Carla Tucker keeps a low personal profile, but her name and the ‘Moving Arts’ academy she founded are recognised as one of the foundations of the vibrant live performance community in Barrie. A winner of the Barrie Arts Award in 2011 for her contributions to the cultural community, Carla and her business partner Mike Holland have redefined the notional limits of a private teaching academy. John Bleasby used green tea and home-made banana bread to lure the elusive Ms. Tucker into a Green Room ‘Conversation’.
You have a full alphabet of initials after your name. Of all your credentials, what do you feel is the main skill you bring to your students?
First and foremost, I would say I am a teacher. I teach mostly dance; my background from a young age is mostly dance. The drama and theatre elements were added after I left university. I wanted to make dance purposeful. Where is dance purposeful? Well, in musicals of course, but that in turn requires acting and singing. I try to connect them all.
Your name appears in Theatre by the Bay’s upcoming program for 2013 as associate choreographer. Do you feel at any disadvantage when you work with professionals, specifically those with Actors’ Equity cards?
Not at all. Given my background, the jobs I get in professional theatre would be focussed on dance and I am very confident working at that level with the professionals. I’ve done work with TBTB before, but with their Shakespeare and Young Company focus of the past, there hasn’t been too much opportunity to develop much of a routine. However, TBTB’s big musical this season will be Crazy for You, my favorite show. I’m very excited about that. There’s lots of tap dancing!
What makes the Moving Arts program different?
A lot of dance studios, like the ones I danced or taught at before, do dance; competitions, recitals etc.. They work hard; they train their dancers for a set routine or discipline, like jazz or tap or ballet. I like that, I grew up with that, but I wanted to connect it so it would belong to something bigger. So we’re trying to train these dancers to be singers and actors as well.
Your program therefore moves beyond pure recitals to full productions.
That’s right. And of course there are different programs for various age groups, both triple threat programs and of course pure dance as well. The triple threat program students work together as a group as opposed to singly, and it culminates with a musical production. For example, we’ve performed Aladdin and we will be doing The Little Mermaid. It’s a longer process because it includes instruction in acting and singing.
You have transformed the back space of your building from what was a bland open rehearsal floor into The Loft Art Space, a fully functional theatre that seats 175. How did that transpire?
We put on a lot of shows with our young students here at Moving Art as part of the program. With all the construction going on downtown at and near the Mady Centre in late 2010, we didn’t have a place to run them. Mike thought we should create our own space in our own building. He went to work and completed it in 6 weeks, not to the extent is now but enough to be functional. We still had to rent chairs, lights and so on. However, we were ready for our triple threat show in the new space in April 2011. Now we have the chairs, the sound and light consoles, microphones, and lights plus two dressing rooms and a green room backstage.
This is a big commitment to make, building a 175 seat theatre of your own. How does it fit into your Moving Arts philosophy?
It was a big decision. And not being a Not-For-Profit company or organisation, we look at our spending carefully. We have to ask ‘How is this going to work? How will it pay back to our teaching academy?’ I mean, we’re not a Not-For-Profit, but we don’t make much of a profit either! Everything is reinvested back into the school and the facility. However, The Loft Art Space has been very well received. The advantage is, of course, that we have our own space and equipment; we know what we have to work with; we know what we can design and produce in terms of sound, light and sets. Therefore, we can pick shows that work, and then train our students and block and rehearse the shows right on the stage we will use. We also use the space to develop and rehearse our touring shows which we take into schools as part of our theatre education program with the school boards.
You have the academy, the in-school program and now adult shows in your own theatre. That’s a full plate!
In fact, the in-school program, and the response from kids and parents to it, motivated us to get the building. We started off with school programs run out of my house. Mike would go out to the schools to teach but he would be asked by students if they could do dancing and acting and singing after school somewhere; but we never had space. And our touring show always had to rent space in order to rehearse. It was all too much to be run out of the basement of my house. We went 5 years like that before we ended up here in south Barrie in our own building.
How did the idea occur to you to stage The Rocky Horror Show?
I was Mike Holland’s idea actually back in 2011. I didn’t really know the show; I had never seen it before. Then I started reading the script and thought to myself “OMG, what have I agreed to?” But it sounded like a good show for Halloween. It turned out to be much more wild and crazy than I had imagined, but it was very well received. We did it again this year and now we’re looking at it as an annual thing.
You had good crowds at all performances. I understand the midnight shows were particularly raucous.
Perhaps the moon was out! It was a lot of fun; a crazy ridiculous show.
With the Loft Art Space and a branching out into adult productions like Rocky Horror, you are blazing new trails for opportunities in the region. How do you foresee this developing?
Moving Art works primarily with young people, in our academy and in our school program. At the same time, we think it would be interesting to add a bit of edge to our theatre community by producing shows that might not otherwise be produced. We did Rent a year or so ago, we‘ve done Rocky Horror twice now, but we don’t think we’re taking anything away from what is offered by community theatre in the area. Their focus is toward a more general audience, which makes perfect sense for them. We’re filling in a gap, not competing in their market.
You’ve had excellent audition calls for your adult shows, as demonstrated by the talented casts. It must be filling a need for the actors too.
Right. And the contrast between what we do with the children and what we do with the adults is interesting, but we do feel that we are producing these edgier shows tastefully.
Your upcoming show this month is Adventure Island. Tell us about that.
This is a professional show that we are performing as family entertainment right before Christmas. Mike wrote the show, and involves a paid cast all about Mike’s age. Where it fits with our academy is that we take the show to schools as part of our in-school program with the school board. We will tour the show through the schools in December before performing it here at The Loft Art Space for a general audience.
The show itself has some unique interactive features.
It’s like one of those story books where there are alternate endings, like some of the RL Stine books. In one part, the actors ask the audience “Do you want Sebastian to go the Way of the Sword or the Way of Magic?” The audience has to choose, and that in turn means the actors backstage have to pick roles, change costumes and adapt their characters quickly in order to carry out the selected plot change.
There must be a lot of audience screaming in that process.
Sometimes they choose by a raise of hands, another time one person in the audience will be asked to choose and yes, sometimes it’s the loudest cheer. It’s kind of cool because the audience feels they are choosing the path of the characters. And every show is different from the last!
What other directions might Moving Arts and The Loft Art Space be taking in the near future?
Mike is really into puppetry right now. I know he’d like to do an adult puppet show, but I’m not sure when. A community theatre is not going to do a puppet show, so we think we could. There will be some training involved obviously. Mike is already planning a puppet-making workshop for the New Year. A show would make the workshop purposeful too, of course, which goes back to what I was saying about our overall teaching philosophy.