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Summer Theatre in Cottage Country

by Lesley Peterson

Live theatre in cottage country? Get out of town! Hundreds of performances are just a road trip away in some of Ontario’s most idyllic rural and lakeside communities. Venues range from swank to rustic, and many offer local dining and stay packages to make getaway planning even easier. Here are some of the best.

Port Hope Festival Theatre, Port Hope

Light-hearted entertainment is presented under the painted sky of the Depression-era Capitol Theatre. One of North America’s rare remaining ‘atmospheric’ theatres, the building itself is a must-see for old cinema buffs.

Stratford Festival, Stratford

Stratford’s world-class status is reflected in prices for glamorous, innovative versions of classics that always include something by Shakespeare. For the Festival’s 60th season, organizers have launched twice-daily direct bus service between Toronto and Stratford, making it even easier to get in on the star-studded act.

Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake

The acclaimed Shaw Festival offers witty works by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, his contemporaries and new writers who carry on Shaw’s legacy of questioning the status quo. The Shaw’s four elegant—and very different–venues receive 300, 000 visitors each season. Checking into one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s country inns or B&Bs for a few nights will ensure time to experience it all.

Classic Theatre Festival, Perth

In the Ottawa Valley, Classic Theatre Festival offers professionally produced hits from Broadway’s golden age. Pretty Perth is part of the Rideau Heritage Route, Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage site. In your explorations, be sure to stop by Perth’s Visitors’ Centre to see the new Canadian Theatre History Exhibit of vintage posters, still photos, graphics, programs and costume designs.

Lakeview Arts Barn, Bobcaygeon

Offering five fun productions and pre-show dinner on the premises, Globus Theatre is company-in-residence at the Lakeview Arts Barn in the sparkling Kawartha Lakes.

St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs

Explore the countryside and farmers’ markets of Southern Ontario’s Mennonite country before catching a show at the Playhouse. The venue features turn-of-the-century masonry and timber accents of traditional Mennonite architecture.

4th Line Theatre, Millbrook

The sun sets on epic outdoor performances held on the fifth-generation Winslow family farm, about an hour and a half northeast of Toronto. Founding artistic director Robert Winslow is committed to presenting original plays that explore themes and stories quintessentially Canadian. Pre-show dinner options include a country buffet prepared by a local church, weekly Lions Club barbeques, and packing your own picnic.