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Stephenville Theatre Festival returns to the stage

Ben Pittman is the general manager of the Stephenville Theatre Festival. – Courtesy of


Special to the Wreckhouse Weekly

Stephenville, NL – After being forced to cancel last season and the closure of many businesses and live performance venues due to health restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19, the curtain is set to rise once again on the Stephenville Theatre Festival.

Now in its 43rd edition, the festival opens on Friday, July 23 with the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”. The selection, based on a book by Rachel Sheinkin and scored by William Finn, shows six youth as they take place in an old time spelling while sharing stories from their home lives.

“It is hilarious,” said Ben Pittman, the festival’s general manager. “It’s been quite popular (elsewhere) the last few years. A lot of companies are doing it.”

The musical will be one of four shows performed during the summer season, and one of two full stage musicals. Other selections include Snow White, An Eye on Summer (the music of The Beach Boys), and the musical Honky Tonk Laundry.

Pittman explained that the selections performed were selected by Heather Braaten, who is returning for her fifth season as Artistic Director.

“Every year she selects her shows to do for the summer season, usually based on a combination of things – her own instincts combined with what’s popular at the time and what the community is calling out for.”

Working inside the guidelines

Pittman explained that because of the ongoing pandemic, this year’s festival will look a little different.

“With the COVID protocols, it’s not hard to sell a show out,” he chuckled. “The Arts and Culture Centre can only put a hundred people in there right now…sometimes it can be a little over a hundred. It depends on the bubble.”

Pittman added that tickets for their dinner theatre depicting the life and music of The Beach Boys, which went on sale on July 5, sold out by noon, leading them to add two additional shows that also sold out.

The shows are hosted at the Days Inn.

While there are some changes to this year’s festival, Pittman explained that back in March there was some question on if they would be able to proceed with the event.

“When we went back to level 4, there was a time there when everything was day-to-day. We didn’t know if we would even have a season, but we proceeded as normal, made our plans and it’s a good thing we did because the province has opened up, a lot of people have double vaccines, things are kind of moving forward and so are we.”

For a full schedule of shows visit

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