“Why don’t you do awards for professional theatre in London?” a Toronto director asked me two years ago. I informed him that, “One theatre would be nominated in every category!” He then suggested some of our amateur theatre groups should consider moving into professional waters. “Then they wouldn’t get any awards!” I joked.
But since then there has been some movement in that direction. Tempting Tree Theatre Collective debuted its first professional production Reasons to be Pretty last month, and A Missing Link Theatre Company (AMLTC ) has their sixth on the boards (Billy Bishop Goes to War at the McManus Studio until March 8).
Rick Kish told me he started AMLTC “to create opportunities for members of Canadian Actors Equity Association to work in London.” Luckily for us that, while some might think his company is a ‘bridge too far’, Kish assured me the company is also within reach of non-pros. It “was designed to bring together pros and non that want to experience the way a company works under professional union standards.”
When I asked Kish if he felt he’s had the support of his peers, he assured me he had. “Over 55 community members, including artists and volunteers ranging from 15 to 75 years, have found AMLTC within their reach.”
Kish has also had the encouragement of The Grand Theatre, the granddaddy of professional theatre in London. “They have been very supportive of this initiative and really want us to succeed!” Encourage your competition…now that sounds like a great motto!
And so I spoke to The Grand Theatre’s Artistic Director Susan Ferley, who is in the middle of her 13th season at the helm. I asked Ferley the secret of her success — besides her evident positive and supportive spirit. “I guess the secret is there is no secret. Stay curious, stay tuned to your community, keep listening.”
How does Ferley keep challenging herself? “I love what I do. I want to keep learning and growing as a human being and as a theatre artist.”
As for next season she promises “There will be laughter, there will be music, there will be drama.” That formula is probably another secret to her success. It is showcased this season with two very different shows on deck.
The drama Other Desert Cities (February 18 – March 8) is intriguing. A daughter returns home to announce she is about to publish a memoir that will reveal a family secret. Wanna bet something’s going to hit the fan? The script was written by the creator of the hit television show Brothers & Sisters.
Then a local favourite follows: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (March 18 – April 12). Can you spell H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S, as in musical comedy? Ferley did flag it as perhaps a bit racy for children. (Okay, I’ve passed that along Susan, but I’ll bet that will only help sell tickets!) Six young people in the throes of adolescence compete for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Overseen by grown-ups who have barely managed to escape childhood themselves, these charming overachievers learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing does not necessarily make you a failure.
I guess that’s a metaphor for another secret to success, whether amateur or professional – risking failure, hoping for success and learning a ton along the way.
I’d like to shed some light on a new up-and-coming star on the horizon who is doing just that. A lot of people throw around superlatives as part of an introduction nowadays. Yes, I am stating Londoners are famous for being easily impressed. Personally, I have found a few producers stand out. They are the ones who receive all the press, because they are good at what they do.
Although Trish West has only three one-act shows under her belt, and all under the umbrella of other organizations (such as the London One Act Festival at the McManus), she has proven herself a quick study with her upcoming show Skin Deep (April 2 – 5). Certainly she’d be the first to admit she has learned a ton by performing in a number of shows over the past six years.
“I started by writing down my objectives, goals and dreams. Then I asked questions of individuals who have produced shows successfully, and watched how other productions caught my attention on Facebook, social media or by word of mouth.”
West has worked overtime to reach high school students in the area, and encouraging them to contribute art works that will be displayed in the gallery of The ARTS Project where her show will be mounted. West was able to arrange sponsors for the exhibit, which echoes themes found within her play.
Notwithstanding awards, and professional or amateur status in whatever degree, success is one’s own reward, and something we all can celebrate.