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Theatre group calling it quits as director retires

For almost 45 years, Michael Hennessy has been a pillar in the Sault’s theatre scene
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Michael Hennessy
Family Life Theatre artistic director Michael Hennessy. Supplied

For almost 45 years, Michael Hennessy has been a pillar in the Sault’s theatre scene.

Starting with the Sault Theatre Workshop in 1972, Hennessy would later move on to create Family Life Theatre in 1982, collaborating with David Rivard of Sault Ste. Marie Family Services.

“The original mandate of Family Life Theatre was educational theatre,” Hennessy told SooToday. “We used to do half-hour dramas and we went all over Ontario. We did approximately 2,400 presentations all over the province. It became a very popular and highly acclaimed program.”

With no permanent on-going grants to rely on, Family Life Theatre was largely responsible for its own funding.

In 1999, Hennessy decided to try his hand at dinner theatre in order to help offset operational costs.

“I said we’d do two dinner theatre shows,” he said. “To make a long story short, it took off like a house on fire, and became the main focus of Family Life Theatre.”

Hennessy and the organization he created will host a very special dinner theatre production next week.

Special, because following this presentation of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Michael Hennessy will retire from Family Life Theatre and the organization will be shuttered.

“It’s very tough for me to do this,” he told us. “I feel like the dinner theatre is extremely popular. And I really feel terrible about the whole thing.”

While he has not considered finding a replacement and no one has come forward to express interest in doing so, Hennessy said his retirement doesn’t mean he’s leaving local theatre entirely.

He would most definitely consider directing future productions.

“I’d hate to think that I’m not going to do anything,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 34 years. The hard part is retiring from Family Life Theatre.”

“I have no doubt the audience is there. So it depends on whether other people are willing to [step in],” he continued. “I can’t do it on my own. I wouldn’t even try. If I go back, it will be directing. That would be it.”

Family Life Theatre’s production of Last of the Red Hot Lovers runs from March 9 through March 12 at the Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre.

A news release issued by Family Life Theatre follows.

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Michael Hennessy, the beloved director of Family Life Theatre for over 30 years is retiring and so Family Life Theatre is closing its doors.

The final production that he has chosen to direct is Neil Simon's, Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

Set in the 1960s, this comedy classic centres around Barney Cashman (Chas Calam), middle-aged and married, who wants to join the sexual revolution before it's too late.

So, he arranges three "seductions" in his mother's apartment.

Elaine, (Dympna Hennessy), the first woman he invites, is a bundle of neurosis.

Bobby Michelle (Skye Stewart), his next "conquest" is a wannabe actress, too kooky by far.

And finally there's Jeanette (Darla Pirillo), a very gloomy and depressed housewife who just happens to be married to Barney's best friend. 

"A genuinely brilliant play"- The New York Post.

This wonderful evening of dinner and exceptional theatre is presented at Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre, March 9,10,11,and 12.

Call 705-253-9851 for tickets and more information.

Dinner and show price: $58, show only: $25.

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