Against the boards

Tara Thorne plans her great theatre-based escapes.

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It's drifting into our least favourite time of year, that of sweaty, over-cologned, under-clothed summer. If you're asking us, there's only a tiny handful of reasons to go outside between June and Labour Day—they include alFresco filmFesto, Canada Day fireworks and charcoal barbecues. There's also the old Halifax tradition of getting the hell out of Dodge, and for us that means visiting the summer theatre houses. And now that they have all announced their seasons, we're pleased to help you plan to do the same.

In its second season since the death of Patrick Christopher Carter, the scrappy, venerable Shakespeare by the Sea will stage The Taming of the Shrew (opening July 14) and All's Well That Ends Well (August 11), along with its annual family show, with Pinocchio on tap this year, opening the company's 14th season on the traditional July 1.

Down in Wolfville, the Atlantic Theatre Festival opens July 17 with Shirley Valentine, the one-woman show by Brit playwright Willy Russell. On July 24, Michael Healey's beloved The Drawer Boy (like a boy who draws, not a boy who sleeps in a drawer) drops, followed on August 28 by A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Chester Playhouse's summer theatre festival is packed solid this go-round, kicking off with the musical (yay!) Once Upon a Mattress on July 11. The upstart Halifax company Metamorphic Theatre, which sold out its short run of Creatures of the Moment this spring, takes Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet down to the seaside hamlet on July 31. The summer theatre school presents another musical (yay yay!), Bye Bye Birdie, on August 15, while August 21 kicks off a week-long run of God's Middle Name, the Merritt-winning play from Jennifer Overton, which is running from June 1 to 9 at the Neptune Studio. Chester closes out a very musical season with Cliff Lejeune's tribute to Leonard Cohen, If It Be Your Will, beginning August 28.

You might want to make a weekend out of these last two, and we wouldn't blame you. Up in Parrsboro, Ship's Company has lined up a busy summer, launching July 4 with Share, from the very funny Carol Sinclair. The dramedy MacGregor's Hard Ice Cream and Gas begins on August 8 and is notable because it stars Gay Hauser, who's a treat to watch and acts rarely these days. God's Middle Name takes us to fall beginning September 11. On the second stage, from August 1 to 4, is Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn's Tuesdays and Sundays, a true love story set in PEI in 1887.

Festival Antigonish is on the musical train too, launching its new season with a song-and-dance thriller in the form of No Way to Treat a Lady on July 6. That will be followed on July 13 by Skylight, written by David Hare, author of that meh play we went to see on Broadway last year, The Vertical Hour. (Everyone stumbles!) The farce Boeing Boeing drops July 27, historical epic Molly's Veil unmasks itself on August 14, and God's Middle Name gets its fourth local run in as many months on August 28, making Jennifer Overton and Christian Murray nothing other than the official rock stars of summer theatre 2007.

Get tickets and schedule info at the companies' official websites: www.shakespearebythesea.ca, www.atf.ns.ca, www.chesterplayhouse.ns.ca, www.shipscompany.com and www.festivalantigonish.com and save us a seat in the back, will ya?

Lay it down

While on a weekend visit to our hometown recently, we passed a number of antique cars, both on the 102 and in the town of Lantz. They must've been a sign—or else somebody's got a huge marketing budget—because this weekend kicks off Burning Rubber, a multimedia exploration of rural car art (skid marks, people) at the Saint Mary's University Art Gallery. The show "combines documentation of rural car culture with video, painting, performance, sculpture, computer games, text, installation and web-based art by international contemporary artists."

Opening June 2, there will be a bus headed out to Exhibition Park for the show's official opening at 8pm. (Leaving SMU at 6pm, call 420-5445 to reserve your complimentary seat.) There some of the visiting artists will collaborate with local drivers "in a performance," and we're parsing the subtext to estimate that they mean "lay down some rubber" or perhaps drag race, which sure is different than the usual wine-and-cheese.

Burning Rubber runs until July 29.

Zooming into town? Email: tarat@thecoast.ca

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