The Play’s The Thing
In 2014, the birth of a new independent theatre company took Fort McMurray by storm. Formed as a company entering work into the Alberta Drama Festival Association One Act Play Festival, founders Michelle Thorne and Danna-Rae Evasiuk wished to combine their respective knowledge of performance and technical design to develop a local theatre company that emphasised the professional growth of artists. This combination of talent and commitment lead to the forging of Theatre; Just Because. Since its inception, the organization has been committed to providing full seasons of workshops, mentorships, and performance opportunities in partnership with the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts, and producing the annual dinner theatre production for Waypoints.
After years of dedicated service to Theatre; Just Because, Artistic Director Michelle Thorne took her leave to pursue her MFA in Directing at the University of British Columbia. To continue the success of her independent theatre company, Thorne selected a new Artistic Director that she believed exemplified the company’s heart and spirit. As of August 8th, 2017, Theatre; Just Because welcomed their new Artistic Director, Justin Shaw.
“Since meeting Justin Shaw in the summer of 2015, I was instantly impressed by his ambition, professionalism, and enthusiasm to bring artists together and to put them in the spotlight,” says Thorne. “(He) was a huge influence in the formation and success of Theatre; Just Because without him even really knowing. Having this young man come into our community and really shake things up and make things happen really lit the fire under many theatre artists in the community to step up the level of professionalism in their work.”
Shaw is an actor, producer, and comedian who just graduated from the National Theatre School of Canada in Montréal. However, Shaw is not a stranger to the Wood Buffalo performing arts scene. In 2015, Shaw endeavored to start a comedy show that highlighted local comedy talent - the Wrath of Shaw Comedy Show, where many local stand-up comedians honed their craft. It was also through this summer run of shows that local group Thunder Struck Improv first took to the stage. Shaw was impressed by the talent of Wood Buffalo artists and the commitment they had to nurturing their arts scene.
“I have always had tremendous respect for Theatre; Just Because,” says Shaw. “I believe the company has an important role in the revitalization of the arts in Wood Buffalo. I hope that with my contributions to the growth of the company I can continue to build the capacity of Wood Buffalo theatre artists to expand and enhance their practice, while challenging audiences on the conventions of theatre.”
Shaw was selected as the incoming Artistic Director during his collaboration with Thorne on his self-written and performed one-man show, The Wrestling Play . Initially, Shaw approached Thorne to direct the piece for its debut performance at the 2017 Island Fringe Festival in Prince Edward Island. During their partnership, Throne began the transition of leadership by introducing Shaw to the organization’s partners and affiliates.
Through the continued partnership with the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts, Theatre; Just Because is taking an ambitious approach to their 2017-18 season. The season began with Alberta Culture Days, where Theatre; Just Because offered two workshops for youth and adult actors. In these workshops, the participants were introduced to improvisational exercises designed to develop the actor’s instinct. The Alberta Culture Days weekend at the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts also included the presentation of an improv showcase highlighting the adult workshop participants, as well as the Alberta premiere of The Wrestling Play . Future projects with the Suncor Energy Centre for the Performing Arts include a follow-up to last year’s successful youth theatre program, The
Fantastic Mr. Fox . This October - March, Theatre; Just Because once again hosts the Play Production Series focused on youth. The production is A Kid’s Summer Nights Dream , a playful and contemporary adaptation of a Shakespeare classic.
While Shaw is keen to develop local and independent theatre, he understands that he cannot achieve this task on his own. Early into his transition into leadership, Shaw invited Diana Moser to join the company in the role of Program Director. Moser is a familiar face in the local theatre community, having previously worked with Keyano Theatre Company, the organizing committee for the Alberta Drama Festival Association, as well as performing in may Theatre; Just Because productions.
Moser is excited to take on a more in-depth role with Theatre; Just Because during the upcoming season as she continues the company’s partnership with Waypoints, directing their annual dinner theatre fundraiser. Following the success of Fanny & Manny Tie the Knot and The Awesome 80’s Prom , Theatre; Just Because and Waypoints are excited to present A Knight to Remember in February 2018. This medieval themed comedy is a new play being developed with the company, and guarantees to be an unforgettable night of theatre.
As Program Director, Moser will also coordinate the logistics of the company and help plan for future growth. “I am honoured to move into this position with a theatre company in which I have invested so much time and passion,” Moser says. “I am excited to apply my programming, administrative, and strategic skills to the continued growth of Theatre; Just Because, and working with such a talented artist as Justin Shaw makes it even more of an amazing opportunity! Theatre; Just Because has helped me grow so much as a theatre artist and I look forward to building the company’s ability to do the same for my peers now and in the future.”
As the company reviews its mission in creating art, Theatre; Just Because intends to empower artists to take ownership of their work. This mission will be achieved through the development of new works, and workshops that focus on building the capacity of the performer. Ultimately, the company strives for local theatre artists to challenge themselves and their work, and take pride in the continued pursuit of excellence in their craft.
“I am beyond excited to see what Justin’s skills and gusto will bring to Theatre; Just Because,” says Thorne. “Beyond Theatre; Just Because, I believe Justin is about to shake up a whole new era of theatre arts in Fort McMurray. Justin is an expertly trained artist, but his talent is over-shown by his heart and spirit, all qualities which represent the core of Theatre; Just Because.”
Find out more about Theatre; Just Because at www.theatrejustbecause.com and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for all the latest updates.