Maxim Mazumdar, a well-known Canadian actor and director, toured Newfoundland and Labrador between 1976 and 1978 as an adjudicator for the Provincial Drama Festival, a showcase for amateur acting groups in the province. He returned in the spring of 1979 to once again adjudicate, with the festival taking place that year in Stephenville.
He was impressed by the calibre of the performers who had gathered for the festival, and recognized the potential this culturally rich area had to offer. He was also impressed with a Stephenville committee interested in starting a summer acting school for local youth. The seeds for what would become Newfoundland and Labrador’s first professional theatre festival had been sown.
Mazumdar established the Provincial Drama Academy as a place for local people to learn about theatre, work with established theatre professionals and practise the craft. The first drama class of ’79 and a small faculty worked punishingly long days and nights during the summer to present “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “Macbeth” — which Stephenville Theatre Festival considers to be its very first season.
Many people supported Mazumdar, the Festival’s founding Artistic Director, with a commitment that was unparalleled in professional theatre development in this region of Canada — and the Festival emerged to become one of Canada’s most eclectic and exciting repertory theatre companies.
“The Stephenville Festival experience is unique in that it offers a distinctive performance of works that entertain and enlighten. Performances that burn themselves into your memory!” stated Mazumdar in 1986. “Remember Gordon Pinsent in ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, Barbara Chilcott as Sarah Bernhardt, John Gilpin in ‘Oh Coward!’, Meghan Robinson in ‘Guys and Dolls’, Cliff LeJeune in ‘Superstar’, among a host of others? Remember Tom Kerr’s production of ‘Waiting for the Parade’, Edmund MacLean’s ‘Galileo’ by Eric Bentley, the Kabuki ‘Godspell’? All these are part of that special Festival magic.”
The rest, as they say, is history!
Since its very beginning, Stephenville Theatre Festival has enriched the economic and cultural sectors of the Town of Stephenville and has become a major draw for the tourism of the Bay St. George area. The Festival has provided training and hands on experience for numerous artists, many of whom are now counted among Canada’s top professionals. Further, the Festival provides seasonal jobs for many local residents.
Staying true to the vision of Maxim Mazumdar, the Festival is ‘committed to the production of diverse, innovative, and courageous professional theatre that entertains, engages and delights audiences while stretching creative and artistic boundaries’.
We will mount our 38th Season in 2016, building on the strengths of our people and our culture. We will provide a season strong in Canadian and Newfoundland and Labrador content, designed to appeal to local audiences and our tourists.