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Theatre Burlington presents The Sweet Delilah Swim Club

Like the enduring friendships in the play, theatre has been there for director Sondra Learn in good times as well as bad.

Theatre Burlington has a comedy opening on April 12 about lasting friendships among women. The Sweet Delilah Swim Club follows a group of five women over the course of more than three decades. Years before, they met as members of their college swim team and since then, they’ve reunited every August at a beach cottage named the Sweet Delilah. The play centres on four of those long, lively weekends.

Director Sondra Learn calls it “a beautiful play” with a story that “made me laugh and shed a few tears.” She’s been associated with Theatre Burlington since 1982, when she settled in the city after marrying her husband Chuck. She’s been involved with a lot of plays over the years, sometimes as a director, other times as a stage manager. Chuck is her partner in theatre as well; he’s the lighting designer for this particular production.

Highlights of her time at Theatre Burlington have included directing two of her "bucket list" plays, The Miracle Worker and The Diary of Anne Frank, both of which were award-winning productions. Learn has also directed her own original plays in 2006 and 2008, as well as written and directed plays performed at the Hamilton Fringe Festival.

The cast of the Sweet Delilah Swim Club is, from left, Rose Pye, Vanessa Scott, Cynthia Crofoot, Deb Dagenais and Maueen Ali.
PHOTOS: Sondra Learn

Like the enduring friendships in The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, theatre has also been there for Learn through darker times. “I’m still in recovery from a brain bleed and 30-day hospital stay I had back in January 2021,” she explains. “I’ve basically recovered all my mobility, but I want to work on increasing my strength and stamina. Working on plays the past few years has helped immensely. The theatre is a great healer.”

What drew her to this play, Learn says, “is that it has five wonderfully complex women.” Perhaps this also explains why 33 actresses showed up to audition for the five roles. Learn also suspects it was so popular because of its focus on women in the 40 and up age range, a too-rare opportunity.

The Sweet Delilah Swim Club was written by Americans Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. They note proudly on their website that they “specialize in writing laugh-out-loud comedies and creating vivid strong roles for women.”

Collectively, they've written for television, film, and theatre. Jones has worked on projects for ABC, Lifetime, Warner Brothers, TNT, Paramount and Disney. Hope has worked as a casting director as well as having written for Disney, Warner Brothers, SYFY, Nickelodeon and Fox. In addition to being an award-winning songwriter, Wooten was a writer and producer for The Golden Girls, something which is noted in the promotional material for the upcoming Theatre Burlington production.

The women of The Sweet Delilah Swim Club, comprised of Sheree (Rose Pye), Dinah (Deb Degenais), Lexie (Cynthia Crofoot), Jeri Neal (Vanessa Scott) and Vernadette (Maueen Ali), represent familiar archetypes as they banter and lean on one another through life’s many challenges.

“There will be some similarities with the characters you’ll see but this is by no means The Golden Girls on stage,” Learn says. “It’s a play with its own unique characters.” The one who resonates the most with her is Jeri Neal because she’s “quiet, unassuming, always eager to please and be accepted.”

From left, is Deb Dagenais and Rose Pye in the Sweet Delilah Swim Club at Theatre Burlington.

Although the cast includes experienced local favourites, all of the performers are new to Learn in that she’s never directed any of them before. She highlights their collective talent and ability to bring the characters, and her vision, to life.

“This is very much an ensemble piece,” says Learn. “Each character has their own story to tell, but those stories are beautifully woven into the play. (There are) lots of laughs and funny moments, but touches on real-life situations we all might know.”

The first matinee on April 20 is already sold out. A second matinee has been added due to popular demand.


The Sweet Delilah Swim Club at Theatre Burlington
2311 New St., Burlington
April 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27, 8 p.m.
April 20 (sold out) & 27, 2 p.m. matinee
Tickets ($25) online or cash payment at the door
Masks are strongly advised