Heroic Exploits at Blyth Festival as BILLY BISHOP GOES TO WAR

Born in Owen Sound, the second of three children, Air Marshal William Avery "Billy" Bishop, VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED, LL.D. (Feb. 8, 1894 - Sept. 11, 1956) was a Canadian First World War flying ace, officially credited with seventy-two victories, making him the top pilot in the British Empire.

Bishop's heroic exploits come to life in a new Blyth Festival production of Billy Bishop Goes to War, a sweeping theatrical love letter to a defining moment in Canadian history, on stage at Blyth Memorial Hall July 2 - August 15. Written and composed in 1978 by John MacLachan Gray in collaboration with Eric Peterson, Billy Bishop Goes to War is one of Canada's most successful and enduring plays. The original production starring Gray and Peterson toured across Canada, played on Broadway, at the Edinburgh Festival, and in Los Angeles, Washington and London. The play won the Los Angeles Drama Critics' Award in 1981, the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award in 1980 and the Governor General's Award for English Drama in 1983.

Billy Bishop Goes to War is the first play in a new series at Blyth Festival. "It launches our Memorial Series," says Marion de Vries, Blyth Festival's Artistic Director. "We will present one play each season from 2014 to 2018 dedicated to exploring stories of war and peace, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the Great War," adding that the series also honours Blyth Memorial Community Hall, built in 1920 as a living cenotaph and home to Blyth Festival for 40 years. "It's our unique way of recognizing those who paid the ultimate sacrifice," she says.

J.D. Nicholsen stars as the war hero, Billy Bishop, and plays a host of other characters Bishop encounters in his adventures. Nicholsen is a familiar face to Festival audiences, last seen in Dear Johnny Deere and before that in Death of the Hired Manand in Barndance Live. As well as an accomplished actor, Nicholsen is a singer/songwriter and a founding member of the Juno Award-winning band, The Leslie Spit Treeo.

Marek Norman acts as Narrator and Piano Player; he is also Musical Director. Making his Blyth Festival debut, this versatile artist is an actor, composer, musician, educator and producer having worked at most of Canada's major theatres.

Director Janet Amos is a very familiar face to Blyth audiences. She was Artistic Director from 1979 to 1984 and again from 1994 to 1997. She also directed Blyth Memorial History Show and starred in He Won't Come in From the Barn, Quiet in the Land, Cricket and Claudette and The Bootblack Orator, among others.

Steve Lucas is designing the lighting and the setting which includes a series of projections that will transport the audience to various locations in Bishop's story.Jennifer Triemstra-Johnston who designed the appropriate country costumes forKitchen Radio has also designed the more formal costumes for Billy Bishop. The stage manager is Dustyn Wales and the apprentice stage manager is Georgia Priestley-Brown. The Assistant Director is Goderich's Nathanya Barnett.

Tickets to Billy Bishop Goes to War are available by calling Blyth Festival's Box Office at 519.523.9300, Toll Free 1.877.862.5984 or online at blythfestival.com.

Billy Bishop Goes to War is generously sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 420 & Ladies Auxiliary to Branch 420 and The Rural Voice. Blyth Festival acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the 2014 Season Sponsor Sparlings Propane and 2014 Season Media Sponsor CTV.

About Blyth Festival

Blyth Festival is a professional theatre that enriches the lives of its audience by producing and developing plays that give voice to both the region and the country. The theatre produces a repertory summer season of exclusively Canadian theatre, with an emphasis on new work. Blyth Centre for the Arts, including Blyth Festival, was founded in 1975 - 2014 is our 40th season.

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