For the first time since the Thousand Islands Playhouse was formed in 1982, a new Artistic Director has taken the reins. Ashlie Corcoran is one of the youngest Artistic Directors of a regional theatre in all of Canada, and is the new driving force behind the Thousand Islands Playhouse’s play selection, creative team selection, casting, and artistic vision.
“I think that what has been done here in the past 30 years is wonderful and needs to be celebrated. I want to build on this foundation by continuing to attract the best artists possible to our stages, and by continuing to celebrate our cultural heritage with Canadian work and classics like the upcoming Salt-Water Moon. Diversity is strength, as you will see in our new season. We will be presenting five Canadian and three international plays, including musicals, hilarious comedies, love stories and a family drama.”
Originally from White Rock, British Columbia, Ashlie comes to the Playhouse with a strong background directing both theatre and opera. She began her training at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) Degree in Drama. She received a Master’s Degree in Directing, awarded with distinction, from Goldsmiths College at the University of London. These studies were funded through a British Foreign & Commonwealth Office Chevening Scholarship.
Ashlie has directed across North America, for such companies as the award winning independent company Theatre Smash (which she co-founded), the Canadian Opera Company, the Shaw Festival, the Royal Conservatory of Music, Western Canada Theatre, Resurgence Theatre and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She has received many awards/grants, including: Theatre Ontario Professional Theatre Training Program Grant, Herstmonceux Castle International Study Centre Award and the Queen’s University Lorne Greene Award (given to a graduating student for excellence in theatre practice). Ashlie has been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award (for The Ugly One) and was short-listed for the Pauline McGibbon Award.
Ashlie’s first season with the Thousand Islands Playhouse kicks off in May with Suds: The Rocking 60s Musical Soap Opera, a joy-filled, fun musical that will transport you to the 60s. “I was looking for something with fun, familiar music that would get our audience humming these tunes as they walked to their cars!” She says.
Ashlie intends to program a ‘classic comedy’ each season to leave audiences in stitches. Complete with slamming doors and illicit kisses, Boeing Boeing will do just that as it invites audiences into the home of Bernard, a three-timing bachelor desperately trying to keep his fiancées from finding out about each other.
“Thousand Island Playhouse’s track record of developing new Canadian scripts is something I plan to celebrate,” says Corcoran. The thriller Third Floor
is a perfect fit; it was written by Queen’s graduate Jason Hall and promises a bit of laughter, a bit of romance and definitely a few twists to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
In August, the hilarious Tony-Award winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
takes the stage as six quirky youth compete in a spelling bee run by two equally quirky grown-ups. Ashlie has directed this show before and notes “It is definitely one of the most fun – while still being smart and savvy – pieces that I’ve ever worked on.”
Later in August, The (Post) Mistress comes to the Playhouse from Nova Scotia’s Ship’s Company Theatre. This endearing story features a post mistress (Martha Irving) who loves a good piece of gossip and shares the scandalous, heartbreaking and hilarious stories and songs of her small town.
Come fall, the Playhouse explores the critically acclaimed Tarragon production of No Great Mischief, a beautiful adaptation of a superb Canadian novel about two brothers who relive the memories and songs of their historic past. “The play tells the story of the need for family, for love and for connection,” adds Ashlie.
The 2013 season concludes with the timeless romance Salt-Water Moon, where two ex-sweethearts are reunited. Ashlie states, “It is a beautiful and simple love story, with colourfully descriptive dialogue and humour. Importantly, it is also an exploration of young people searching for their paths in life.”
On top of a robust 2013 season, there are many new and exciting initiatives that Ashlie is introducing, including an inaugural Playwrights’ Unit and Play Reading Series, enhanced Young Company actor training and audience workshops, and two dedicated student matinees.
The new Playwrights’ Unit is designed to foster the talent of both emerging and established artists. After a rigorous selection process reviewing applications from across the province, five outstanding playwrights have been invited to be part of this exclusive initiative. During their year-long residency, the playwrights will meet monthly to challenge and expand their individual projects, growing each into fully developed plays. In December 2013, the community will be invited to a free week-long public Play Reading Series to showcase each playwright’s work with professional actors and offer an opportunity for discussion with the artists.
The Thousand Islands Playhouse Young Company consists of emerging young professionals who travel across Eastern Ontario from April to June, performing their show to children in schools, libraries, public parks and special events. The troupe introduces youth to theatre and offers educational workshops about their performance in order to enhance the audience experience.
In addition to the Young Company initiatives, the Thousand Islands Playhouse is for the first time offering two dedicated 11am student matinees in the Springer Theatre; No Great Mischief on October 2 and Salt-Water Moon on October 30.
By Debbie Bennett, Marketing Manager, Thousand Islands Playhouse
Born and raised in Brockville, Debbie Bennett moved to Kingston in 2008 to attend St. Lawrence College. She competed in two OCMC provincial marketing competitions and placed in the top five in each. She then advanced to represent St. Lawrence College at the BDC National Marketing Competition, placing 2nd in Canada. She is now Marketing Manager at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque.
Editor’s Note: Ashley, I take great pleasure in welcoming you to the Thousand Islands. The TI Playhouse is popular with audiences from across Ontario and throughout the North Country. This inaugural season for you is both challenging and exciting. I am sure your efforts will be appreciated by all theatre goers…