Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre (FAST) is readying to raise the curtain on the line-up for its 32nd season.
The 2019 season launch is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 25, at the Coady International Institute’s Marjorie Desmond Hall on the St. F.X. campus.
“It is going to be slightly different this year,” FAST managing director Reema Fuller said of the gathering.
She explained, over the past couple years, the launch was a two-part event – one starting with FAST artistic director Andrea Boyd unveiling the season schedule in the late afternoon, followed by a fundraising dinner for FAST friends and supporters at another location.
“We wanted to provide that extra element of surprise and we are really excited about doing it this way. We think it is going to be a great event,” Fuller explained of the change.
She noted the annual evening serves as a tremendous way in which to bring sponsors, supporters and theatre-lovers together “to celebrate our love for the theatre and what it means.”
For those who cannot attend the celebration, when Boyd takes the podium to announce the program for the season, it will be live streamed on Facebook.
"We are very excited about this season,” Fuller said, noting she could not spoil the moment and reveal too much before the launch.
She provided one teaser; award-winning children’s author Sheree Fitch will participate in a reveal of what’s in store for FAST’s Family Stage.
FAST officials are building on the success of the 2018 season, which Fuller described as a “phenomenal summer,” one that included a 50 per cent jump in ticket sales.
“It is really incredible,” she said of that increase for the award-winning professional theatre.
In 2018, over the eight-week season, more than 7,000 patrons saw live performances.
Nevertheless, she noted, ticket sales only provide one-quarter of FAST’s revenue.
“It is always a challenge and we continue to look for ways in which to fund everything that we do,” Fuller said.
But, for FAST, not raising ticket prices remains a key focus.
“We want to make it as affordable as we can,” she said.
Fuller noted the theatre, because of its rural location, faces more cost pressures than its counterparts, such as bringing actors to Antigonish, while also maintaining its emphasis on providing “similar calibre of productions.”
While doing that, she agreed, the theatre has become an economic driver for the community.
Fuller noted a survey from a couple years ago found that 40 per cent of patrons travelled from 50 kilometres or more. There were also many driving by who made a stop in Antigonish, when they discovered the theatre and its offerings.
Theatre-goers, when they are here, eat and shop; many plan weekend stays, so they can see multiple shows.
“FAST has helped cement Antigonish as an arts and culture centre in the province,” she said.
As a promotional poster reads for the Jan. 25 launch fundraiser, FAST is inviting people to ‘join us as we celebrate the impact of theatre on young minds, and the transformative power of theatre as a force of good in the world.’
The reception, starting at 5 p.m., will be followed by a prime rib dinner (6 p.m.).
There will also be a special performance by Fitch and Laura Teasdale.
Dinner tickets are $50 (cost recovery only) or $300 for a table of six.
“We hope people will be able to do what they can,” Fuller said, in encouraging people to make a donation beyond the cost for the meal.
As the promotional material indicates, an average gift of $150 per person will help FAST meet its $10,000 goal for the event.
All monies raised will directly support fees for professional and emerging artists in Nova Scotia.
“We will have a donations table set up at the dinner,” Fuller said.
She noted credit cards and cheques will be accepted.
For tickets or tables to the FAST launch celebration, contact Fuller at firstname.lastname@example.org, extension 4539 or 902-318-3375.