Written by Emily Oriold (BA '01)
The year was 1997. I sat in the Blyth Festival theatre in anticipation of seeing my very first production of a Norm Foster play, The Melville Boys. I was in my last year of high school preparing to attend the University of Waterloo Dramatic Arts program that coming fall. The house lights dimmed and I felt that familiar sense of excitement as I settled in to be entertained. From beginning to end I was swept up in Norm’s world of heartfelt comedy. Instantly, a Foster Fan was born.
That fall, I entered into my first year at UWaterloo where I participated in all forms of production, from starring in several Dramatic Arts shows to being the Head of Properties on one of the studio shows. I graduated UWaterloo at the top of my class and with Honours.
After graduating, I headed to Toronto as a professional actor and director. There I remember sitting in my tiny bachelor apartment dreaming of a Foster Festival. I even created a logo which I held onto for the next 10 years as I developed a successful career working with the Blyth Festival, Drayton Festival, Theatre Aquarius and Theatre Orangeville.
As I continued to make contacts through my career, my mind returned to the idea of a Foster Festival and I began fleshing out my idea. Once I had the whole plan together, I contacted Norm, who I had only met once before. He liked what I had outlined and wanted to meet.
I met Norm Foster in September 2014, and at Foster’s request, took on the role of Executive Director. Patricia Vanstone was recommended as the Artistic Director for the new festival, who coincidentally was the director behind that original production of The Melville Boys in 1997. We really felt like we were always meant to be connected.
The Foster Festival was incorporated in February 2015 and has now completed a very successful second season. Looking ahead, we plan on expanding the season by adding other playwrights that share the same style as Norm Foster’s work, with a goal of adding more works from female playwrights. Patricia and I are two women that are running this festival, and we’re quite proud of that.
As a result of founding this Festival, I was also honoured with a 2017 40 Under 40 Award from the Niagara Business Association. I was quite honoured to be chosen as one of the 40 Under 40 across all of Niagara in only our second season.
It has been incredibly rewarding to see my long-time dream become a reality, albeit a little surreal at times. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t believe it. It proves what a whole lot of passion and hard work can achieve – all supported by a good foundation of education and experience. Thank you to the University of Waterloo Drama Department for giving me a well-rounded arts education which inspired me to believe that anything is possible!