Maxim Mazumdar, a well-known Canadian actor and director, toured Newfoundland and Labrador between 1976 and 1978 as an adjudicator for the Provincial Drama Festival, a showcase for amateur acting groups in the province. He returned in the spring of 1979 to once again adjudicate, with the festival taking place that year in Stephenville.
He was impressed by the calibre of the performers who had gathered for the festival, and recognized the potential this culturally rich area had to offer. He was also impressed with a Stephenville committee interested in starting a summer acting school for local youth. The seeds for what would become Newfoundland and Labrador’s first professional theatre festival had been sown.
Mazumdar established the Provincial Drama Academy as a place for local people to learn about theatre, work with established theatre professionals and practice the craft. The first drama class of ’79 and a small faculty worked punishingly long days and nights during the summer to present “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “Macbeth” — which Stephenville Theatre Festival considers to be its very first season.
Many people supported Mazumdar, the Festival’s founding Artistic Director, with a commitment that was unparalleled in professional theatre development in this region of Canada — and the Festival emerged to become one of Canada’s most eclectic and exciting repertory theatre companies.
“The Stephenville Festival experience is unique in that it offers a distinctive performance of works that entertain engage and enlighten. Performances that burn themselves into your memory!” stated Mazumdar in 1986. “Remember Gordon Pinsent in ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’, Barbara Chilcott as Sarah Bernhardt, John Gilpin in ‘Oh Coward!’, Meghan Robinson in ‘Guys and Dolls’, Cliff LeJeune in ‘Superstar’, among a host of others? Remember Tom Kerr’s production of ‘Waiting for the Parade’, Edmund MacLean’s ‘Galileo’ by Eric Bentley, the Kabuki ‘Godspell’? All these are part of that special Festival magic.”
The rest, as they say, is history!
The Stephenville Theatre Festival is committed to the production of diverse professional theatre that engages, enlightens and entertains audiences, providing residents and visitors to the Southwest region of Newfoundland and Labrador access to the pleasures and benefits of professional theatre commonly enjoyed by Canadians in our country’s larger theatre centers.
With a mission to enrich the economic, artistic and cultural sectors of the Town of Stephenville while serving as an anchor event for tourism in the Bay St. George area, the festival’s yearly operations strive to reflect the following core values:
● Artistic Excellence and Integrity: fostering the development, production, and presentation of artistic works of a high calibre and with artistic merit while providing an inspiring process for professional artists to hone and perfect their craft.
● Commitment to Education: inspiring the next generation of artists in the community by providing training opportunities in the areas of performance, stagecraft, and production for local youth. Student placements and mentorship opportunities within our professional activities also allow company members to grow and evolve their artistic practice during their time with STF.
● Looking to the Future: continuing to become a resource for the development and presentation of new work by local and provincial artists.
● In the Community: inspiring a healthy community through the arts, by providing local employment, educational, and performing opportunities, as well as promoting the interest and inspiration of the theatre arts to the community that supports us. Participating in local events and supporting local businesses helps our community thrive as a whole.
● Access and Inclusion: encouraging the participation of individuals who are diverse in age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, physical or mental ability, ethnicity, and perspective to participate in, as well as attend and enjoy our activities.
● Ethics in Action: to conduct our activities in an ethical and transparent manner ensuring a safe and healthy workplace for staff, the board of directors, contract employees and artists in an open relationship with audiences, donors/supporters and the community at large.
● The Arts and our Planet: Striving for sustainability within our artistic operations we commit to the effort of acting in an environmentally sustainable manner by reusing and repurposing our production materials, as well as being mindful when purchasing materials and supplies that support our activities.