How are ya now? a nice return to some normalcy

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Ambrose Mullin and Fran Pinkerton are well known for their fun and antics with the troupe.

Stone Fence Theatre produces another big hit despite pandemic and lockdowns and regulations

KillaloeHow are ya now? is one of the best Ottawa Valley-isms and as Stone Fence Theatre Producer Ish Theilheimer will tell you it is often asked with a mischievous lilt and a little twinkle of the eye, implying a lot about how you were then but not really saying anything.

And, of course, a typical Valley response would be “Not too bad!”

How are ya now? is the name of this year’s Stone Fence Theatre production and although it was written and produced in a short period of time, the production ranks right up there with the best of the best in the 18-year history of the theatre group.

We attended the debut of How are ya now? last Wednesday night in beautiful Station Park in Killaloe, a bit nervous at what to expect because our guests included our son and his fiancée, Jill, and his in-laws to be. It was John and Lisa Mitchell’s first real visit to the Valley and, of course, we wanted them to enjoy the production which we had talked about for a few days previous to opening night.

Opening night can also be challenging for the cast as it is the first time they perform in front of a paying crowd, but you wouldn’t have known this last week. From beginning to end, the two-hour show was filled with songs written by members, plenty of laughter and a great story line about how we lived through the pandemic.

Much of the material in the show reflects on the experience we have all been going through since the end of March 2020. Many of the songs in this year’s show are from past shows, reflecting something timely as well – the values of community, love and cheerful stoicism that have helped us through hard times through the years.

This year’s cast of seven is smaller than many past productions, but the characters are strong, talented and accustomed to sharing the stage with another. That is evident in how they play off each other throughout the show, often ad-libbing. Even if one forgets the odd line, someone else jumps in and the audience doesn’t even realize what happened.

The shows start off with a Boxed Supper from Schmidt’s Catering. The meal is excellent and can be enjoyed in the park. There are several open-sided canopies to protect you from the warm summer sun and with attendance limited to 100 to conform to COVID guidelines, there is plenty of space. The sound is excellent, the setting is relaxing and the performance ends around 8, long before the mosquitoes come out for their nightly snacks.

On stage this year are Mr. Theilheimer, Clarence the section hand, who has been part of Stone Fence Theatre from its start 18 years ago; Ambrose Mullen, Valley Vic, another original who, with Fran Pinkerton, Joan Pinkerton, will keep you laughing all night long. She has been with the troupe for nine years.

Peter Brown, Albert the station agent, has been coming from Lanark County for 11 Stone Fence productions as a musician and occasional actor and is a multi-talented musician who has toured with Canadian blues legend Dutch Mason and with former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.

Former Opeongo High School teacher Derek Tolhurst, Taddy Hagarty, a talented musician who has played bass in bands of all kinds, has been with the theater group since 2015. As long as he is on stage, Taddy Hagarty is alive and well in Killaloe.

Danielle Bissonnette, Allison, and Shirley Hill, Nurse Toni, round out this year’s cast. Both have beautiful voices and are very talented on stage. Danielle is a theatre arts graduate teaching French and arts in the county and also offering junior and senior acting classes in Pembroke. Shirley, a registered nurse who has worked the front lines during the pandemic and knows all about the sacrifices made by many people, has been with the theatre since 2016.

Mark Woermke of Barry’s Bay is Stone Fence Theatre Chairperson. In his welcome in the booklets handed out at the shows, he says: “We all missed the chance to celebrate Ottawa Valley life and culture last year, but this summer, we are going to make up for it. How are ya now? will lift your spirits, signal the revival of theatre and salute the indomitable Ottawa Valley spirit.”

And he is absolutely right. How are ya now? is wonderful way to celebrate the gradual return to life as we knew it pre-March 2020. We haven’t completely conquered COVID-19, but we are making great progress.

How are ya now? will help you feel good and alive. Don’t miss it!

For tickets: www.stonefence.ca or phone weekdays 613-401-1497 or toll free 1-866-310-1004.

Performances are Wednesday and Thursday evenings in Killaloe. Tickets are available for July 21 and 22, July 28 and 29, and August 4 and 5. It is recommended you arrive about 4:45, get your Boxed Supper and enjoy it before the pre-show entertainment starts at 5:45.