(Robert More, Managing Director, The Foster Festival & Emily Oriold, Founding Executive Director)
"On behalf of the Foster Festival Board of Directors, I have a bittersweet announcement to make," says Glen McCann, Board Chair, The Foster Festival.
"After four seasons, our beloved and founding Executive Director, Emily Oriold, has decided to leave The Foster Festival in order to spend some more time with her young family and to pursue some personal opportunities that afford the flexibility of schedule that a young family demands. We are very supportive of her decision but, of course, we are very sorry to lose her; her skillful administration, her delightful personality and her essential Emilyness. Emily assures us that she will continue to support the Festival and the Board intends to hold her to that," says McCann.
"We are also pleased to announce that Robert More has accepted our offer to join the Festival as our new Managing Director (yes, we made a slight title change). Robert comes with a great deal of experience (see the interview with Trish within) and is a highly respected arts administrator. We are fortunate to have him and we look forward to a long and successful collaboration."
"The world and the lives within it, are in a constant state of change. That is no different at the Foster Festival," says Norm Foster, Playwright. "At present I find myself transitioning between two dear friends. Emily Oriold, whose brainchild became The Foster Festival, and the incoming Robert More, a man I have known and admired for many years," Foster added.
"Emily, will be missed beyond description. There is no denying that. And Robert and his experience will be very welcome additions to our family. This transition is the very definition of bittersweet."
"As a HUGE fan of Norm Foster's work, it was my dream to found a theatre festival that celebrates the works of Canada's most popular Playwright," says Emily Oriold, Founding Executive Director.
"I can now say that this dream has been achieved - we have worked very hard these past five years building a foundation for this new festival. I cannot wait to see it soar from here," says Oriold.
Excited to begin their new partnership, Foster Festival Artistic Director Patricia Vanstone sat down with Robert to welcome him and have a one on one discussion about his new role as Managing Director at The Foster Festival. Their interview follows...
Enter Stage Right – Introducing Managing Director Robert More
Trish: Welcome to the Foster Festival, Robert! You’ve blown in on the wings of Hurricane Dorian from Parrsboro Nova Scotia but you’ve got a wonderful rich history of theatre work here in Ontario. Tell us about some of your favourites….
Robert: Yes, driving through 150 kilometre winds and making detours around flooded roads was exciting to say the least, but once things settled down, a lot of memories about working in Ontario theatre for thirty years started to roll through my mind. Here’s one favourite. We did a show called Summer Garden at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover in 1992 and 1999.
Trish: Hey, that’s where we met, right?
Robert: That’s right! Summer Garden was about a dance pavilion that was at the very heart the community from 1921 to the early 1970’s. Very upbeat entertainment with much humour but in places also very emotional. At the end of 1992 production when the stage lights came up, there was dead silence for what seemed an eternity, and then the audience stood and started to applaud. Two curtain calls, three, four, house lights went up but the audience kept on applauding and wouldn’t leave. One review said, Summer Garden “put the soul of Haldimand-Norfolk on stage”. One of those shows that totally swept people away. Love it when that happens.
Trish: And that’s why we do what we do! The powerful memories and emotions and of course the laughs. But we can all remember a potential disaster too!
Robert: Of course, things in theatre don’t always go according to plan, and sometimes we have to improvise – fast! Here’s a good Norm Foster story. During one matinee of The Love List at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia the lights when out because of a storm.
Trish: Ha! We had a few “dark” moments last summer during the run of Hilda’s Yard! Go on….
Robert: Everyone assumed we would stop the show, but there was only 20 minutes to go and things were going gangbusters, so I grabbed 4 large camping-sized flashlights, and after making a good-humoured “we’re in this all together” announcement to the packed house, myself and one usher shone light on whoever was speaking from one side of the stage while two other ushers did the same from the other side. And it worked! The audience loved it, gave the cast a raucous standing ovation, left the auditorium buzzing and asked if we could do that again for the next show!
Trish: Speaking of Norm, you’re certainly no stranger to his work …
Robert: No point in being shy about it – I love Norm’s plays. I’ve known him for years and produced/directed several of his shows – Here On The Flight Path, Affections of May, The Foursome – and every time I’ve been amazed at his ability to write about people we can relate to and have the audiences laughing from beginning to end.
Trish: And now here you are as we launch our 5th season. What excites you about the challenges ahead?
Robert: I’m truly excited to be part of a team that will “tell the world” about this talented writer, and to take on the key challenge of building a core audience that will see the Foster Festival become the new star in the constellation of Ontario Theatre.
Trish: The Foster Festival is really taking off as a cultural anchor in downtown St Catharines. What excites you about the move to our community?
Robert: I think the Niagara District is one of the most dynamic and culturally rich areas in the province, and there is no question in my mind that St. Catharines, a city with so many amenities to offer which is geographically perfectly positioned for success, is definitely on its way to being a leading light for quality of life in this region. The Garden City offers a social-entertainment environment here that has its own unique combination of everything necessary to create a reputation for being one of the best “go to” places in the province. If we all work together and play our program development cards right, I believe St. Catharines has a shot of becoming one of those iconic arts and culture destinations that will draw people not just from across Ontario, but from all across Canada. Hey, do the work, connect to people, and dream big. Why not?
Trish: You’re hitting the ground running with our first Holiday show Aunt Agnes For Christmas opening on December 11th but what a great opportunity to start connecting immediately with our audiences!
Robert: Love the fact that the Foster Festival is doing a Holiday Show! And as a brand new Norm Foster play, you just know that it’s going to be a joyful ”knock your socks off’” entertainment for the whole family. And for me personally, this is a wonderful way to begin. Aunt Agnes is a marketer’s dream and it’s the kind of show that will do what theatre does best - bring people of all ages and all walks of life together in a shared experience. And one other, very important thing. Theatre is a team sport, and what the team of Artistic Director Trish Vanstone and Executive Director Emily Oriold has done here in only four years is amazing. I am truly honoured to be part of it.
Trish: You’re gonna love our audiences and they are gonna love you! Welcome aboard the good ship Foster.
Robert: Thank you. Let the “St. Catharines rising star games” continue!