Mike Butler

There’s many local celebrities that you can sometimes see in the spotlight, but most of the time work thanklessly behind the scenes, making the Town of Wolfville sparkle. Mary Harwell is one of those celebrities who just doesn’t get enough of the spotlight for all she does. Here is a Whittle profile of this wonderful human!

Mary was born in Nashville Tennessee. She moved to Toronto when she was a teenager and her mum got remarried to a Canadian. Mary has had a lifelong passion for theatre, and after graduating from the technical program at Ryerson Theatre School, she spent several years as a freelance stage manager in the Toronto area: “I worked for several seasons as an assistant stage manager at the Canadian Opera Company. In the early ’90s I started working with Live Entertainment, Inc. as a stage manager on the Toronto production and tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond. After almost 5 years of touring with that production, I took a year off when I had my son, Burton, but went back for a shorter run in 1997. After Joseph closed, I worked for Live Entertainment again with their new production of Fosse, which opened on Broadway in 1999. I left the show when I was pregnant with my daughter, Olivia, and my husband and I moved to a small island in the Bahamas where he became the executive chef at a small resort. Three years later, we moved to Wolfville to open our own restaurant, and we ran Tempest Restaurant together from 2003 to 2013, when we sold the business to an employee.”

Mary, as if you didn’t already know, has been the manager at the Al Whittle Theatre since 2012, and she wears many hats! Mary handles all the bookings and inquiries about rentals. She arranges repairs for equipment and building issues. She handles bill paying, invoices, scheduling tech runs, and event managers, film-related duties, the bookkeeping and office reporting. As well, she reports to the Acadia Cinema Cooperative’s active and engaged Board of Directors, and works with all the committees to plan for the future of the theatre. She handles the Retro films series and is very active with promotion of events, but could always use some more volunteers to help! So, the next time you’re enjoying a film or live theatre presentation at the Whittle, think of everything Mary does to make that happen!

If it’s not films and live theatre, you can find Mary enjoying the wonders of food and drink in the Valley! “I am a bit of a foodie and I love to cook and eat,” she notes. “I also love to forage when possible, and between July and October, you will often find me in the woods looking for chanterelles, matsutake mushrooms, lobster mushrooms, or hedgehog mushrooms. I have about ten mushrooms that I can comfortably identify and forage. I also love to draw and doodle, so I try to find time to be creative whenever possible. I am an avid reader, and of course I love the movies, so I come to as many films as possible at the Whittle.”

Mary embraces the small-town feel of Wolfville but loves the big ideas and big events that the town hosts. She enjoys the wineries, biking trails, outdoor events, amazing theatre opportunities, coffee shops, and specialty boutiques. While enjoying all this, she does make a plea to keep it all clean and tidy and think twice before vandalizing anyone’s property, including the very expensive lights of the Whittle Marquee!

The Al Whittle Theatre is very excited to fully welcome back audiences and you can see a show or be a renter of the space if you so desire. Check out alwhittletheatre.ca for all the films and events coming to the theatre. You can see movies, live theatre, filmed theatre, live music and more: it’s a major gem in our community folks, so get out and support Mary and the Whittle.

Mary also mentioned that you might have noticed that the theatre has had many screenings of large blockbuster Indian language films in the past few months: “We welcome these new renters that have introduced our lovely theatre to new audiences from Halifax and beyond. If you want to check out one of these remarkable cultural experiences, most of them offer tickets in advance at ticketspi.com.”

I also encourage you to sign up for the email bulletin (eepurl.com/hUeJ9z) Or if you prefer social media, follow the Whittle on Facebook or Instagram. If you are interested in booking the theatre for your next event, please contact manager@alwhittletheatre.ca and Mary will be thrilled to help you out!

And, let’s give Mary a standing ovation for navigating through the last two years of the pandemic and keeping the Whittle afloat! With restrictions easing, Mary is ecstatic to welcome back full houses again. She says, “I am REALLY looking forward to the end of social distancing and having to assign seats to people at the door. I look forward to more and more people feeling comfortable about going out to the theatre again and seeing the audience full. There is something so special about watching a film or concert or theatrical event in a theatre surrounded by others, and sharing the experience as a group.I learned that this organization is resilient and adaptable and we have a strong team of dedicated people invested in making sure that the theatre survives and thrives into the future.”

The Al Whittle is thriving, but can benefit from more volunteers and support. There’s lots coming down the pipe about events, loyalty cards, and more, so stay tuned. The Whittle recently installed some marvelous new cameras and streaming equipment that they feel will be invaluable to their renters for reaching new audiences from near and far, as well as for archival and commercial purposes.

The future can’t be known, but the Whittle has emerged from the Covid storm strong and vibrant and ready for whatever comes our way, and we owe so much of that prosperity to Mary Harwell! Thank you! See you at the theatre!