Pearl Harbour’s Chautauqua (Justin Miller) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Pearle Harbour Pearl Harbour’s Chautauqua is a fresh and funny immersive theatre piece currently playing at this year’s SummerWorks Theatre Festival, written and performed by the genius Justin Miller.

The entire show takes place in a cozy canvas tent set up in the backstage area of the Pia Bouman Theatre. As I took my assigned seat on bench number 5, I see Pearle Harbour enter, dressed like an old-timey flight attendant with a 1920’s New York accent to match.

She promised us that by the end of the night, we will be rid of all of our pain and sorrows. I’ll tell you one thing, with stage presence like that — I would believe pretty much anything this woman told me.

Justin Miller AKA Pearle Harbour was as sassy as she was sweet, keeping her “followers” under her spell from beginning to end, while improvising with ease and calming the nerves of jittery audience members when needed.

She spoke with the kind of rigour that you might only find at a Tony Robbins convention — full of intent and passion. Honestly, if you can’t afford Tony, Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua would be a close second.

Although the show was heavily structured around audience participation, Pearle managed to weave a touching narrative throughout, connecting her own past traumas to the current happenings in the tent which gave what could have been a shallow character, a soft, sensitive side, making me fall in love with her even more.

While the show was meant to be a comedy piece, I found the best moments were when our reverend, Pearle, would simply look at us with those deep blue eyes of hers and just “hold space”.

It’s the kind of thing that people pay $200 an hour for at a therapist’s office, but here we were; getting unconditional acceptance from a tough talking dame with a heart of gold at a pay-what-you-can SummerWorks show.

At the end, I felt about 40% more happy than when I came in. I guess that means the power of Chautauqua worked! I looked around the room and could tell that my fellow theatre-goers had that child-like glow Pearle described in the beginning of the service: when you find the old stick from your creamsicle in your pocket and you can still smell that deliciously fake fruit flavouring, and then you smile.

Pearl Harbour’s Chautauqua is not just a play; it’s an experience and one I’m going to remember for a long time.


Pearl Harbour’s Chautauqua plays at the Pia Bouman Theatre. (6 Noble St.)

Remaining performances:

  • Saturday August 5th, 08:00 pm
  • Sunday August 6th, 05:45 pm
  • Monday August 7th, 05:45 pm
  • Thursday August 10th, 08:15pm
  • Saturday August 12th, 4:00pm
  • Sunday August 13th, 04:15 pm

SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.

Audience Advisory: Not recommended for persons under 16 years of age, audience participation, backless seating.

This venue is accessible.

Photo of Pearle Harbour by Alex Nirta.


One thought on “Pearl Harbour’s Chautauqua (Justin Miller) 2017 SummerWorks Review”

  1. To clarify it isn’t Pay What You Can as per a mention in the review but Pay What You Decide as per the details at the end of the review.

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