Annual General Meeting, President’s Report

Highlands Summer Festival

Annual General Meeting

President’s Report

April 25, 2010

It was a pleasure, once again, to serve as the president of the Highland Summer Festival’s Board of Directors during the 2009 season. This past season was our tenth, an important milestone in a performing arts organization. I am aware of many theatre companies which barely lasted a season.

The anniversary was marked with a Gala evening just about a year ago today at which we reprised some of the outstanding performances of the past nine years and also provided a sneak preview of the 2009 season. For those who have been involved with the Festival since its inception and the many patrons who have been with us from the start, it was an enjoyable journey down memory lane.

The 2009 season was successful in many ways. Artistically the Festival presented some of the best theatre seen on the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion Stage. This was due in no small part to the dedication of our creative team led by Artistic Producer Scot Denton. Working with producers David Mills and Melissa Stephens, they created a delightful six weeks of live theatre and concerts.

Our association with the Highlands Opera Studio continues to grow as does this wonderful program under the guidance of Artistic Directors Richard Margison and Valerie Kuinka. The Opera Studio, in its third year last season, is acquiring a reputation and recognition that will stand it is good stead as it evolves in the future.

Together, the Summer Festival and the Opera Studio attracted over 70% average attendance with many shows in the upper 80% range. We are pleased the attendance remains strong and among our loyal patrons we are encouraged to see many new faces as well.

Financially, the Highlands Summer Festival/Highlands Opera Studio managed to balance its books, barely, borrowing from an earlier surplus to cover a small deficit. As a not for profit, charitable organization, breaking even, to my mind, is a minimal expectation. Quite frankly, I would be more comfortable generating a modest surplus each season to set aside for contingencies or major capital expenditures. I am also very aware of the financial impact the company has on the community, with expenses and income approaching a half million dollars. We are a significant part of the summer economy in the Highlands.

Our strength continues to be the people attracted to Highlands Summer Festival, many of whom volunteer their time. Without their participation it would be difficult to mount as challenging a repertoire as we do each year. Hats off to those individuals, whose many and varied skills ensure the season unfolds as it should each year.

I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically acknowledge the hard work of two other key members of the management team.  Business manager Betty Mills, who multi-faceted involvement extends far beyond the parameters of those of a business manager, is key to the organization. As well, box office manager Jim Frost and his wife Marilyn continue to be our first line of contact with patrons. Jim manages tickets for over 40 performances and does a great job of making sure everyone gets the best seat possible.

We have just come throughout our first full year as a registered charitable company. I am fortunate to have a dedicated group of individuals who serve on the board of directors. Their guidance and involvement has helped ensure the success of this past season. My Thanks to Vice Chair Tammy Rea, Secretary Craig Saunders, Treasurer Paul Heffer and Directors Joan Chapple, Rob Eaton and Joan Hawley for their hard work last year and into this season, especially during my extended absence earlier this year.

Our patrons continue to support Highlands Summer Festival and the Highlands Opera Studio, not only by purchasing tickets, but through generous donations. Patron participation in Friends of the Highlands Summer Festival, donations of time and expertise, grants from various sources including Foundations, Businesses, the Haliburton County Development Corporation and the federal department of Human Resources Development helps make this one of the most vibrant summer theatre companies in the province.

Of course, live theatre thrives only when an audience is present. The many people who believe in what we do and attend the dramatic, concert and opera productions validate our efforts and help ensure the viability of the organization. In this digital age, live theatre is still an entrancing form of entertainment that continues to create magical moments that other forms of entertainment can’t seem to duplicate. We are grateful for the enthusiastic response of our audiences and rededicate ourselves to providing the best in live performances this summer and into the future.

Thank you all for another great season and we look forward to doing something dramatic again this summer.

Thank you.

Jack Brezina,

April 25, 2010

Annual General Meeting

As a registered charity, Highlands Summer Festival is governed by a board of directors. The seven member board meets monthly throughout the year to provide guidance in the operation of the theatre company. While the board does not generally become involved in the day to day management of the Festival, it does take a strong interest in ensuring the artistic and financial viability of the organization. Members of the board include: Chair Jack Brezina, Vice Chair Tammy Rea; Treasurer Paul Heffer, Secretary Craig Saunders and Directors Joan Chapple, Rob Eaton and Joan Hawley.

