CORNER BROOK The Stephenville Theatre Festival is reaching peak heights, in quality and attendance, for the past decade, says its artistic director.
Keith Pike said he is rekindling the bond between the province’s longest running theatre festival and the community, something he says showed positive results at the box office through its first week.
“One of my major goals as artistic director is to reach out to the community of Stephenville and get them back on board with the festival,” he told members of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook this week.
Pike said it is easy to recognize the past connection between the festival and the community when viewing archived photographs of events held in the 1980s. There were afternoon concerts on Main Street and workshops held for young aspiring artists. However, in recent years, he said it has dwindled.
“I believe so much in the role the community at large plays in building a theatre and building a theatre community,” he said.
So, earlier this year, performers with the festival were on a flat bed truck in the parking lot of Colemans, providing passersby with a glimpse of this year’s product.
“It created such a wonderful energy and wonderful environment for the people who were just walking up and down Main Street in Stephenville — for them to see the festival is alive, and committed to and interested in what the community is doing.”
Pike said there will be more of that in the future, including plans to open the backstage atmosphere and theatre life to aspiring artists through workshops. He also said there is plans to write and workshop their own musical theatre production, which would be performed in the following year’s festival. The artistic director said this season’s lineup is being embraced by the community, highlighted by sold out opening performances of “British Invasion” and “Headin’ West”.
“We have had a lot of feedback from the community, saying we are giving them what they want,” he said. “It is evident in our houses. We have had the highest gross opening week since 2001.”
It is not just the audiences impressed by the performances, but the visiting artists which make up approximately a quarter of the cast, Pike said. They have never experienced such raw talent and the love of the arts and theatre, according to the director.
It is also important to him to see Newfoundland and Labrador recognized for its contribution to Canadian theatre. Although he feels there are strides being made in that regard, he says there is a long way to go.
“It is making its way across the province and into places like Ontario that, in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are contenders in producing professional quality theatre,” he said. “I think it is really important Newfoundland and Labrador is on the map for producing professional quality theatre.”
The Stephenville Theatre Festival runs until Aug. 14. For more information go online to www.stf.nf.ca or call 643-4553.