Saskatoon has a strong theatre scene, and hopefully over the years it will continue to grow. With support from the community and with the help of private grants and funding, independent theatre can thrive alongside other theatre in the city.
Channel Theatre, a local independent theatre company, has a new play running this September titled The River, written by the English playwright Jez Butterworth. Director Josh Beaudry and actors Angela Kemp, Elizabeth Nepjuk and Jaron Francis, all University of Saskatchewan alumni, sat down with the Sheaf to discuss their new play and all things indie theatre.
The plot of The River is difficult to describe. It’s a play that is, quite literally, a mystery — about love, humanity’s common failings and choosing the people close to us. The River is bound to be an engrossing tale.
“It’s kind of a thriller, but not. It’s kind of a ghost story, but not. It’s about a man who takes his new girlfriend to his family fishing cabin … and he tells her that she’s special to him and she’s the only woman he’s ever brought there and once they get there, she comes to realize that’s not exactly true. There’s something a little off with his reasons for bringing her there,” said Francis.
Independent theatre essentially is that which is not attached to any retail theatre that does mass funding, but it does however have professional actors. It is put on by a group of people independently who share a common interest in that specific play.
Independent theatre can allow artists to work on projects they are passionate about without worrying about it fitting into a theatre’s season because they presume it’s what the subscribers might expect or want. This however, can sometimes give independent or indie theatre a bad reputation.
“Indie theatre in general sort of often gets misidentified as edgy, as outside the norm — and it’s not. It’s just that the goal or the necessity is that you have to convince people to come see something that they don’t know they are going to like in advance,” said Francis.
Although Saskatoon has a strong theatre scene, many U of S drama graduates move away to pursue a career, and Beaudry encourages this.
“I would tell students to move. I really think it’s the best course for them if they want to make a career; their best option is to go to a place where there is lots and lots of work,” said Beaudry.
Nepjuk agreed with Beaudry but also had a little something more to add.
“I agree to a certain extent; I would add a footnote, that they need to then come back. When you can bring that kind of knowledge from out of the city back into the city, we can keep theatre going,” said Nepjuk.
Of course, if all graduates of the drama department moved away, theatre in Saskatoon would become a dead zone.
“One thing that I’m really trying to do is build a bridge for the students to the acting world. We need to start making the students more prepared for the business side of things when they leave. You need to learn how to survive as an actor,” said Nepjuk.
Many drama students after graduation struggle with figuring out what’s next for them and assume their schooling is done, but it’s important to remember that even out of school there’s much more to learn.
“I learned so much more in my first two or three professional shows than I did in a four year degree, because that’s just the nature of doing the work. Just watching more mature artists work, you can learn so much more from that,” said Kemp.
The River is running from Sept. 22 to 25 and Oct. 5 to 8 at Paved Arts in Saskatoon. Tickets are being sold at the door for each performance and are $15 for students and $20 otherwise.
Bridget Morrison / Culture Editor
Photo: Angela Kemp / Supplied