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Blyth Festival launches 50th year with 'play that started it all'

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For the play that actually helped launch the Blyth Festival 50 years ago, this summer will actually mark the first time, THE FARM SHOW, has ever graced the Blyth Festival’s stage.

“The Farm Show was originally produced in 1972 and was a show that started it for the Blyth Festival. Paul Thompson brought a bunch of artists out here, they met with farmers, gathered their stories, and created this play, and then they produced it in a barn,” said Fiona Mongillo, an actress in this summer’s Farm Show production.

“The founders of the Blyth Festival were actually in the audience that filled that barn, and were at that first production. They were so blown away and inspired that they gathered a group of volunteers who together started the Blyth Festival,” said Farm Show Director and Blyth Festival Artistic Director, Gil Garratt.

Fittingly enough, The Farm Show, which helped start the Huron County based summer theatre, but has never actually been on Blyth’s stage, opens its 50th season, which started June 12.

Scene from 'THE FARM SHOW-THEN AND NOW,' playing at the Blyth Festival’s Harvest Stage until Aug. 4. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

The raucous celebration of rural life, was really one of the first times that farm life was portrayed on stage in Ontario.

“It’s especially impactful if you can relate and see yourself up on that stage. I think theatre becomes really magical and special when that’s at play. This is a really great example of that. We’re in a rural community, and we’re telling rural stories,” said Mongillo, who grew up in nearby Lucknow.

While The Farm Show-Then and Now, is the centrepiece of Blyth’s 50th season, it is just one of six plays gracing the stage for the golden anniversary.

“We have five world premiere’s, so we are continuing to look towards the future, to look at what other stories in this community are ripe and ready to tell. That’s a really thrilling place to be. We’re just so proud,” said Garratt. 

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