When I left theatre school, I was one of the lucky ones (yes, lucky) that landed a job almost immediately.
You may remember me? I played guard #2 in Sarah Phillips’ adaptation of Antigone…
The production was full of theatre names like Michael Healey, Richard Greenblatt, Christine Brubaker, etc. and, despite my incredibly small part/talent/experience, they welcomed me into Canadian Theatre with open arms. They made me feel a part of It. And because I felt a part of It, I listened and I learned, I respected and I risked. It was the beginning of my life as a theatre maker. That feeling was further expanded by our rehearsal location. We spent long days in one of the rehearsal rooms upstairs at Tarragon breaking to the central green room when we were lunching, coffee-ing, or simply when we weren’t ‘on stage’. Which, for guard #2, was a lot. In that green room sat various and sundry theatre folk who were also working on assorted shows in the adjoining rehearsal halls doing what we did, hanging out. It was here that I met a handful of my theatre heroes, listened to stories, asked questions, and heard about their wins and losses in Canadian Theatre.
Green rooms have always held a certain fascination for me – so few theatres that I have worked in spend any resource making them comfortable, exciting, or inviting. Yet so many of us have spent countless hours staring at the same yellowing promotional posters, lining up at the microwave and furtively pouring coffee that we haven’t paid for (yet). The green room is the living room of Canadian Theatre. And also it’s kitchen. And, well, the dining room as well. It is where we live when we’re not ‘out there’. A private place for us to commune in repose. And it is a place where theatre makers can inspire and be inspired.
Fifteen years and umpteen green rooms later, I have found myself in Kingston, ON firmly clenching the bannerpole for professional artistry and for Canadian Theatre. There are only a few us ‘old’ pros here but the place is lousy with emergent talent. It brims with excitement, creativity, and promise.
When the City of Kingston announced that it would be turning a rambling waterfront heritage building into an arts cluster facility, I jumped at the chance for Canadian Theatre to play a role. Since then, it has taken five years and a significant investment from the City but they have finally achieved what they sought out to do: The Tett Centre for Creativity & Learning provides subsidized space to 8 anchor arts organizations of which my company, Theatre Kingston, is one. It also houses 8 studios for resident artists, a gallery space, workroom, a rehearsal hall and an event space. It is an incredible feat for a community of this size and a testament to the municipal government’s commitment to arts & culture.
When Theatre Kingston was allotted 1500 square feet to dream with, I immediately knew what we should do. It was time to put together my own space where I could give young artists what had been given to me at the Tarragon those many years ago. Opening officially this Spring, the TK space will house three individual offices for three companies (one of which is ours), a joint office with three desks that will be made available on short term leases for smaller companies that need a base of operations for a production, and The Lounge. The Lounge is really a reincarnated version of my experience at the Tarragon. It is intended as a geographical manifestation of the amorphous concept “Canadian Theatre community”. Or “It”. It is my gift to this region’s pulsating emergent theatre people – a place where they can create, coordinate, and communicate. Not to mention rub shoulders with the various professional theatre artists that we bring in from out of town. Y’know – the ones with the stories about their wins and losses?
Physically, the space will have several significant features: a 14-seat table for meetings and readings, a cork wall for audition/classes/production announcements, a bunch of couches/chairs for lounging, and a 2500-play ‘take one, leave one’ dramatic literature library for use by the community. Ideologically, it is an epicenter for mentorship and support to the next generation of theatre artists that will come out of this region. The Lounge will host readings, socials, outings, and masterclasses focusing on ‘Hometown Heroes’ like Randy Hughson, Sue Edworthy, Maev Beaty, Judith Thompson, Chilina Kennedy and many more that have come from Kingston and who will be invited home to share their experiences with the current crop of ‘recruits’. It will be a green room. But the coffee will be free.