I Come from the Valley – A sold-out show in Barry’s Bay

Photos: Mark Woermke

Three hundred and twenty people came out to the Paul J. Yakabuski Arena for the Stone Fence Theatre’s 2018 musical, I Come from the Valley.

Before the sold-out show, producer, writer and performer Ish Theilheimer explained how much he looks forward to their Barry’s Bay performance each year. “We always have a very enthusiastic crowd in the Bay,” he said.

The full-time residents and cottagers who turn out each year prove to us how much folks in the Madawaska Valley desire and support the arts and artists. They realize the arts are important in the cultural and economic life of the community.


These volunteers were among the many whose efforts make Stone Fence Theatre’s shows possible.

Stone Fence Theatre’s purpose is to celebrate the Ottawa Valley’s unique history, heritage, culture and people. In its fifteenth anniversary season, it has accomplished this remarkably by paying tribute to the late, great Joan Finnigan — the writer, poet and storyteller who, more than anyone else, captured the essence of the Valley. Theilheimer says he is “tremendously proud to be a part of this celebration of our community and its artists.”

In a show about the Valley there is bound to be laughter, fiddle music and step dancing and there is much of these in I Come from the Valley, but the show also possesses Finnigan’s candor which shocked her relatives, sometimes angered her Valley friends, and made more than one publisher a little nervous. Stone Fence Theatre did an exceptional job of going beyond the stereotypes to explore shadows that also make up the Ottawa Valley identity. Who better to tell help us understand ourselves than Finnigan
— a tough, no-nonsense, Irish-woman (that perhaps only the Ottawa Valley can breed), but one with a poet’s heart and fiddle-music in her feet?

Ish Theilheimer had this to say about Finnigan:

[Her] passion put the Valley on the map. She made others care about the Valley and her
work, controversial as it often was, built local pride and a sense of community…. Without
artists like Joan Finnigan, our community would be much poorer.

Renée Campeau, an Ottawa high school English teacher, who has been attending Stone Fence Theatre productions in Barry’s Bay for several years thoroughly enjoyed I Come from the Valley and wants to learn about Joan Finnigan’s life and works:

It was a refreshing reminder of the importance of local history and I am impressed with the strength of this lady. She overcame much adversity and followed her dream to write. I am sorry to say I had never heard of her before, but I am leaving the Bay with several of her books.

Annie Brotton attended the show to celebrate her birthday. Here she is pulling the winning 50-50 draw ticket with Stone Fence actor Ambrose Mullin.


  1. Johanna Zomers

    Mark, enjoyed your insightful words about Joan Finnigan and SFT’s production of I Come From the Valley. Ish Theilheimer’s script beautifully captures the humour and the darkness in Finnigan’s life and in her writing…just as so much of our Valley life is a blend of pathos and comedy!

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