The Stage West Theatre Festival is hoping to continue to grow in its sixth season this summer.
Mike Payne, one of the Corner Brook festival’s founders, gave a glimpse into how far the event has come and plans to go when he was guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Corner Brook’s weekly luncheon last Thursday.
Stage West started up in 2008 with three productions. The founders were unable to make a go of the festival in 2009, but revived it in 2010 and have been going strong ever since.
The festival expanded to five shows for the 2012 season and, for the first time, included a musical in 2013.
In its first year, Stage West Theatre Festival brought in around 450 audience members. Last season, more than 1,800 people watched their performances.
“We are very proud of that,” Payne said of the growth.
“We are and continue to be an attraction for tourists and locals alike.”
The festival’s budget for 2013 was around $40,000 and nearly all of that went right back into the local economy, said Payne. The actors, directors and technical crew members nearly all hail from the Corner Brook area, making it a truly local theatre company.
While its goal is more to not lose money than it is to make it, any profits at the end of each season are evenly divided up to all of the festival’s members.
The real mandate is to keep theatre alive and well at the community level, said Payne, and to make it accessible to everyone. That’s part of the reason why the festival introduced a ‘pay-what-you-can’ night last season
“Regardless of your socioeconomic background, we want people to come see shows,” he said. “(The ‘pay-what-you-can’ night) was a great experiment for us. We saw people at shows we’ve never seen before.”
Stage West will be back again this season with five more shows, including another musical, “Nunsense.”
Returning for another season will be “A Fine Tyme,” a night of Newfoundland and Labrador music.
The other shows on tap include “Proof,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn; “Say Nothing Saw Wood” by Newfoundland and Labrador’s own Joel Thomas Hynes; and “A Steady Rain,” the Broadway hit by Keith Huff.
Payne said Stage West selects works it wants to do and the feedback from the audience has given them confidence they have been on the right track so far. They also don’t choose works from Newfoundland and Labrador just because they feel they have to include that local element.
“We don’t do them to curry favour,” said Payne.
“We want to do shows that are good and, anything we think are good, we are going to try and produce.”