Theatre New Brunswick introduce new Studio Theatre.
by Brian K.
“This is a special occasion,” said Thomas Morgan Jones as he stood before a packed house patiently awaiting the first performance of the company’s new season, his first as artistic director. “Tonight, we’re not just launching a new season with a new play, we’re celebrating the opening of a new theatre in Canada. At a time when we’re seeing large theatres closing all across the country, the opening of a new theatre is really something special.”
For the first thirty odd years of the company’s history, TNB called the Fredericton Playhouse home. Up until 2000, they were the same company. But like the art form it embodies, TNB has changed shape, format and position more than once over its near fifty year history, adapting to the times and rolling with the inevitable highs and lows associated with any arts related business. With or without a theatre of their own, TNB has continued to play a vital role within the province’s arts culture.
And there has been a lot excitement surrounding the company in recent months. Jones, a tireless diplomat, has been working hard alongside General Manager Susan Ready, to connect (and in some cases, reconnect) the company with the current generation of artists working within the city and the province, and a new theatre is a great way to make friends.
“I would love to see the TNB Studio become an arts hub for all the local groups in the Fredericton community and the province,” said Ready. “It would be great to see the space used not only for theatre, but dance and music as well.”
Jones is especially excited about the role the theatre will play in the current season.
“TNB’s new theatre is remarkable,” said Jones, speaking earlier in the week about the new space. “Specifically because of how transformable it is. Whether it is a minimalist play with only one chair as the set as in You Play Beautifully, or an enormous set design that fills the entire theatre as it does with the Vigil set, the 98 audience members at each show will have a completely unique and inspiring experience every time, because of the virtuosity of the space.”
With the theatre now open for business and three of the season’s eight public productions planned to take place there, TNB now faces its next major challenge which involves convincing the regional population that Fredericton’s downtown is not the only place to experience world-class arts performances.
Five years ago, the idea of a theatre space existing within the city’s Wilsey Road industrial park area would have seemed absurd. It may still seem absurd to some, but the landscape has changed. There are over 500 families in the Southwood Park area alone, who now have one of the province’s most intimate performing arts spaces just a short walk from their door. It is also easily accessible by car (with plenty of free parking), on a bus route and for the cycle enthusiast, just a 15 ride following the trails from downtown.
While the phrase, If you build it, they will come, means little in terms of breaking decade-long habits and associations, If they visit once, they will probably come back, seems more fitting in this case.
“The intimate seating capacity of 98 audience members means that each production will feel like a very special event, made specifically for the audience and the artists in the space together,” said Jones. “As the company continues to bring plays to life in our theatre, it gives us more opportunities to really connect with each audience member from the time they enter the lobby, as they watch the play, and in the time after seeing the show.”
While last night’s opening served to celebrate a new season of theatre, a new play, a new director and a new theatre space, these accolades should not stand above the most important and the most historically significant accomplishment of them all – Theatre New Brunswick once again has a theatre of its very own. Only good things will come of this.