It's been almost a year to the day since Aim for the Tangent finished the last play of its 2013/14 Season - our first official "season" - and I hopped on a plane to return to a long neglected home to take up an adventure, the breadth of which I held neither comprehension nor conception.
After 8 years of studies and work in Ontario, I was to return to Sydney, Nova Scotia - the "capital" of the disproportionately small island of Cape Breton. The reason: to direct a local production of my Vaudeville musical The Wakowski Brothers, the first production undertaken by Aim for the Tangent and our first big hit. This would serve as the debut production of another new venture - a new venue, once a church, now converted into a gorgeous 550 seat theatre.
Downtown Sydney had never had a professional theatre venue, not in my lifetime at least. The stories of now demolished Vaudeville houses lining Charlotte St (the "main drag") was the stuff of inspiration for my own work, but just as the Vaudeville circuit dried up, so did these theatres. The nearest "regional theatre" being the Neptune in Halifax (5 odd hours away from Sydney, for those keeping score).
This conversion of a gorgeous 100 year old church was an incredible undertaking, but one I remained skeptical of. No theatre venue meant no theatre audiences and despite a thriving community theatre scene based around the local university and a recent renaissance of Broadway musicals at the Savoy (one of the aforementioned Vaudeville houses in the nearby city of Glace Bay), I worried that Sydney wouldn't be able to sustain a mid-level, "alternative" theatre putting on productions akin to the scale of Toronto's Tarragon or Passe Muraille.
I committed to one show. The success of which lead to committing to a second show: A Christmas Carol. The mega-success of which prompted the planning of a very hasty Winter/Spring Season, which lead to my involvement in 5 shows in the past 5 months.
The trials and triumphs of these past five months are the stuff of another blog post (or several volumes of memoirs), suffice to say: Highland Arts Theatre defied by every expectation and as we speak, we are readying three new productions and one re-mount which will run in rep all summer as well as an all new 5 play season for the months between September and Christmas.
When I left, I had no expectation that I would be leaving Toronto for so long or that I would be able to combine so much of the world I have been studying, living in, and trying to create back home in my own town.
It has now been five months since I've been in Toronto and as I write this, I am readying to return. In just a week and a half I will be walking your urine caked sidewalks, breathing your sterile, smoggied air, and biking through your gorgeous nights until the warmth and breath and lights coalesce to create the feeling of infinite.
"First Time Last Time" opens at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace on June 10th. More soon!