Strat­ford east?

Theatre com­pany hopes to turn Cupids into an in­ter­na­tional theatre des­ti­na­tion


Dur­ing the Cupids 400th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions last year, the New World Theatre pro­ject of­fered tourists and lo­cals the chance to spend their mid­sum­mer evenings as John Guy and his set­tlers might have done be­fore they left for the New World — by go­ing to the theatre.

While the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions may be long over, New World Theatre is back in Cupids this sum­mer with an­other se­lec­tion of clas­si­cal and lo­cal sto­ries to be pre­formed on the In­deav­our Stage.

Artis­tic di­rec­tor Brad Hod­der said he never in­tended for the Cupids theatre to dis­ap­pear af­ter one sum­mer.

“Last year, we planted a time cap­sule to com­mem­o­rate our first sea­son. It’s meant to be opened in 25 years, so we have to ex­ist at least that long,” he jokes.

By that time, Hod­der hopes the New World Fes­ti­val will be an es­tab­lished sum­mer fix­ture in Cupids, at­tract­ing theatre-go­ers from around the world.

While this may seem like an am­bi­tious goal, Hod­der be­lieves in plan­ning for the best.

“A lot of peo­ple thought we couldn’t (put to­gether a sea­son) last year; we didn’t even know we could do it last year,” he says. “ We took a leap of faith.”

In many ways, the New World Theatre Pro­ject is still tak­ing that leap.

In 2010, it re­ceived a $100,000 grant from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. This year, they’ve had to seek other sources.

Re­cently, the New­found­land and Labrador Arts Coun­cil an­nounced it was giv­ing the com­pany a $10,000 grant.

Hod­der ad­mits there is a hole in their bud­get, but says artists have be­come very good at stretch­ing dol­lars to put on qual­ity shows.

Cap­tur­ing a wide au­di­ence

The 2010 sea­son was highly ac­claimed by theatre crit­ics in the prov­ince, and Hod­der says the new sea­son will be fol­low­ing a sim­i­lar for­mula, mix­ing Shake­speare with orig­i­nal plays by lo­cal writers and fam­ily friendly fare.

Co­me­dian Andy Jones, who played the hair-brained Bot­tom in last year’sA Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream, will be re­turn­ing this year to play Fal­staff, who is con­sid­ered to be one of Shake­speare’s wit­ti­est char­ac­ters, in­Henry IV, Part I.

“ We’ve all seen bad Shake­speare,” Hod­der ad­mits. “Some peo­ple avoid it be­cause it’s bor­ing or scary.”

Hod­der aims for the clas­si­cal shows to sound nat­u­ral and be full of en­ergy so they are ac­ces­si­ble to a wide au­di­ence.

“I like it when peo­ple leave the theatre and tell me that they never knew Shake­speare could be so funny,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to the fes­ti­val, New World Theatre will also be start­ing a day camp this sum­mer for chil­dren. It will of­fer acting and per­for­mance classes for boys and girls ages nine to 12.

“ Shake­speare is like Dis­ney, you’ve got to get them young,” Hod­der jokes.

Com­mu­nity em­brace

New World wanted to start the day camp to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tions of young peo­ple, but also to reach out to the larger com­mu­nity.

“ The ru­ral arts fes­ti­vals that suc­ceed are the ones that are em­braced by their com­mu­nity, and that takes time,” he says.

Cupids, he says, is the per­fect place for a theatre fes­ti­val. The town is within an hour’s drive to St. John’s, but is set in a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion. Most im­por­tantly, they’ve had the sup­port of some “ very won­der­ful cham­pi­ons” there.

In many ways, New World Theatre is fol­low­ing the for­mula that turned the small town of Strat­ford, On­tario into a cul­tural des­ti­na­tion in the 1950s. But Hod­der in­tends to de­vi­ate from that plan in one way — he wants the New World Theatre Pro­ject to con­tinue fea­tur­ing plays by lo­cal writers.

“ We want to keep re­vis­it­ing sto­ries from the Cupids area,” he says. “ There are great cre­ative minds and souls here, and so many sto­ries here that haven’t been told.”

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