Being ‘In the Community and Of the Community’ means having a connection that manifests itself in a legacy of on-going development of the arts. It’s a message that is understood by most, but sadly not all.
It’s been a busy summer for theatre throughout Simcoe and Huronia. In Midland, the new Midland Cultural Centre is now fully operational; art classes, improv clinics and youth theatre camps have filled the galleries and rehearsal spaces with laughter and creativity throughout July and August. The Queensville Players in Keswick ran ‘Camp Hard Knocks’ for young actors, as well as performing their 2nd annual Shakespeare in the Forest event. Talk is Free Theatre ran another successful ‘Improv Olympics’ for young actors this summer. And Theatre by the Bay has expanded its program out to 6 weeks of wonderful rep theatre at The Mady Centre during July and August.
All the live theatre groups in Simcoe and Huronia are in fact one large community of theatre groups, each with individual mandates but all sharing the same basic objective, that is; to bring the human experience to the stage in all its forms. The Green Room endeavors to nurture that feeling of larger community by promoting not only specific performances but also by encouraging the sharing of resources and the increased appreciation of live theatre within the audience. There can be no better example of community cooperation and sharing than what you see before your eyes this very moment: a new branding for The Green Room, your regional theatre newsletter, and an entirely new ‘As It Happens’ editorial and advertising format that could only be possible thanks to the generosity of Barrie-based creative firms Rhubarb Media and mhConnect! I thank them for recognising the common good that results from blending talent and enthusiasm together.
And the result of this resource sharing and audience growth throughout our region has been clearly evident.
We’ve seen various groups sharing costumes and props amongst themselves; their technical crews upgrading their skills at specialised workshops; actors and directors auditioning with groups outside their immediate areas; The City of Barrie hosting free workshops on electronic marketing, strategy and skill development. We applaud home grown actors like Candy Pryce, who appeared on stage at the Toronto Fringe Festival in July; Jim Hill who appears at Stratford in Des MacAnuff’s production of Henry V as part of a group of ten non-equity actors until the end of September. However our community also includes successful small professional theatre groups too, most particularly Theatre by the Bay and Talk is Free Theatre.
Both are home-grown companies based out of Barrie who have, over the past ten years, developed summer and winter seasons respectively that deliver top quality entertainment that includes challenging as well as amusing works. And they do so while maintaining close links with their communities. Talk is Free offers numerous Youth Theatre Camps throughout the year and often features locally developed actors in their casts. Theatre by the Bay is well-known for their ‘Shakespeare in the Classroom’ series each spring, and by casting local actors in both their adult and Youth/Family productions, thus offering them the opportunity to work with seasoned veterans. Both companies do this while working on tight budgets and by developing successful partnerships with the local business and cultural communities, just like community theatre does. This is what I mean when I say being ‘Of the Community’ as well as being ‘In the Community’. This results in all groups being vibrant, involved and increasingly skilled in their art.
Sadly not all professional theatre companies in our region share this vision of community involvement.
They fail to audition, let alone hire any local actors, and they fail to offer any form of community outreach such as Youth Theatre camps; and yet they do this while at the same time leaning on local tax payers for nearly 100% of the financial risk of their season. Their programing may deliver an entertaining package for busloads of tourists who stop by for the day, but they fail utterly to engage the local arts community by so ignoring it. They and their municipal underwriters may provide work for civic employees and Toronto-based actor and directors, and perhaps a few extra table settings and room bookings at local hotels and restaurants, but they and their hired guns leave no legacy or foundation for the future development of theatre in their host town.
Going forward from here, The Green Room will remain true to its mandate and will focus only on those theatre groups, both community and professional, with a strong connection to our community in Simcoe and Huronia, and on the training and service organisations that support and invigorate them. The others will have to fend for themselves and will therefore will be conspicuously absent from this site.
John Bleasby, Editor