I see a wide variety of community theatre. Some good, some bad, some that I talk about above and beyond my reviews and some that I don’t. Lots of people who ask me about shows I’ve seen want to know which ones I hated that I still gave a positive review to. I very rarely share that info because in the end, I’m one person and just because I didn’t like a show doesn’t mean that countless others wouldn’t completely disagree with me. I see dozens of a shows a year for one simple reason: to positively encourage and provide free publicity for the hard working community theatre organizations that are in the GTA.
Last week, I was invited to attend the 25th anniversary concert of the Encore Series at Meadowvale Theatre in Mississauga. For those of you who don’t know, the Encore Series is made up of 5 separate community theatre groups: Etobicoke Musical Productions (EMP), Clarkson Music Theatre (CMP), Theatre Unlimited Performing Arts (TUPA), Meadowvale Music Theatre (MMT) and City Centre Musical Productions (CCMP). These five companies are full of enthusiastic amateur performers, creative teams and technical artists, all working together to market their productions as the Encore Series. How smart is that? They each do one musical a year and are constantly supporting, advertising and chatting up whoever they meet about all 5 amazing groups.
I’m stealing a quote from their mission statement as it is so great! “We love the unique art form that is music theatre. We love to perform, to create, to take risks, to grow. We love the connections we have made with the community, our audience and each other: the friendships we make on stage and off; the partners we have found to share our work; the sense of heritage as we pass this love of music theatre on to our children, as it was passed down to us.”
Seriously… I just love that. Community theatre should be about families coming together to experience and create art! While I was being introduced around to so many wonderful people, the lovely Nancy Reed (who invited me to experience this night) was always giving me background history on each person I met or saw on stage.
There were 8 performers deemed “The Kids” (Holly Barnwell, Laura Carney, Kelsey Faulkner, Erica Feggans, Stacey Feggans, Mark Jones, Katie Prestige and Dylan Roose), who, now all adults, had grown up performing in shows, attending rehearsals with their parents and even met spouses while participating in one of the many Encore Series’ shows. Or how about Erin Mouchian, who has performed on the Meadowvale Theatre stage since she was 15 years old in over 10 Productions. And then cut over to Lisa Horner. You know Lisa; the star of countless Stratford and Mirvish Productions. The Lisa Horner who is singing right now in the Canadian cast of “Come From Away”?!! Yep, that one! Lisa grew up with groups just like the Encore Series and witnessed her parents, Susan and Al Horner, founding Meadowvale Music Theatre. She was raised in the theatre and then made it her career and life, probably in part because of the sense of community, welcoming and talent she was surrounded by.
As my 2017/2018 review season comes to a close (only 2 more shows left!) I am beginning to map out what shows to review next year. I have 42 possible shows to see. Now although I will not be able to see them all, that number astounds me because that’s just the companies I know and have reviewed before. There are so many more community theatre companies in the GTA which means there are probably dozens more shows being produced next season. Hundreds of people are learning, expressing themselves and nurturing their passions through a community theatre organization.
How wonderful is that!