It’s hard to believe this November will mark 10 years since the formation of the Off-Broadway Players, Corner Brook’s community theatre group.
At the time, I was in my third year of studies in the Theatre Program at the post-secondary institution formerly-known-as Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. I clearly remember standing outside of the Fine Arts atrium when I first heard the news about this newly formed group and, in my ignorantly snobby way, stuck up my nose at the idea of, dare I say, a “non-professional” theatre group.
In my naiveté, I never thought the group would last, much less did I see the value of its existence in the first place.
Ironically, 10 years later, I find myself sitting as president of the company.
Needless to say, though it has evolved, the group is as strong and valuable as it was in its primary year. Clearly, my ill-informed initial impressions have evolved as well.
So, this got me to thinking. If I, as a theatre student, originally had misconceptions about the group, perhaps there are many members of the general public who do not really understand who we are or know why and how we do what we do. So, if you would, I’d like to take up some space and hopefully fill in some blanks, dispel some myths, answer some questions and provide some history about us.
Firstly, we are truly a community group.
What that means is that no member of our organization is ever paid for any role in any production. In fact, each of us actually pays an annual membership fee to take part in the shows we do.
To many people, this idea seems ridiculous. I often get asked, “Shouldn’t you be paid for giving up your time instead of paying to give up your time?” My answer is simple: We do it for fun; we do it because we love to do it. It’s not a job. It’s a passion, a drive.
Believe me, if you’ve never experienced the adrenaline rush of being on stage, it is just that! Twenty bucks membership is a small price to pay for that and for the sense of camaraderie you get from working with people from all walks of life with a common goal in mind: to present to best production possible and, hopefully, have some fun while doing it.
It is extremely satisfying and, what’s more, it’s a great way to meet people.
So what happens to the money we pay as members? The same thing that happens to the money you pay when you come to see one of our shows: it goes right back into the pot for our next show.
We simply make enough money to cover our costs, like rentals, theatre expenses, set and props, and any other costs accrued by producing a show.
In fact, sometimes when we have to travel, we don’t even make enough from a show to break even. This is why we so often have to depend on the community at large and other organizations to give us a hand. And Corner Brook continues to pull through for us. And for that, we are thankful.
And I like to think that we give back to not just Corner Brook, but to the west coast in general. For instance, we have members from communities outside of Corner Brook. I like to think that we provide a great opportunity for anyone in our town and beyond to get involved with a group of people with the same passion for theatre, irrelevant of experiences and abilities.
We also try to provide a wide-variety of entertainment that will engage many community members, be artistically challenging and appeal to a wide-variety of audiences. It’s almost amazing, really, to think that our company has successfully produced farces like “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Hysteria,” dramas like “Closer” and “True West,” horror-themed shows like “Dracula” and “The Rocky Horror Show,” family-friendly shows like “The Polar Express” and “Nightmare” and, most recently, “The Wizard of Oz.”
We have even dabbled in film. And this only scratches the surface of the shows we have produced.
And at the risk of sounding arrogant, I like to think we do some pretty good work. In fact, this is why I got involved with the company to begin with.
The first show I saw produced by the company was “Lend Me a Tenor,” which had me in stitches. I was amazed that an “amateur” (I really dislike that word) theatre troupe could pump out such a fine piece of quality theatre that could stand up to any show I’ve seen in London’s West End.
Once I saw the show, I knew I had to get involved. I simply couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with such talented people on such challenging pieces. And with the people we currently have involved, I know we will continue to produce such top-quality shows.
Hopefully, there are still people out there like me who, when they see one of our shows, will walk away wanting to make the leap from audience member to thespian.
And we have been recognized for our work. As part of the Newfoundland and Labrador Drama Society, Off-Broadway has taken part in the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Drama Festival since our inauguration.
In fact, we have event hosted this provincial event twice right here at home. We continue to walk away with high acclaim from audiences and awards from adjudicators. I say this not to gloat, but to remind readers that we are helping to keep Corner Brook and the west coast on the artistic map in this province.
And it makes me feel especially proud when the community, particularly local businesses, gets involved in a show that is a success. When people come see our shows, tell us they enjoyed it, or when an adjudicator awards us, this reflects well on our little town and region. In short, we are only as strong as the support we get from home.
So, how do you support us?
Firstly, come see our shows. Theatre doesn’t exist without an audience and that audience is you.
Secondly, if you can, give a helping hand. Whether it be lending that special prop from your basement, letting us borrow a space, help us out with a cheaper rate on a purchase, direct us to a certain person, drop us a word of encouragement, support a fundraiser or talk us up to your friends and family, every bit of help goes a long way. And I know many, many of you already do this and, for this, you have my sincerest thanks.
And what do you do if you want to get involved? Well, that’s super-easy.
Every September we hold our annual general meeting. This is when we elect our board of directors. You can join us, pay your $20 and, bam, just like that you are a member of OBP. Being a member gets you the right to vote for a new board each fall. Additionally, you’ll get email updates about the group and even get to attend any functions we may hold, like socials.
So even if you’re not overly keen on going on stage or getting your hands dirty behind the scenes, you can still become a member. Even if you missed our AGM you can become a member at any time; simply contact me or one of our current executive members and you are set.
Hopefully I have provided some insight into who we are, what we do, how you can support us and, most importantly, how you can get involved. If you would like further information, you can email us at email@example.com, visit our website at www.offbroadwayplayers.com, or check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
You can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (709) 628-2694. Once again, thank you for the continued support.
Our next show, “The Wizard of Oz” is set to hit the stage of the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre on Oct. 27-27. Hopefully, we will see you there!
All the best,
Jordan Stringer, President, Off-Broadway Players