Tackling Diversity on Stage

Category: stage 215

Hubcity Theatre take a political stance with first touring production, Roomies.

Matt Carter | @M_J_C73
(LtoR) Paul Power and Steve Ryan.
(LtoR) Paul Power and Steve Ryan.

This spring, Moncton’s Hubcity Theatre will embark on its first tour of the Atlantic region. Between April and August, the company will bring its production of the Paul Power play, Roomies, to stages in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Roomies is a play about two opposite personalities paired as university roommates in the late 1960s, each with a disability. Described as a “sitcom style comedy with more serious insightful scenes”, the play sheds light on broader issues surrounding diversity on stages across the country.

“I wrote Roomies while still in university and just starting out on the theatre scene,” said Power, who is now artistic director at Hubcity Theatre. “I noticed there were little roles out there for someone with a physical disability and decided to write a play that called for one of the characters to have a physical disability.”

It’s been over ten years since the play debuted at Memorial University in Newfoundland and its recent addition to Hubcity’s current season highlights the ongoing need to challenge barriers faced by disabled artists.

“Hubcity Theatre was looking to stage an original work in 2015 and thought Roomies would be a fun yet meaningful show to do that included issues not being covered by other companies in the area,” said Power.

The Hubcity Theatre first produced the play for a New Brunswick audience last November. Following a successful run in Moncton, the company decided to take the show on the road and launched a crowd funding campaign to support the project.

“Response to the play was positive and we decided we would branch out and bring the show to other areas in the Atlantic provinces,” said Power. “Through research I have done, the Atlantic Provinces continue to be less developed in the areas of deaf and disability arts when it comes to theatre as compared to what’s going on in Ontario, BC and some of the western provinces. Roomies, I hope, can help ignite further diversity on our Atlantic region stages.”

In recent years, many Canadian theatre companies have taken steps to ensure broader diversity on their stages focusing increased attention on gender equity and artists of colour however, Powers believes disabled actors remain on the fringes, segregated from this recent growth of diversity on stage.

“I think we need to take an integrated approach to diversity and disability,” he said. “In the current Canadian theatre landscape, we see shows focused on putting disability issues front and centre in what has been termed ‘disability theatre’. While I think works such as these are important, there’s also a growing sense of segregation.”

Powers is an actor and playwright who lives with a disability. He hopes through his work with this play, he can help bring greater awareness to issues facing actors with disabilities and their place within the theatre community.

“We have to look beyond the issue when it comes to how creators and audiences see disabled actors and characters. A physically disabled character can be in a play as part of the story, but the disability does not have to be the story. It’s what I like to call integrated theatre. Roomies is not a disabled play – it is a play. Personally, without that integration, as an actor, the only place for me would be in what we term ‘a disabled play’. We need to take the approach that an actor with a physical disability can be in ‘a play’.”

On Tour:

April 23 – Bus Stop Theatre | Halifax, NS

May 7 – Charlotte Street Arts Centre | Fredericton, NB

May 22 – Bausejour Curling Club | Moncton, NB

June 3 & 4 – Barbara Barrett Theatre | St. John’s, NL

August 4 -7 – Island Fringe Festival | Charlottetown, PEI

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