The latest addition to Fredericton’s theatre community stages its inaugural production in September at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.
The theatre scene in Fredericton is booming. It has been for a while now. With over a dozen community theatre groups, a summer theatre festival, drama programs at both STU and UNB and Theatre New Brunswick all producing plays each year, fostering talent and supporting one another, the city has proven itself to be a welcoming place for emerging and established theatre talent. This might be one reason why Kelly McAllister decided Fredericton would be the ideal place to launch a company of her own.
In March of this year McAllister made things officially with the launch of Spearhead Theatre, a company focused on revitalizing classic works that “challenge and appeal to today’s audiences.”
“I always wanted to be an Artistic Director but I never thought it would be for my own company,” said McAllister. “I dreamt that maybe one day a pre-existing company would hire me to continue their vision, but I didn’t really realize or believe that I could do it on my own.”
But that is exactly what she has been doing – and she has been turning a lot of heads in the process. Shortly after announcing her company, a website was launched, a fundraising campaign was underway and on the first day of May, Spearhead Theatre announced its inaugural production – an ambitious six performance run of the John Pielmeier classic, Agnes of God.
“After reading the script, I knew immediately that we had to launch with Agnes of God,” said McAllister. “I wanted to launch with a show that hadn’t been performed in Fredericton for a while – the last time was about 30 years ago at TNB – and that would, hopefully, inspire conversations among the audience afterwards.
“I was also drawn to the fact that there’s not one, not two, but three extremely complex roles for women, which I can’t stress the importance of enough,” she said.
Summoned to a convent, a court-appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Martha Livingstone (Elizabeth Goodyear) is tasked with assessing the sanity of a novice accused of murdering her newborn baby. Miriam Ruth, the Mother Superior (Adeen Ashton-Fogle), is determined to keep young Agnes (Kelly McAllister) from the doctor, further arousing Livingstone’s suspicions. Who killed the infant and who fathered the innocent child? Livingstone’s questions force all three women to re-examine the meaning of faith and the power of love, leading to a dramatic, compelling climax.
For her company’s debut, McAllister has assembled a team of extremely talented artists and designers to make it happen.
McAllister studied at both the Ottawa Theatre School and Sheridan College and was the Artistic Director of Toronto Youth Theatre before she moved to Fredericton. She has toured professionally and has acted in recent productions by NotaBle Acts Theatre Festival, Bard in the Barracks and Theatre UNB. Next month she will join Sheridan College’s professor of voice Adeen Ashton-Fogle and local theatre veteran Elizabeth Goodyear on stage as the cast of Agnes of God.
The production will be directed by Tilly Jackson, with lighting design by Nikki Vigneault, costume designer Lynn Addleman, along with stage manager Dee Chiasson.
“I chose this group of women because they are all exceptional at what they do,” said McAllister. “Unfortunately, women are still underrepresented in theatre, especially on the technical side, so I wanted to support and give them a platform to show the community what they can do.”
Agnes of God debuted in 1979 and became the biggest hit of playwright John Pielmeier’s career. In 1982 the show moved to Broadway and was later adapted into a feature film starring Jane Fonda, Meg Tilly and Anne Bancroft.
“Even though it premiered 40 years ago, this show is still relevant to today’s audiences, because it explores themes that are universal to the human condition: faith, loss, death, addiction, and innocence, just to name a few,” said McAllister.
Spearhead Theatre’s production of Agnes of God opens September 4 and runs until September 8 with six performances at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.
Tickets and complete details are available at spearheadtheatre.com