Outdoor ticket booth with receptionist inside at Westben

Go Play Outside: Unique Summer Theatre and Music Venues

With the warmer weather upon us, it’s almost a shame to spend time indoors. Yet the summer is also a time for vibrant cultural events, so what’s a lover of the arts to do? In Kawarthas Northumberland, they can check out the wide range of musical and theatrical performances taking place in the lap of nature.

In every corner of the region, you’ll find performers with marquee names in unique local settings. The venues below offer professional shows that integrate harmoniously with the landscape.

4th Line Theatre

Four actors in 19th century period costume stand on a wooden staircase

Photo credit: Wayne Eardley

Theatre provides an opportunity to tell stories that are truly local—and 4th Line makes the most of it. Presenting plays by and about Canadians, the Millbrook-based company turns our cultural heritage into powerful, compelling art. Their shows are uncommonly immersive thanks to the expansive farm property where they’re staged. On top of the professional production values, birdsong and sunlight help bring these period dramas to life.

The 2023 season will see productions of The Tilco Strike, which dramatizes the 1965 labour strike that pitted 35 poorly paid women against their callous employers at Tilco Plastics. The Cavan Blazers is back by popular demand; the first play ever staged at 4th Line back in 1992 is a riveting drama about Irish Catholic and Protestant settlers, and the outbreak of violence caused by vigilantes known as the Cavan Blazers.


Exterior of Westben barn at night, with a show on inside

We’ve written about Westben before; they occupy a respected place in the Northumberland arts scene. Their timber-frame barn is the perfect marriage of rustic looks and delicate acoustics, and the other venues on and around the Westben property offer carefully tailored variations on the outdoor theme. The 400-seat barn draws major Canadian names like Chantal Kreviazuk and Colin Mochrie, while the outdoor ampitheatre and campfire are perfect for intimate shows in the lap of nature.

The restless creativity at Westben extends across multiple genres, so expect shows that range from classical chamber ensembles to pop to improv comedy. They even offer a Digital Venue so you can get a taste of place before visiting in person—check it out now, then grab tickets here.

Globus Theatre at the LAB

Exterior of Lakeview Arts Barn on a sunny summer day

The Lakeview Arts Barn isn’t an open-air venue like the ones above, but don’t let that fool you—this converted cattle barn is steeped in rural history. As the name suggests, you’re in full view of Pigeon Lake and the cottage country vibes of Bobcaygeon. Globus Theatre celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2023, marking two decades of eclectic entertainment from murder mysteries to pantomines to Canadian dramas.

Browse Globus’ current season here, and don’t forget the pre-show dining option. Every evening performance can be paired with 3-course table d’hôte menu, adding still more local flavour to the experience.

The Grove Theatre

Aerial view of the Grove Theatre, with an illuminated stage and small lights arranged around

Sitting around the campfire was already a grand Fenelon Falls tradition, so adding an outdoor ampitheatre was a natural fit. Catch a show at the Grove in the early evening and you’ll be treated to the peaceful atmosphere of Kawartha Lakes in summer. Once the performers take the stage, however, talented performers like Blue Rodeo star Jim Cuddy and The Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch will take you on a wide-ranging artistic journey.

Despite its cozy location in a pine grove, the ampitheatre is not far from the Fenelon Falls Community Centre, just a ten minute walk to downtown dining options. Learn about The Grove’s seasonal subscriptions here.

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