Artistic director looks to launch Kingston onto theatre world stage

Brett Christopher

By Hollie Pratt-Campbell

Brett Christopher has big plans for the future of theatre in the Limestone City.

My hope is that I can provide plays that are of a quality that can be seen anywhere in the country and even in the United States,says the Theatre Kingston artistic director…”That way people dont need to drive to Toronto or Montreal to see a play - they can see it in Kingston.

Christopher explains that building a larger pool of local professional theatre artists will be a big piece of this puzzle - but it wont necessarily be an easy task. Currently, Theatre Kingston is the citys only professional theatre company, meaning its actors, directors, stage managers, etc. all make their living creating theatre.

There are lots of companies and lots of people making plays in this city, but there are not many people who do it for their living. What I want to do is have enough artists in the community that I can just pick up a phone and say lets do a reading or lets do a workshop with this new play Ive commissioned and those people are here to do the job.

He notes that Randy Hughston, a Kingston-raised actor who starred in Theatre Kingstons production of Red earlier this year, is a perfect example of how this could be possible if the right steps are taken.

He said, I so desperately want to come home. I so desperately want to live here and make theatre here. But I cant because there just isnt enough paid employment.Thats a very common tale - people who got great starts here at Theatre 5 or Domino or these amazing companies and had to leave because they couldnt survive as a theatre artist in this community.

Furthermore, Christopher aims to create a canon of plays that are about Kingston.

Right now Im commissioning scripts that are based in Kingston and/or are about Kingston. Thats not only to create a canon of work [for] this area, but also to export those stories so theyre talking about Kingston in British Columbia [and] Montreal.

So how will he accomplish these goals? Christopher says that it all starts out with connecting talented, like-minded people.

Its way too much work work for one human being,he laughs, explaining that hes been working a lot with talented young people, such as Mike Sheppard of Blue Canoe Theatrical Productions, to try and build a stronger professional theatre community in Kingston.

Im trying to help them as producers or as creators to make more of what they do, to build up what they do and be more successful so that more people can be involved in a production.

Moving into the Tett Centre for Creativity and Learning will be another important step in the right direction. Not only will Theatre Kingstons offices will be located there, but also a sitting area and workspace, which Christopher hopes will serve as a gathering place for members of the theatre community to connect and feed off of one anothers creativity.

He recalls being a part of this kind of community early in his career at Torontos Tarragon Theatre.

As a young actor I would come out and sit in the seating area, and there would be all these amazing, famous theatre actors there and I would just think, oh my gosh, Im in a community. Im part of this. And so my hope is that our Tett space recreates that experience for a younger generation.

He envisions the area holding a library of plays that anyone can use, and opening the space up to different theatre groups in the community.

We could be rehearsing a play in the rehearsal hall and those actors can come down and have lunch in our area or hang out in our lounge, but at the same time maybe Blue Canoe is there working on something or a couple of Queens students are having a meeting and theyre talking about something else.

Itll be kind of like a crossroads for a lot of people that are making theatre in the city - thats the dream.