Musical comedy tour could raise $25,000+ for local hospitals

Last week, Stone Fence Theatre staff met with fundraisers for Ottawa Valley hospitals to plan a tour of its new show, High Times at the Heart Institute, with hopes to raise at least $25,000 for health care.

The play, written by the company's producer Ish Theilheimer and directed by Chantal Elie-Sernoskie, celebrates Canada's health care system and takes a humorous look at aging Boomers coming to terms with mortality.

"It was inspired by my own personal experience as a patient at the Ottawa Heart Institute," says Mr. Theilheimer. "I have been so impressed by the care and service I've received both at the Institute and at the local hospitals that are tied in with it."

The tour begins with two supper shows in the company's home venue, the Eganville Community Arena. After that, it goes on the road with theatre-style seating and no catering at shows. The first stop on the tour is the Renfrew Recreation Centre on October 21 and 22.

Barb Desilets at Renfrew Victoria Hospital, which has provided many of the costumes for the show, is looking forward to the event. "RVH is excited to be part of this project and looking forward to the production coming to Renfrew. Ish and his team have been working very hard and want to raise awareness and funds for healthcare facilities in our area. We are encouraging our community to come out and show gratitude by supporting this event. It sounds like it will be very entertaining."

The tour then moves to the stage at MVDHS in Barry’s Bay on October 29. Toni Lavigne-Conway of the St. Frances Valley Healthcare Foundation in Barry’s Bay expects a full house there. "We are delighted to be a part of this great fundraising partnership and initiative that will benefit local healthcare including the invaluable Cardiac Rehab Program running at St Francis Memorial Hospital," said Ms. Lavigne-Conway. "It benefits so many, eliminating the drive to the city that used to be required to participate in a program like this."

After that it goes to Childs Auditorium at Mackenzie Community School in Deep River on November 12; Calvin United Church in Pembroke on November 18 and 19, the Old Town Hall Theatre in Almonte on November 26 and the Hellenic Centre in Ottawa on January 20 and 21. Plans are in the works, as well, for a tour stop in Arnprior in Spring.

The show's plot involves four heart patients who find themselves thrust together by their health issues. They include Bobby (John Haslam) and Wendy (Fran Pinkerton), two aging rock and rollers and exes who can't stand each other, left-wing cynic Arthur (Peter Brown), and Tea Party American Maggie (Lesley Sneddon), whose health insurance company leaves her high and dry. Toni (Shirley Hill), a stressed-out and overworked nurse tries to cope with all their needs. In the end, Wendy uses a secret from her old hippie days to save the day. Conrad Boyce, Nigel Epps, Cathy Lyons and Elaine Neigel make up the chorus, known as "The Interns."  Derek Tolhurst plays bass, Evan Burgess plays guitar, and Mr. Theilheimer plays percussion in the show.

Supper show tickets in Eganville cost $39.82 for the Preview on October 1 and $45.13 for the opening on October 15, which features an appearance from Dr. Wilbert Keon, a native of Chapeau who founded the Ottawa Heart Institute.

All other shows - which are uncatered - cost $25.66 per ticket. HST is charged on all tickets, with proceeds after expenses going to support the hospitals in towns being visited and the Heart Institute.

"If we fill all the halls we visit, we'll raise at least $25,000 for local health care," said Mr. Theilheimer. "And at each show, the local hospitals and the Heart Institute will be able to tell their stories, which are very important. I think people will find it a great way to combine a good time and a good cause."

Tickets for all shows are available from Stone Fence Theatre's box office at 613-628-6600 or, toll-free, 1-866-310-1004, online at www.stonefence.ca or from local outlets in the towns the tour is visiting. 

Stone Fence Theatre