Among its duties, the board manages the donations received by Highlands Summer Festival and the Highlands Opera Studio and ensures that the organization meets its obligations laid out by the Canada Revenue Agency, which grants the company its charitable status. The board also takes on a fund-raising responsibility, encouraging donors and seeking other sources of funding to support the work of the Highlands Summer Festival.

Membership in Highlands Summer Festival is granted to anyone who makes a donation of $50 or more. In addition to receiving a receipt which can be used for income tax purposes, membership privileges include priority ticket request status, recognition of your generosity on our website and in the summer program and the satisfaction of supporting one of the most dynamic and successful summer theatre companies in the province. Members also have the right to vote at the annual general meeting and stand as candidates for the Board of Directors.

This year the AGM will be held on Sunday, April 25 at the Rails End gallery and Arts Centre in Haliburton. The meeting starts at 2 p.m. Anyone interested in the Highlands Summer Festival and the Highlands Opera Studio is welcome to attend the meeting. If you have made a donation in the past year, you are eligible to vote at this meeting and stand for office. We are regularly looking for individuals interested in serving on the board or helping in other ways.

If you would like more information about becoming involved, you can contact me at

– Jack Brezina


This is always an awkward time in the theatre year. Having unveiled the coming season and encouraged everyone to get in on the season pass savings, it may appear to some that everything has come to a grinding halt.

That of course is not the case as there are lots of things happening behind the scenes. For example, our box office manager Jim Frost, and his wife Marilyn have been busy sorting through the orders we have received. And, they continue to process the ones that arrive almost daily as patrons firm up their season selections

This is our eighth year managing the Highlands Summer Festival box office,” Jim said recently. “It is a great position to have. I am the first one to greet everyone as the season begins.” Over the years, Jim has come to know our patrons personally. “Even if the order comes in by mail or email, there is often a personal connection. Marilyn and I have gotten to know our patrons really well. Often people will ask for ‘the same seats as last year’ and we try to ensure we meet their requests.

They are also known to have played matchmaker. “Sometimes orders will arrive with instruction indicating the patrons want to be seated with another couple” Jim explained. “We locate the order, placed by the other couple, and try to ensure there is a match.” For many groups like this, the Highlands Summer Festival has become a focus for a great summer evening out, with everyone enjoying dinner and then a performance at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.

Filling ticket requests and ensuring the patrons get the seats they want is a major task at this time of the year. To be fair to everyone, all ticket requests are held in the order in which they are received. When the assigning of seats begins, Jim starts with the earliest order received and works his way through the mountain of requests. The one exception to the “first come-first served” rule is that donors to Highlands Summer Festival and Highlands Opera Studio receive priority service, no matter when their order is received. It is one way we can say thank you to our patrons who support summer theatre and music not only with ticket purchases, but by making a donation to help further enrich the Festival experience.

Over one-third of the season tickets are sold as a result of the Christmas season pass promotion along with the extra tickets ordered in conjunction with those requests. That amounts to over 2000 ticket requests. “We handle each order separately,” Jim explained, “making sure we have the necessary details, that the dates and show elections line up and that any special requests are tended to.”

If Jim has started processing the orders, why haven’t you received your tickets yet, you may ask? A reasonable question, which deserves an answer. We don’t start printing tickets and mailing them out until early April for a number of reasons. First, organizing all the paper work that is part of the process is a daunting task. Jim is meticulous in ensuring everything is done correctly. And, quite frankly, we have found that if we send out the tickets too early, they have a higher tendency to get misplaced, you know, lost in the back of a drawer, tucked away in a safe place that no one can remember. So we wait until early April to begin the actual mailing of the tickets.

And, if you do lose your tickets, not to worry. Jim has a computerized record to help ensure you don’t miss one single performance this summer. Just give him a call.

So, while perhaps it seems very quiet on the theatre front, there is a great deal going on. One of those crucial tasks is the processing of ticket orders already received by our box office manager, Jim Frost. Watch for your tickets arriving in the mail in April.

– Jack

Sell Out

It has never happened this early in the season!

I am excited to announce that the two performances of Charlie Farquharson and Dem Udders featuring Don Harron are Sold Out.

The speed with which tickets sold, for what is sure to be a delightful evening, has surprised even the most veteran members of the Festival. Usually at this time of the year, just after the close of the season pass sale, we can anticipate that some performances will fill rapidly, likely before the season opens, but never have we had had to announce a sold out situation this early.

