The Canada Day Organizing Committee has been hard at work raising funds for this year’s Canada Day festivities. A Valentine’s Day draw, just one of the group’s fundraising initiatives, took place on February 11th. The draw raised approximately $1,400. The first place prize, donated by the McIntosh Country Inn and Conference Centre, included accommodations and dinner for two. Bill and Beverley Aleck were the lucky winners of the first place prize. Carolyn Abrams won the second place prize, a $150 gift basket from Riley’s Valu-Mart. Bill Tupper took home the third place prize, a Valentine’s dinner for two at the Upper Canada Grill. The winners gathered on February 13th to collect their prizes. Hatherall, owner of Riley’s Valu-Mart, said, “we’re thankful for everyone’s contribution towards the fireworks and we’re hoping for another great celebration this year.”
Upper Canada Playhouse held its 2011 Annual Christmas Auction on November 19 at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre and co-ordinator Geraldine Fitzsimmons reports that it was a tremendous success.
This year’s auction raised $17,000.
The Playhouse Auction is the Playhouse’s one major fund raiser and is always a popular event with the community. It is one of the first Holiday events in the area and those attending enjoy a fine meal, socializing and the fun of bidding on a wide range of products and services donated by businesses, organizations and individuals within the community.
Fitzsimmons stressed that she was amazed at the generosity of these donors and also with the extent the community turns out to play a role in the future of Upper Canada Playhouse as a valued cultural aspect of the area and a significant contributor to the local economy and tourist trade.
The auction funds will be used to create an additional storage area for the theatre’s production department and also new seats in the future.
Fitzsimmons also thanked her team of volunteers for their time and effort, the OETIO for the great space and wonderful meal and all of the supporters who helped to make this year’s Auction one of the most successful in recent years.
Concern about air pollution in Canada’s north, as shipping and mining activities in this remote region steadily increase, has led Environment Canada to install air quality monitors in two Nunavut communities. And installing those special monitors in Resolute and Cape Dorset during this past May was Dr. Ralf Staebler.
Staebler is a name that is very familiar within the community of South Dundas.
Ralf’s parents, Manfred and Helga, who immigrated to Canada from Germany, farm just outside Iroquois, although brother Michael now operates the family business with his father. Ralf continues to call this area home as many members of his immediate family still live in South Dundas. However, Ralf’s career, since leaving his Eastern Ontario home town, has taken him to the farthest reaches of the great North, and placed him at the cutting edge of air quality research.
“My love of technology and nature inspired me to pursue a career in the field of air quality,” Staebler said. “I’ve been building gadgets since I was six, and I’ve always been an avid outdoors guy. This job in the science and technology branch gives me some of each.”
A graduate in 1985 of Seaway District High School in Iroquois, Staebler was intensely interested in the sciences. He particularly remembers the late Wayne Johnston, who was his calculus teacher, and Rick Mackenzie, who was his chemistry instructor.
His passion for the sciences took him to Queen’s University in Kingston, where he earned a BScE in engineering physics, followed by an MSc in atmospheric physics from the University of Toronto. He was granted his PhD in atmospheric sciences by the State University of New York in Albany. In marked contrast to where he spends most of his time now, Ralf did his PhD field work in the Amazon jungles of Brazil.
He is employed with Environment Canada, and has gone to the Arctic specifically to study issues related to ozone depletions near the surface, carbon uptake by forests and various other topics involving the emission and deposition of pollutants.
“I get to work on high-tech equipment and I get to make measurements in the Arctic, in forests, on aircraft, wherever there is a need for more data.”
Officially, Staebler’s home is in Toronto, and he works in Downsview. He is in charge of the Borden Research Station at CFB Borden, and spends much time there. But he has also been sent to such places as Alert, Nunavut, Barrow, Alaska, and put to sea on the Amundsen research icebreaker.
The rugged, empty terrain of the Arctic is a far cry from the gentler temperatures and changing geography he grew up with, but he has come to love the north. “The vast empty spaces and the harsh, but beautiful, pristine landscapes in the Arctic really put things in perspective. It’s a very addictive place,” he explained.
On his recent trip to the Arctic, he installed air quality monitors at Resolute and Cape Dorset which will keep an eye on increasing ship traffic, and the nature and extent of various pollutants in the north as the sea ice disappears. This summer, Staebler is going to the Alberta Oil Sands to participate in a large air quality study organized by Environment Canada.
