Stage Door News

Petrolia: Karen Grassle replaces Michael Learned in “On Golden Pond” at the VPP

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Little House on the Prairie’s Karen Grassle will be stepping in for Michael Learned during the Victoria Playhouse Petrolia’s production of On Golden Pond, which runs from July 5 to 24.

Grassle, who will play the role of Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond, is best known for her portrayal of Caroline Ingalls on the popular, award-winning NBC television show.

Learned, an Emmy Award winner best known for her portrayal of Olivia Walton on CBS’s long-running series The Waltons, was originally set to play the part of Ethel Thayer but a recent injury prevented her from performing in Petrolia this summer.

“I’m just devastated that I can’t be with my friends in Petrolia this summer,” Learned said in a statement. “I’ve fractured my wrist. It’s very painful and the role of Ethel is a buoyant one. I’m just not up for it. My doctor has advised surgery and that’s the route I’m going to take. Bless you all. Hope to see you next year.”

David Hogan, VPP’s co-artistic director, wished Learned well.

“The most important thing for us always, is taking care of people,” he said. “Michael is very dear to us, and brings with her so much experience, talent, and joy. We will miss her presence greatly and wish her a speedy recovery.”

Along with her numerous roles in television and on film, Grassle is also a talented theatre performer, having appeared on Broadway, Shakespeare in the Park, as well as a myriad of other productions across North America. Grassle recently released her memoir, Bright Lights, Prairie Dust, in 2021.

Laurissa Ellsworth, Petrolia’s director of marketing, arts and communications, said that the town was thrilled to procure Grassle for the production.

“We are delighted to welcome an artist of her caliber to Petrolia,” she said. “We are excited to share our wonderful community with her, and to welcome her to our VPP family.”

Order of Canada recipient Walter Borden will be joining Grassle onstage, in the role of Norman Thayer Jr., while award-winning actress Kellie Fox will star as Chelsea Thayer Wayne. Local Corunna actor Noah Leonard will be making his VPP debut in the role of Billy Ray Jr. while Brian Belleth will play the role of Charlie Martin.

Tickets are available for On Golden Pond by calling 519-882-1221 or 1-800-717-7694, or by visiting


Photo: Karen Grassle.