Top News

Strait Area Theatre Society opens to overwhelming response

Members of the Strait Area Theatre Society will stage Sing-Along Sound of Music Saturday, Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m., at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. CONTRIBUTED
Members of the Strait Area Theatre Society will stage Sing-Along Sound of Music Saturday, Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m., at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre. CONTRIBUTED - Corey LeBlanc

Sing-Along Sound of Music set for Dec. 14

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. —

PORT HAWKESBURY - The Strait Area Theatre Society (SATS), a recently launched theatre group in the Port Hawkesbury area, has a holiday treat for local audiences with their second production – a Sing-Along Sound of Music event – which will take place at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre Saturday, Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m.

The debut production by the group, One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, opened in October to an overwhelming reception. The musical was designed as a comedic love letter to both Cape Breton and its tourism industry with the script based on playwright Adam Cooke’s real-life experiences as a teenager working at a small visitor information centre in St. Peter’s during the summer of 1992.

Cooke, one of the society organizers and a board member for SATS, served in several roles for the production, including playwright, narrator, musical co-director and arranger.

He noted that the group was “blown away” by the response to the debut production.

“One Hundred Thousand Welcomes attracted a combined 650 people to our three-day run as part of the Celtic Colours International Festival, including a sold-out show at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre's Shannon Studio. That was a smaller venue than the SAERC Auditorium, which hosted the other two shows, but there was an intimacy that we really enjoyed,” Cooke said.

“The actors got big laughs so regularly that at times I felt like I was on the set of a TV sitcom. But this was no laugh track - it was the real thing. We weren't prepared for the very emotional response we received. Wild applause often broke into our musical numbers, particularly our tributes to Rita MacNeil and John Allan Cameron.”

Voices calling for a new theatre group in the area had grown stronger after locals began to notice the popularity of onstage productions by other community theatres and missed having an area theatre group.

“The Strait area has a long-standing reputation for creating – and loving – theatre, but as this decade headed towards a close we found ourselves facing a void in that regard. Under the Map Theatre had not staged a production since 2012 and much of its core leadership had moved away, passed away, or simply stepped back from theatre activities,” Cooke said.

“But our local residents still craved onstage experiences, often filling up venues here in town and around the general Strait area that were presenting productions by groups from Antigonish, Guysborough, Halifax or Sydney.”

The theatre group officially got underway in May of 2019, with a two-night open house to gauge interest in a new theatre organization for the Strait region. In June, the two scheduled audition days for the debut production, One Hundred Thousand Welcomes, weren’t enough.

The response to this casting call was so overwhelming that we scheduled a third audition early in July to accommodate those who weren't able to make it to the June auditions but still wanted to be involved with our group,” Cooke said.

The society is open to theatre veterans and newcomers alike.

There are a handful of people with genuine theatre experience, including former members of Under the Map Theatre, two trained opera singers, and people, who have carried out every conceivable theatre duty, onstage and backstage, over the course of their lives. There are also people who made their onstage debut with One Hundred Thousand Welcomes during our three shows on the Thanksgiving weekend,” Cooke said.

He noted the membership ranges in age from seven to 78.

“Most are from Port Hawkesbury, but we also have people making the drive in from communities as diverse as Mulgrave, St. Peter's, Isle Madame, Inverness, Port Hood, Glendale and even Glace Bay. We're grateful to every one of them and we're beyond excited to work - and play - with all of them in the New Year,” Cooke added.

He said they are also “incredibly grateful to the generosity of our corporate sponsors, community service clubs, and Port Hawkesbury Town Council, which voted last June to waive rental fees for town facilities during SATS' first year of operation.”

“We feel like the community has welcomed us with open arms and we couldn't be happier about that,” Cooke added.

Organizers are excited about the Sing-Along Sound of Music event Dec. 14 and other holiday events.

“We also have a two-night Strait Area Theatre Society Christmas caroling event that will take place on the evenings of December 18 and 20, and society members are making musical cameo appearances at holiday events all across the Strait area,” Cooke said.

“We have some very exciting plans for the New Year. We're partnering with multiple community organizations to stage fundraising dinner theatres in the winter and spring, and we will also be launching regular Improv Nights, Poetry Slams and other events to keep our members and the general creative community active and inspired even if they're not directly involved in a SATS production.”

He noted they always welcome new ideas.

“We regularly update our members and the community on our Strait Area Theatre Society Facebook and Instagram pages. We're open to absolutely any creative idea anyone in the Strait area might have for us,” Cooke said.

Recent Stories