By Kyle Francis
It’s easy to imagine a city’s theatre scene as a dark and impregnable fortress. Only the most skilled thespians can penetrate its thick walls to make a living running their own theatre company. Most remain outside the walls only able to long for the rich treasures of fame and respect within. Because to stage anything you need money. And for most young upstarts the finances prove to be the biggest obstacle between them and the castle’s courtyard. Many finance their projects out of their own pockets, but few make any of it back.
Left to stand outside the unforgiving black bricks of the fortress are THEATREboom. Over the past three years, inching their way closer to the goal of prosperity, this theatre troupe has not only personally financed most of their shows, but even manage to make a bit of money here and there.
THEATREboom’s latest endeavour has them working closely with ATP’s Generations project with the potential for them to net some international attention.
“Eugene Stickland, ATP’s writer in resident, left last year to pursue other things and, rather than hiring another resident, they’re running the Generations project to showcase the talent of some of the up-and-coming talent,” says Evan Rothery, one of the co-founders of THEATREboom. “It’s going to happen on Blitz weekend, which is the last weekend of the playRites festival and ATP may even develop the play my brother and I wrote into a play for next year’s festival.”
Blitz weekend has been described as “a must-stop on the Canadian theatre scene” and the new Generations project promises a chance for burgeoning artists to get a foot in the door. Generations is structured to give young writers the opportunity to have their play directed by an established director and vice versa.
Evan and Jason Rothery, two of the masterminds behind THEATREboom, co-wrote a play to be performed alongside a play written by Glenda Stirling, a well respected name within the Calgary theatre scene.
“Evan and Jason’s play is about how two very different brothers deal with–or don’t deal with–the death of their father,” explains Pat MacEachern, another founding member of THEATREboom.
“Glenda Stirling’s play is about the generation gap in high schools between teachers and students. They’re about different things entirely, but they share common themes. It’s a mentoring program, but it’s also about sharing ideas.”
With the respect gained from the Generations project, THEATREboom hopes to run the theatre troupe into a financially viable theatre company within five years. An idyllic dream to be sure, but with the steady climb in quality the troupe has seen since their christening, it isn’t unreasonable. The troupe concedes any theatre scene is tough to make a mark on, but if there’s a place to do it, it’s Calgary.
Although the theatre scene isn’t nearly as established as Montreal or Toronto, Calgary has made a name for itself as one of the fastest-growing theatre communities in Canada and more receptive to amateur performers than other cities.
ATPïž´S playRites festival has always celebrated writers, new and old. And THEATREboom is ready to make the most of the home stretch of the festival, along with the Wind Up Dames. Things look good, not just for those troupes, but others just like them, headed by head strong talented men and woman ready to storm the castle. With projects like ATP’s Generations and festivals like playRites, the cold, unforgiving walls of Calgary’s fortress should be made even friendlier in future.
“The thing about Calgary’s theatre scene is that it’s grown a lot in the last ten years,” says Mitch Craib, the fourth and final founding father of THEATREboom. “It’s just a really good place to be a young artist right now.”