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Pulling Back the Curtain on YMM’s Theatre Scene - A soliloquy in two acts...

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Stage to Black.  The stage fills with a dim blue light, and a lone male figure walks onto an empty stage.  The stage lights gradually brighten until the figure is clearly seen… he is DAVE, the author of this article. 

Dave – My YMM arts story starts in early spring of 2008.  I had moved here from Cape Breton the year previous and I felt like a foreigner in a new land.  Like many other new arrivals, I knew few people outside of my work groups, and had little appetite for socializing during my first Alberta winter. 

Fortunately, 2008 was also the year the Alberta Dramatic Festival Association (ADFA) held its provincial competition here in Fort McMurray. I remember the excitement of sitting in the audience and realizing that I wasn’t alone in this new place after all.

I cut my YMM theatre teeth through Katie’s Playhouse Community Theatre Society and the interPLAY festival. Through those experiences, I met some of the most amazing people who are now like family to me. In 2010, I had my next YMM theatre rite of passage: I auditioned for my first role in a Keyano Theatre Company production. I didn’t get a part.  The roles I auditioned for went to people who I didn’t know, but who I now consider great friends: Norm Sutton and Zach Barrett. 
See a theme here yet?

Queue music.  Something fast paced, feel free to use your imagination. 

Dave – Over several years, I and other local theatre artists created new works, entered solo and group projects, and won numerous awards across the province.  We have built a strong theatre community here. So strong in fact that the ADFA Provincial Festival returns to YMM on May 27-28, 2016.

Music fades out, and the lights come up so that the actor can pace on the stage.

Dave - Today, the landscape of theatre arts in Fort McMurray has many of the same players, along with new faces, groups, and opportunities to perform.  At the time of this writing, I just finished a dinner theatre production by YMM’s newest theatre company, Theatre--just because--and I am about to start rehearsals for Keyano Theatre’s “Run for Your Wife.”  I am also teaching and performing with ThunderStruck Improv, which I co-founded in 2015 with Zach Barrett. Importantly, there now exists an organization dedicated to championing the arts in the region, Arts Council Wood Buffalo (ACWB), and I sit as the Director – Theatre on its Board.

ACWB advocates on our behalf of our arts community and helps demonstrate to stakeholders that the arts are essential in creating a balanced community.  They also provide one on one consultation with artists on topics ranging from how to find funding to how to audition for a play – helping local artists to make a living from their work. ACWB also helps raise the profile of our arts community; the next time you are looking for an artist to hire, check out the growing Artist Directory on the Arts Council website.

Because the Arts Council has access to a number of professional artists, this allows them to provide mentorship to emerging actors as well. These mentorship opportunities not only increase the skills of young actors (these kids will probably give you a run for your money at your next audition) but also shows them that careers in the arts are possible.

Now I think you’re seeing the theme here.

To the technician working in the back… 

Dave - Can I get the house lights up please?

The lights above the audience come up to half brightness so that Dave can see the audience.

Dave - Look around you; someone in this audience has a story about the arts community. I encourage you to find them in the lobby and share stories. Keep attending local theatre or, join me and several others at the next set of auditions. Wherever theatre finds you in this town, know that it isn’t about watching a show.  It’s about telling stories and making memories, and some of my best memories are right here in this town. 

Dave Boutilier is the Director - Theatre for Arts Council Wood Buffalo and also the Co-Founder of ThunderStruck Improv. 


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