Artistic Director Gil Garratt announces new Blyth Festival Season
BLYTH — New Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt says he has burned the midnight oil to bring theatre-goers a season of his own in 2015.
The Festival announced its upcoming season late last week and in an interview with Garratt shortly after the announcement, when asked about the groundwork for the 2015 season laid out by former artistic director Marion de Vries, he says next season is very much one that he has curated.
When deciding which plays to bring to Blyth audiences next year, he said he felt a number of responsibilities resting on his shoulders.
“There are ideas like fiscal responsibility and those are important, but it’s the same when it comes to artistic responsibility,” he said in an interview with The Citizen. “The Blyth audience demands a show of a certain calibre.”
The season will open on June 24 with Seeds, written by Annabel Soutar. When Garratt first saw the play, he says, he couldn’t believe it hadn’t been produced in Blyth.
The play follows the case of Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto (a case that went all the way to the supreme court) and the young, pregnant playwright who travels to get to the bottom of the story.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the play, Garratt says, is the way it portrays the contemporary farmer.
“Too many plays portray farmers as the old guys sitting on their porch telling stories about when they had a team of Clydesdales in the field,” he said. “Today’s farmer has to be a savvy economist and a shrewd politician.”
Garratt says that farming has changed and in today’s digital age, the true portrait of a farmer is someone who’s in line at the local credit union while at the same time checking prices in Dubai on his cell phone.
He also praises Soutar’s handling of the 2004 court case, which was anything but straightforward. He says Soutar doesn’t offer any easy conclusions on Monsanto, Schmeiser or the issue of GMO (genetically-modified organisms) seeds.
He says the play will ignite a lot of debate and that Blyth is the perfect place for that debate.
“You know what shocked me the first time I saw it? That it didn’t begin here,” Garratt said. “This was the biggest agriculture headline since BSE – so where were we?”
By Shawn Loughlin, the Citizen, November 26, 2014