What encapsulates summer in Muskoka better than a laid-back weekend on an island cottage, beautiful sunsets over the lake and…murder?
Equal parts comedy and drama, the new play Cottage Killer Weekend is a Muskoka production through and through.
Scheduled to hit the stage at the Rene Caisse Theatre beginning July 15, the production is not only set on Lake Muskoka but features a Muskoka author, director, production team, set designers and actors hailing from Novar to Severn Bridge.
“The material would be good any time of year, but it’s that much better in the summer when cottagers are here,” says Derek Shelly, the director of Cottage Killer Weekend. “People can identify with having their filtration on the cottage go wacky or the dock break loose in a storm.”
Cottage Killer Weekend captures the joys as well as the frustrations of the Muskoka cottage experience, says Shelly, from the glory of evening sunsets to the torrential downpours of summer storms. At times a madcap comedy, the play explores the coming to terms of who we are with the wistful longing for long lost love and the thrill of new found romance, all set in the magnificent landscape of our all-too-short Muskoka summers, he says.
The production first got rolling roughly three years when the director and the playwright, retired Bracebridge teacher Paul Arril, met by happenstance.
“We were at the same dinner theatre play and we were put at the same table,” says Shelly. “We got talking about writing. I had just published a novella that I had written, and he said I’ve written some plays. I said I’d love to read one and he sent me one. I couldn’t stop laughing, I didn’t want to put it down.”
The pair decided the play should be put on during the summer months to catch more cottagers who might relate to the material.
The cast was selected from across Muskoka, and Shelly says their level of experience varies widely.
“It’s a great bunch of actors,” he says. “Some of them have a lot of experience and for some of them it’s their first big stage experience. It’s amazing to watch them as actors and to watch them grow into the role.”
Despite the geographical challenges of having actors from across Muskoka, Shelly says the cast has been dedicated and coming out consistently for the rehearsals.
Having the Bracebridge-based author Paul Arril readily available is a perk most productions don’t enjoy, says Shelly.
“Normally if you can get in touch with the playwright, you’re lucky but I’ve invited Paul to come to any rehearsals he wants to,” says Shelly. “It’s great because he doesn’t interfere with the directing but he’s right there if the actors have a question.”
Although the play is being produced by Huntsville-based Trinity Drama Group, it will be on stage at the Rene Caisse Theatre, and proceeds will go to both the Trinity United Church in Huntsville and the Rene Caisse.
Cottage Killer Weekend runs from July 15 to July 24. The public can contact the Rene Caisse Theatre for more information or tickets.