely a tie-in there.”

The show is directed by Conrad Coates, another Stratford Festival alumnus.

“The work always hits me,” Beale said. “It has a funny way of sneaking up on you and really affecting you almost without you realizing it. It’s exciting to see it again, after so long, to have it come back to life.”


What: Roadside Rascals, by improv comedy troupe Spontaneous Theatre

When: Saturday, Aug. 15, 3 p.m.

Where: The green space across from 13 York St.


What: Here Lies Henry

When: Saturday Aug. 15, 8 p.m.

Where: 145 Caledonia St.

Tickets: Pay-what-you-can. To register:

By Chris Montanini for

Photo: John Beale.