The rapid sale of seats speaks highly for this icon of the Canadian stage. He is a popular and well-loved performer, who, though probably best known for his comedic roles, is a talented actor and writer. Most of us probably know him for his delightful impersonation of gentle back country character Charile Farquharson. Through Charlie, we have seen Don Harron appear on countless television shows and many more stage performances. The Malaprop-dropping buffoon is the quintessential fool who, through his ramblings, makes us laugh. But like all characters of this sort, there is always more than a kernel of truth in their observations, making the commentary even more humorous. In addition to being the lyricist of the long running musical Anne of Green Gables, he has served for five years as the host of the popular CBC Radio program Morningside. Don Harron has also been invested as also a member of the Order of Ontario and Order of Canada.

Two fortunate groups of patrons will enjoy the magic of this 83 year old veteran of the Canadian stage on July 26 and 27. And while we are always delighted to slap “SOLD OUT” on any production, we are disappointed that couldn’t have offered more performances so everyone who wanted, could have enjoyed the wit and wisdom of Charlie Farquharson and Dem Udders.

Audition Call

January is an exciting for those of us involved in Highlands Summer Festival.

With the productions chosen and the scripts being passed around for everyone to read, the next step will be auditions. This year the auditions are scheduled for January 23 and 24 at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion.

Auditions are always a bit nerve-wracking for those of us who enjoy stepping onto the stage. As the scripts make the rounds, the actors are looking for parts that may be appropriate and challenging for them. Often there is more than one “good fit“, but Highlands Summer Festival attempts to avoid casting one actor in two productions. It can be tough on actors to be involved in two productions in the summer, particularly when it comes to rehearsals. They begin in April and take place on the weekends leading up to the various opening nights. Occasionally it is necessary to cast an actor in two productions to take advantage of his or her special talents. We certainly appreciate those who are willing to make that extra sacrifice.

The mandate of the Highlands Summer Festival is to encourage the growth and development of theatrical talents and skills. We are also committed to using as much local talent as possible. We encourage local actors to audition for our productions. The size and quality of the theatrical community in the Highlands has grown over the years and we believe that Highlands Summer Festival can take credit for a large part of that development. We have also encouraged individuals with an interest in acting but no experience to give it a try. In the past, we have “discovered” some exciting talent in individuals who stepped onto the boards for the first time with our company.

If you have an interest in acting, please follow this link to our audition page to learn more about this year’s auditions….but take a look at the audition page soon, because the call is coming up soon. Perhaps this is the year we`ll see you on stage!

As always, we welcome your comments.

Winter Blues – Summer Savings

Well winter has certainly delivered a one-two punch to the highlands, piling up over a metre of snow and creating havoc on the roads and life in general. While it certainly was an usual weather event, most people took it in stride, either hunkering down to wait for the worst to pass or charging out into the teeth of the storm in true Canadian fashion.

All this snow provides a vivid contrast to the weather that accompanies the Highlands Summer Festival. In fact we proudly boast our seasonal preference in the name of our annual theatre and concert offerings. And, while the Festival is still months away, plans are already unfolding for the coming season. As you can see by the home page of our website, the plays have been selected and the concerts set. We have even incorporated a special treat this season with the appearance of Canada’s most beloved stand-up comedian, Don Harron. (More about his appearance in a later posting.)

Each season at this time we invite our patrons to take advantage of our Christmas season special pricing. This is a great way for patrons to save 20% on all ticket purchases. The season pass allow patrons to select any four of the Highlands Summer Festival offerings for just $80. They can also extend the pass to purchase other productions at just $20 per show, including Highlands Opera Studio presentations.This offer is only available until January 15, 2010. After that date all seats are sold on a single ticket basis for $25 each, $30 for La Boheme.

The timing of this sale makes it an ideal Christmas gift for someone who enjoys the theatre or for yourself. And, if Santa somehow missed on this one, you have until January 15 to take advantage of this special pricing.

Season passes are available at our retail partners: Kitchen Etc. in Haliburton and The Organic Times in Minden. Or you can contact the Highlands Summer Festival box office by calling 705-457-9933, or email:

We like to think of our pre-season sale as providing a little warmth of summer to help take the chill off a blustery winter.

Stay warm,