LIGHT­HOUSE THEATRE A BEA­CON OF LAUGHS

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - EMMA REILLY ereilly@thes­pec.com 905-526-2452 | @Em­maatTheSpec

For Derek Ritschel, sum­mer in Port Dover means three things: a juicy foot-long hot­dog, a walk along the beach, and com­edy.

Ritschel, the artis­tic direc­tor of the Light­house Theatre, knows that peo­ple come to the iconic beach town to re­lax and to have a good time — and he’s happy to de­liver with a gamut of side-split­ting plays.

“We re­ally make sure that when peo­ple come to Light­house, they’re go­ing to have a good time,” he said. “It’s a sum­mer town. Our col­lars are open, and our con­vert­ible tops are down — if we’re lucky enough to have one.”

This year’s Light­house shows in­clude “The Num­bers Game,” a ro­man­tic com­edy; “Baskerville,” a retelling of the clas­sic Sher­lock Holmes tale; “Ladies Four­some,” an en­sem­ble com­edy that takes place dur­ing a round of golf; and “The Full Mounty,” an off-the-wall farce that pits a dis­graced Moun­tie against evil Amer­i­can hench­men at­tempt­ing to steal Canada’s water sup­ply.

But the Light­house’s fo­cus on com­edy doesn’t mean the plays lack depth. In­deed, sev­eral of the plays on this year’s bill flirt with darker sub­ject mat­ter. In “Ladies Four­some” — orig­i­nally writ­ten for a cast of four men — the char­ac­ters play tribute to an old friend who has just passed away. “Baskerville” of­fers the spooky am­bi­ence of a good mys­tery.

“There’s all these heavy themes, but they’re all sprin­kled with com­edy,” said Ritschel.

Be­hind the scenes, the fes­ti­val is also cel­e­brat­ing an ad­di­tion this year: a new re­hearsal hall. For the first time, this $175,000 project gives the Light­house ac­tors a chance to

flex their dra­matic mus­cles in a ded­i­cated space.

“We’ve never had a re­hearsal hall to our­selves,” said Ritschel. “We’ve re­hearsed in barns, store­fronts, le­gions, churches, gym­na­si­ums. One time we re­hearsed in the fair­grounds.”

The Fes­ti­val is also em­bark­ing on an­other am­bi­tious project: in­stalling new theatre seats. Called the “Get Cheeky” cam­paign, the move is based on a sur­vey that showed the No. 1 re­quest of pa­trons was more com­fort­able seat­ing.

The theatre hopes to raise $100,000 by Septem­ber to fund the project, though Ritschel says the cushy new seat­ing will be in­stalled in time for next sea­son, even if the fundrais­ing cam­paign falls short.

“The seats will go in first two weeks of Jan­uary, no mat­ter what.”

MELISSA MCLAY, BLACKBIRD PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Derek Ritschel: Plays have heavy themes sprin­kled with com­edy

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