Take off for the Lowville Festival, eh: Second City comedy contributes to a distinctly Canadian experience

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

(cw) Allana Reoch, Greg Cochrane, Aimee Ambroziak, Josh Murray, Nadine Djoury, Sharjil Rasool in Canada: The Thinking Man’s America (photo courtesy of The Second City)

The third time truly is the charm for the Lowville Festival, which this year features a range of all-Canadian offerings that span the nostalgic, the charming – and the flat-out funny!

In an effort to avoid the sweltering July heat and competition with other annual festivals, the Lowville Festival will take place earlier this year. The fun begins on Friday, May 26, with its annual launch concert, this year called To Canada, With Love, featuring a performance by beloved Canadian guitarist Liona Boyd along with her duo partner, singer-guitarist Andrew Dolson. As has become a tradition, the concert will also feature the Lowville-Festival Choir singing Canadian compositions.

The tone shifts on Saturday May 27 from nostalgia to belly laughs, when the Lowville Festival hosts The Second City Touring Company’s Canada: The Thinking Man’s America. When someone mentions “classic Canadian comedy”, for many of us, SCTV immediately comes to mind. For my generation, SCTV was the in-thing on TV: a hilarious sketch comedy show we could watch with our families as well as our friends . . . and still be considered cool. Evocative one-liners, catchphrases and eclectic characters, cringe-worthy and uproarious – the show had it all. Sammy Maudlin, Lola Hetherington, Bob and Doug MacKenzie and Ed Grimley are just a few of the unforgettable characters to come out of this legendary show. And – incredible to ponder at the time – it was Canadian . . . and so were the actors!

Josh Murray, Allana Reoch, Aimee Ambroziak, Nadine Djoury, Sharjil Rasool, Greg Cochrane of Canada: The Thinking Man’s America (photo courtesy of The Second City)

This will be the first that the Lowville Festival presents a touring show from The Second City, which, happily, remains 100% Canadian-owned. Considered the world’s premier improv and sketch comedy theatre company, The Second City has resident stages in Toronto and Chicago, Training Centres in Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles, as well as touring companies that perform all over the world.  As the company that gave us the iconic SCTV, we can expect Canada: The Thinking Man’s America to be satirical and hilarious. Anticipate plenty of zingers aimed at our beleaguered neighbours to the south. And lest we lapse into smug superiority, be prepared for some good-natured ribbing aimed at our foibles. A hallmark of SCTV was that though it irreverently sent Canada up, it did so without ever putting us down. In a similar spirit, Canada: The Thinking Man’s America is a celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

The show is a 90-minute romp of classic and original Canadian sketch comedy, along with some hilarious, unscripted improvisation performed by 6 comedy legends-in-the-making: Josh Murray (Songbuster), Greg Cochrane (The Sketchersons), Sharjil Rasool (Odd Squad), Nadine Djoury (Newborn Moms), Allana Reoch (Panacea!) and Aimee Ambroziak (Superdude and Doctor Rude). The show includes sketches created and performed by Canada’s greatest comedic talents, and from every generation of Canadian comedy icons. It also features an assortment of recognizable characters from the last fifty years, as well as the improvisation with which The Second City is synonymous.

(cw) Allana Reoch, Greg Cochrane, Aimee Ambroziak, Josh Murray, Nadine Djoury, Sharjil Rasool (photo courtesy of The Second City)

In addition to the launch concert and Second City show, there are experiential activities at venues throughout the weekend –  including a tent in Lowville Park – to inspire the “artist in all of us,” in keeping with the Festival’s mission and motto. Despite the heavy rain falling while we speak, the overall feeling among the Festival’s co-founders is anticipation and excitement. “We are delighted that the changes we have made this year seem to be proving successful,” beams Robert Missen, artist and proprietor of the Bobolink Agency, and a 2016 inductee into the Burlington Performing Arts Centre Hall of Fame. “Moving the dates to late May, bringing in artists with a higher profile like Second City and guitarist Liona Boyd, and presenting two of our attractions in a large tent in Lowville Park are all creating quite a stir at the box office.”

“There’s no better thing to do on a weekend than drive down Guelph Line, and stop in to picnic and play,” adds Lorretta Bailey, herself one of Canada’s most accomplished performers, who is currently on the faculty of both Sheridan College and St Clair College. For her, this weekend is all about the arts coming alive within the lush environs of picturesque Lowville Park. “We live in a beautiful little hamlet in the heart of the Escarpment. To have the Big Top in Lowville Park brings it all home for me–Lowville Festival 2017 is truly reaching for the stars!”

Please note: Since the publication of this article and due to weather conditions, Canada: The Thinking Man’s America has been relocated to St. George’s Church Hall. 

Lowville Festival Founders Lorretta Bailey, Barbara Anderson-Huget and Robert Missen with production assistant Christina (photo courtesy of Lorretta Bailey)

News You Can Use

What: Canada: The Thinking Man’s America at the 3rd Annual Lowville Festival
Visit the Lowville Festival website for a full list of festival offerings and venues

Who: Audiences 14 years of age and up

When: May 27, 2017, 7:30 PM

Where: St George’s Church Hall, 7051 Guelph Line, Milton, ON

FYI: SecondCity.com

More to Explore: Read about the genesis of the Lowville Festival here.

Ⓒ2017 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

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