SJTC’s upcoming production asks, “What matters most: our prosperity or the truth?”
Saint John Theatre Company will conclude its Mainstage season of theatre with a production of the Henrik Ibsen play, An Enemy of the People, a particularly poignant story about a whistleblower who spoke out against local industry’s contamination of the local water supply. Though fictional, the story carries with it several themes that resonate close to home.
“We believe that this story can help raise awareness and sensitivity to environmental issues as they relate to our current circumstances in New Brunswick,” said SJTC’s artistic director Stephen Tobias.
For this production, the company has hired director Richard Rose, of Ontario’s Tarragon Theatre.
“I’ve been a fan of Tarragon Theatre for some time and have made that a regular stopping point any time I’m in Toronto,” said Tobias. “In the fall of 2015, I visited Tarragon Theatre specifically to see the new Schoenbaum version of Enemy of the People. I met Richard in the lobby and we chatted about the production a bit. My initial interest was in bringing that particular version to New Brunswick. After subsequent meetings with Richard and Maria Milisavljevic (playwright in residence at Tarragon) we agreed to collaborate on a new version of the play.”
This creative collaboration led to a new version of the play set in Canada.
“We felt that setting the play in Canada could add an even greater level of engagement among those who see it,” said Tobias. “It’s amazing how this 130 year old script spells out issues that are still with us today.”
An Enemy of the People features an all New Brunswick cast made up of Anika Lirette, Alicia Potter, Stephanie David, Ian Goff, Jesse Lapointe, Robert Doherty and Pippa Wennberg, and will tour to parts of the province in May.
Recent years have seen SJTC extend its reach to audiences beyond Saint John through an increase in touring productions, an action Tobias believes has made a significant impact on the all aspects of the company’s annual programming.
“Touring is very important, until it isn’t,” he said. “We tend to do what works and we pursue opportunities that encourage company growth and development. Currently, we are finding that there is a broader audience for our style of work, which is extremely flattering. Ultimately though, we are a Saint John based organization and are extremely proud of that.
“One of the benefits of touring is that we are actually introducing our product to a larger audience within Southern New Brunswick who are now regularly making the trip to Saint John to see us in our home venues. If enough people do that, it may change our thinking on touring. For now, it is something that I intend to pursue aggressively.”