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Markham Little Theatre returns with Drinking Alone

After a triumphant return to live performance last year, Markham Little Theatre returns for its 2023/2024 season with Norm Foster’s Drinking Alone for nine performances between September 20 and 30 at the Backstage Theatre on the Markham Museum grounds.

For the past few full seasons, Markham Little Theatre has produced its first show at the group’s rehearsal space, converted into the 100-seat black box Backstage Theatre at the Markham Museum, before returning to the Markham Theatre stage. This season will be no different. Of course, Markham Little Theatre treasures its long-standing relationship with the Markham Theatre and still produces the majority of its shows there, but the habit of doing a show a year at the museum has become something of a cherished tradition as well.

“Our director, Marlene Foran, has directed numerous plays at Backstage,” explains Sarah McDonald, one of the show’s producers. “She understands both the limitations and strengths of a small space and is able to create worlds that have thrilled our audiences.”

“The Backstage theatre is the perfect venue for intimate character-driven plays, Drinking Alone is such a play,” says Marlene Foran, the show’s director. “Foster explores the complexities of a family in a poignant and comedic way. Backstage is the perfect place to become involved in this family’s life.”

In the show, the leading character, Joe Todd, organizes a birthday party for his estranged father while simultaneously hiring an escort to pose as his fiancé. Family secrets and conflicts soon erupt long before the cake comes out at this dysfunctional family reunion.

The five-person cast features a mix of stalwart and fresh faces. Longtime MLTers, Tristan Stansfield, Mark Boyko and Judy Atherton are joined by newcomers Puneet Bajwa, Lindsay Woodford.

“This cast is five actors who bring experience, creativity and heart,” Foran says. “It has been such an enjoyable experience to bring these characters and this play to life.”

“There’s been a lot of laughter and comradery during rehearsals, adds McDonald, “we are looking forward to a wonderful show.”

Of course, in addition to familiar faces onstage, audiences will also recognize the writing of Norm Foster; a Canadian playwright who, while quietly becoming something of a legend in regional theatre circles, has been featured by Markham Little Theatre regularly and far more than any other single playwright.

“Foster is definitely one of our favourite playwrights,” McDonald says. “His characters and their circumstances feel familiar and there are moments of revelation that make Foster’s story-telling more than simple comedy, and we know that our audiences enjoy the mix of truth and humour.”

“The challenge in the production is that Norm Foster delicately balances the comedy with tragedy,” Foran explains. “The challenge is to recognize where both occur and seamlessly blend them. The play addresses serious issues but is also funny, which heightens the enjoyment.”

Company members are always quick to point out that while Markham Little Theatre has earned the kind of praise for over five decades that is usually reserved for a professional company, it remains an entirely volunteer organization…and, something of a family.

“Most audience members don’t realize the number of people it takes to put together a performance. More than just actors and directors there are designers, builders, stage managers, producers, crew; at times the list feels endless,” McDonald says. “Our cast and crew come together simply for the love of the show, but it’s a lot of work. We are always looking for new volunteers.”

This tradition of coming together is likely the true key to MLT’s ongoing success and might also be why starting their season with a show about family is a good idea.

“Come see Drinking Alone and be a part of the family,” says Foran.

Markham Little Theatre’s production of Drinking Alone runs September 20-23 and  27-30 at Markham Little Theatre’s Backstage Theatre on the grounds of the Markham Museum. All shows start at 8 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. matinée on Saturday, September 30. Tickets are on sale through the Flato Markham Theatre box office at (905) 305-7469

Visit markhamtheatre.ca for more details or to purchase tickets.

Photo (L-R): The cast of Drinking Alone from left to right: Judy Atherton, Mark Boyko, Tristan Stansfield, Puneet Bajwa, and Lindsay Woodford.

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