For the first time in eight seasons, The Foster Festival has assembled an all-female creative team and acting company for its highly anticipated production of “Jenny’s House of Joy” by Canada’s most prolific playwright, Norm Foster.
“Director Lisa Horner and I started talking about assembling an all-female team for this production when we were working on ‘1812’ at Fort George last year,” said Foster Festival artistic director Emily Oriold.
“With the desire to continue to give women directors opportunities at the festival, I asked Lisa if she had ever considered directing. Lisa immediately accepted the opportunity and we talked about assembling an all female creative team. I am beyond thrilled that we were able to make it happen,” said Oriold.
“What a wonderful opportunity to tell a story of women and the hard journeys they have to take, relationships they try to maintain and how they find their way in the world they find themselves in. It is a privilege to tell this story, I can’t wait to share ‘Jenny’s House of Joy’ with festival audiences,” said director Lisa Horner.
As an actor, Horner appeared as Vi in The Foster Festival’s 2016 world premiere of “Halfway There” and Henrietta in “1812,” which The Foster Festival premiered at Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake last year.
She also spent four seasons at the Shaw Festival and has appeared on stages all across Canada in productions such as the hit Canadian musical “Come From Away.” J
“enny’s House of Joy” marks her first time directing for a professional theatre and The Foster Festival is thrilled to be her canvas.
The play is set in 1871 Kansas where Jenny Starbuck runs the best little house of ill-repute. When a tireless young runaway comes begging for a job, all five women at Jenny’s house will find out what it will cost to stay true to themselves. It’s a delightful comedy that resonates with the spirit of resilience and camaraderie.
“Jenny’s House of Joy” is the companion piece to “Outlaw” by Norm Foster which the festival presented this past June at the historic barn at Ball’s Falls in Lincoln.
“It is the first time that any theatre company has offered these two pieces in the same season,” said Oriold. “These two plays are not what one might expect from Foster and whether theatregoers are able to see both or only take in one of the plays, they will be pleasantly surprised by what they discover.”
Playing the title character of Jenny Starbuck is Niagara-on-the-Lake actor Catherine McGregor. “I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a show that has had an all-female cast and creative team. But it is magical,” said McGregor.
“The energy in the room is palpably joyful. Lisa Horner, of course, has so much to do with that, but there is also something about the level of comfort, the shorthand that we, as women share that has brought an incredible intimacy to the work in a very short time. I hope that’s what the audience will see and feel when they come into Jenny’s house for a spell.”
McGregor has been pulling double-duty these past few weeks. Not only is she starring in “Jenny’s,” she just opened the doors to a new franchise of Craig’s Cookies in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“The shop is going incredibly well,” said McGregor. “We are so very grateful for all of the lovely local folks who have come in to say hi and buy cookies, or pop their heads back in the next day to tell us how much they enjoyed them. But, most importantly, I would like to enthusiastically shout out to my magnificent business partners, Dani, Jason, and my business (and personal) partner, Phillip, who have all been unfailingly supportive and understanding of the time and focus it takes to make shows like Jenny’s happen.”
The all-female cast is rounded out by Donna Belleville as Clara, Julia Dyan as Frances, Zoe O’Connor as Natalie, and Kelly J. Seo as Anita.
“Jenny’s House of Joy” runs Aug. 9 to 20 at the Mandeville Theatre at Ridley College in St. Catharines. For more information and to secure your tickets, visit fosterfestival.com or contact the box office at 1-844-735-4832 ext. 3.