For Ralf Staebler, his chosen field gives him an opportunity to “think outside the box, to tackle problems that have never been tackled before.”
He enjoys working with his colleagues, exploring new and intriguing ideas.
“I like to think that what we do is important, to ensure a liveable planet for future generations,” Dr. Ralf Staebler said. He hopes to continue his work in the Arctic and in other parts of Canada affected by pollution.
“Canada is the custodian of a huge portion of the Arctic. It is our responsibility to take care of our own backyard.”
“George is absolutely bowled ‘agoogaly’ by his wife’s announcement,” said actor Brian Young, who plays George Harper in Upper Canada Playhouse’s new comedy, Wife Begins At Forty, coming August 2 until the 26th. “He thought he was happily married, nicely content and all was well. And then his wife Linda informs him that after 17 years of marriage, she wants a change. And he isn’t part of it.”
George’s frantic efforts to save his marriage and his happy domesticity are the subject of the Playhouse’s sparkling Arne Sultan, Earl Barret and Ray Cooney comedy, Wife Begins At Forty. Set in the home George and Linda share with their teenaged son, Leonard, George’s elderly father, Bernard, and the family dog, Chopper, the play reflects the ups and downs of married life with a sure and very funny touch.
The play has all the traditional and hilarious trappings of farce, but Richard Bauer, who directs the production, describes Wife as “a family farce. Not so many doors slamming. And we have a tremendous backstage crew. They definitely control the chaos and keep us in line. John Thompson designed our set and Sean Free built it and is handling our technical side.”
Bauer, who plays the role of neighbour Roger Dixon, also has a strong and talented cast with which to work comedy magic.
Fresh from the outstanding Playhouse production of Here on the Flight Path, is Melanie Janzen as Betty Dixon.
“I think I am trying to channel Ethel Mertz (from the classic I Love Lucy show) in this role,” Janzen explained at the press conference. “Betty is supportive and wise in her own way and she understands that marriage does have its trials.”
As Roger, Bauer describes his character as “a bit of a cad and a playboy. He and Betty sort of stir the pot and offer advice to the Harpers. In fact, Roger is trying to ‘arrange George’s affairs.’”
Walter Learning who directed Flight Path, plays Bernard, George’s elderly father, a former R. A. F. pilot from World War II.
“Bernard is full of vim and vigor and he loves life, including his little flirtations with Mrs. D.,” Learning laughs. “It’s true that he’ll share war stories with anyone who will listen, and he has become a bit forgetful by times, but he has a deep affection for his family.”
That family also includes grandson Leonard, played by UCP newcomer, Kyle Orzech.
“It’s been wonderful here at Upper Canada Playhouse,” the 22-year-old actor said. “I’m very comfortable in this role, working with older people. (“Not that old,” the rest of the cast chimed in). Sorry, ‘seasoned professionals’ I should say. Leonard is a typical 17-year-old, more interested in doing his own thing. Frankly, Leonard can be a bit of a punk, living for himself. But it is great to play this character.”
The focal point of the comedy is the obviously changing relationship between George and Linda, a married couple played by Brian Young and Alison Lawrence, who are, in fact, an actual married couple.
“Yes, we met doing a production of Wrong For Each Other,” Young laughed. “Turned out we were right for each other.”
Is it challenging to be a genuine couple and to play a couple breaking up?
“Brian and I have worked together seven times,” Lawrence explained. “On stage we have developed a kind of ‘short hand’ and that makes it easier to get into our characters. We separate real life from the acting.”
“Since George and Linda have intimate moments together,” Young added, “it’s really so much easier doing them with your actual wife.”
The last cast member is South Dundas boy, Chopper Thom, a Golden Retriever making his acting debut as Chopper Harper, the family dog.
“It was a little challenging holding dog auditions,” director Bauer said. “We brought Chopper out for audiences and asked them to clap and shout, and he seemed quite comfortable. Of course, a dog can upstage you,” he added with a laugh, “so he keeps the rest of the actors on their toes.”
“Chopper is a joy,” Learning said. “He loves everyone.”
Laughter is set to begin again at Upper Canada Playhouse on August 2 when this newest production in the theatre’s outstanding summer season opens its doors.
Tickets for Wife Begins At Forty are available at the box office or by calling 613-543-3713.