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Cast, Crew, Costumes . . . and Coward!
 Markham Little Theatre's Hay Fever
has the best of all worlds!

Article by Grant Weaver, photos by Charles Lue,

Judith Bliss (Michele Browne) comforts son Simon (Tal Saron) and daughter Sorel (Riley Raymer)
during yesterday's non-dress rehearsal.


(Nov. 16, 2008)    On Wednesday, November 19 Markham Little Theatre begins its four-performance run of Hay Fever, a comedy by Noel Coward.  Under director Elizabeth Wyatt, fans both new and old of MLT can look forward to a delightful evening featuring a talented cast, gorgeous set and costumes, and let us not forget, one of the wittiest scripts of this great British playwright.

     Noel Coward’s specialty was the comedy of manners.   

     “In this case,” Elizabeth Wyatt explained, “it is more a comedy of bad manners!”

      Judith and David Bliss, along with their son and daughter, Simon and Sorel, each invite an acquaintance to spend a weekend with them at their country home.  The four guests soon find themselves having to contend with hosts whose love of drama blurs reality and imagination in some very disconcerting ways. 

      In our coverage of MLT's productions, we usually focus on the actors. And the cast of Hay Fever is deep in talent and experience. This time decided that we would give centre stage to the people who create the set, who work out of the spotlight but whose contribution to a production’s success is indispensible.  

      Today, we spent the afternoon at Markham Theatre For Performing Arts witnessing at first hand a hive of activity as Markham Little Theatre's set building crew erected the exquisite decor they have worked on for the last two months.

       The set, of course, begins with an idea.  Set designer Ron Brownsberger, an eighteen-year veteran with MLT, found the image he was looking for in a photo of Bateman House, an elegant English house once lived in by Rudyard Kipling. 

      Twenty people have since been involved in the building, painting and dressing of the set.  Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings have been busy days in the workshop at MLT's Backstage rehearsal venue on the grounds of Markham Museum.  But it is only today, the Sunday prior to opening night, that the company can move the set onto the stage at Markham Theatre.  So a lot has to happen in a very short time. 

     Yesterday, the set and furniture were loaded onto the rented truck.  At 9 a.m. this morning, the flats  arrived at the loading bay at Markham Theatre where ten volunteers were already waiting to start carrying the pieces onto the stage.  Ron Brownsberger had all the flats and pieces numbered and the crew could begin assembling right away.  Armed with cordless drills and screwdrivers, two teams worked, one on the left side of the stage, and the other on the right.  When they met in the middle, the biggest part was done! 

     We’re going to meet the cast a little further on but first let's enjoy some images of these intrepid set-builders in action as they put together an English country home!

Will Davison and Martin Smith
take things one step at a time.
Eric Lebolloch lends
his support.

Rene Vriends, when not doing
painting, poster, program, and
publicity (thus his nickname
the P-Man), also assists
lighting designer Peter Darg.
Leslie Tunnicliff has
no fear of heights.
Grant Williams
steps up.
Lester Davis and Harry Hall
 team up at the saw.
Ann Davison does
some touching up.
Judy Heffernan prepares
a floral touch.
When Peggy Wyatt gets to work,
it's curtains!
Margaret Brownsberger spares
no pane.
Ross Liversage attends
to detail.

     Costumes present another challenge. 

     “There is a cast of nine,” explained Producer Angela Stewart, “and each has three costume changes.”

     The first costume designer got work well under way before having to leave the company when a full-time theatrical job came up.  Priscilla Marr then stepped in to complete the task admirably.

     Staying within budget was another test that has been met, Angela told us.  And, as Ron Brownsberger pointed out, the great benefit of non-profit community theatre is that you can enjoy a professional quality theatre production at an accessible price.

     Director Elizabeth Wyatt has won many directorial awards in her long career with Markham Little Theatre but this is her first Noel Coward play.  The company has performed two other Coward plays, Blythe Spirit and Fallen Angel.  This is their first time staging Hay Fever.

     “Noel Coward,” she told us, “always said that directors should just let the words speak for themselves and not try to do too much physical comic business.”

     As Liz explained, the challenge for lead actress, Michele Browne, and ultimately for all the Bliss family cast members, is that they are playing characters who are themselves acting a part. 

     “At various points,” Liz said, “her whole family picks up on this.  They have lived with Mother for so long that they become overdramatic themselves.”  

      In the afternoon, while the builders and set dressers were still at work on the stage, Liz led her actors through a rehearsal, out of costume, in the large rehearsal space down the hall from the theatre.  Tomorrow, the cast will rehearse on stage for the first time.  This will be a cue-to-cue rehearsal, aimed at coordinating all the movements, lighting and sound effects.  Tuesday will be dress rehearsal when everything will run as if the audience were there.  And Wednesday evening . . . show time!

     Liz has brought together an extraordinary cast.  Michele Browne commands the stage as Judith Bliss.  Michele’s real life husband, Terry Browne, plays David Bliss.  The Bliss couple's son Simon is played by Tal Saron, a new recruit to the company.  The young, but already very experienced, Riley Raymer plays daughter Sorel.  The unfortunate weekend guests are Myra Arundel played by Shari Thorne-Kowalski, Sandy Tyrell played by Rob Notman, Richard Greatham played by Andrew Horbatuik, and Jackie Coryton played by Kate O’Hearn.  The maid Clara is played by Lynne Kowalski.

Michele Browne Terry Browne Riley Raymer
Tal Saron Shari Thorne-Kowalski Rob Notman
Lynne Kowalski Andrew Horbatuik Kate O'Hearn

     Hay Fever promises to be one of Markham Little Theatre’s biggest successes.  For the second production of their 2008 - 2009 season they’ve chosen a play that has entertained audiences since its first performance in 1925.  

      The casting brings to center stage many MLT fan favourites, and one new recruit, who are sure to please. 

      The costumes evoke a colourful and fascinating period and place.

     And the set designer and his crew, many of whom you now know, have prepared a treat for you too. 

     Hay Fever runs Wednesday, November 19 to Saturday, November 22.  Tickets can be reserved through the Markham Theatre box office at 905-305-SHOW (7469).

     For complete show details, click here.

     For more information about Markham Little Theatre, visit their website at



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