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.
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.”