"Theatre belongs to the people and is for the people."
Since 1979, the Stephenville Theatre Festival has produced professional plays of the
highest quality here in Newfoundland. Due to a provincial drama festival held here in
Stephenville, the festival was started. The adjudicator of this drama festival, Maxim Mazumdar,
was impressed with the caliber of performers from around the province; yet the performers
wanted more - more training, more experience, and more interaction- with other artists. A group
of volunteers predicted that tourism could enhance summers in Stephenville and urged Maxim to
come back. Maxim did come back, to establish the Provincial Drama Academy in 1978/79, as a
place to learn about the theatre, to work with professionals, and practice one's craft. From this
came the Stephenville Theatre Festival, which developed into one of Atlantic Canada's most
promising, exciting, and eclectic producers of theatre.
The ability to make magic happen on stage with little money has become what
Stephenville Festival is known for. The experience of Shakespeare, Broadway, twentieth century
classics, new Canadian works, all kinds of music, and unique Newfoundland creations are all
found here. New anti-war plays, country musicals, and huge extravaganzas were there for
everybody. They may have been attracted to the Festival by something familiar - but they came
back time and again to try something new.
This year (1998) will be the first year for "Friendly Invasion", based on the book of the
same title by John Cardoulis. This play is based on Stephenville's intriguing history as the site
of the Ernest Harmon Air Force Base. It is a tribute to the unique relationship between
Newfoundland and the American military. It is hoped that "Friendly Invasion" will become an
annual addition to the range of productions for which the Festival became famous for.
Of course, there are practical benefits of the Stephenville Festival, which were always
evident and impressive. The Festival creates anywhere from forty-five summer jobs in a small
year to as many as eighty in other years. Sometimes, almost twenty to forty percent of the
audience is from of the island. Stephenville Festival attracts people that wouldn't normally stop
here. Many individual local businesses sponsor specific performances or make donations. The
annual budget of the Festival (of about two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to three hundred
thousand dollars) has a positive impact on many businesses and merchants.
The festival has played one of the main parts in developing a thriving summer economy,
based on tourism. Stephenville Festival has been integral in the development and growth of such
things as bus tours, hotels, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, campgrounds, and airlines, to name a
few. Touring businesses are developing around this area today thanks to the Festival's uncanny
ability to attract people.
Stephenville's Arts & Culture Center, home of Stephenville Theatre Festival.
C. Pelley Photo
Stephenville Festival makes its home at the Arts & Culture Center. There has yet to be
any other group or individual able to give such life and enthusiasm to the building. In 1997, a
new 'second stage' was opened; a beautiful yet simple two hundred seat black box. The Festival
has made the Center a viable, productive place.
Many artists began their training with the Festival and have gone on to well-paying jobs
locally and abroad. The Festival has also been instrumental in creating a number of new works.
The careers of many of Newfoundland's finest performers was nurtured through the Festival.
The Stephenville Festival has developed a very extensive list of travel agencies, tour
operators, businesses, foundations, individuals, theatre companies, and government and related
agencies. They have developed a very impressive corporate and private sponsorship program,
supporting a considerable number of its activities. From all over the country, major corporations
continually give financial support to the Festival, which imports new money for Newfoundland,
and develops visibility and new markets for their products due to promotion and advertising by
The Festival has been recognized for its outstanding work. Our province presented
Stephenville Festival with the Doug Wheeler award; it received a major award from Saga
Communications; a special award was given as a Great Canadian Event from the Federal Canada
125 program for its work; and the Festival was named one of the top attractions by the North
American Bus Association.