The power of performing arts; growing today’s youth into tomorrow’s community leaders

Since the thirties, there has been a tradition of theatre in the Eastern Townships English-speaking community. This tradition has enabled so many young people to experience the thrill of the theatre and to discover the art from professionals.  There has been much discussion lately about the ways of continuing this community education to extend to the up-coming generation. When we think about the kids who have come to the Echo Art Camp, or took part in a Knowlton Players or Sunshine Theatre musical play, we can see the benefit to the community in their choice of career and community involvement as adults twenty years later.

In a recent interview on the Townshippers’ weekly show, About Townshippers’ on Radio Communautaire Missisquoi, the subject of theatre and community was discussed with Doug Hooper, Artistic Director of Sunshine Theatre, and Ari Snyder, Music Director of Sunshine Cabaret.  Leading the discussion was the investment that community leaders have delivered back to various organizations and charities, as well as the enormous implication for the youth, who benefit directly from taking up responsibilities alongside their adult cast members.

There is an incredible amount of money and time that goes into putting on a show at the community level. The volunteer hours invested in the rehearsal of a play are calculated at one minute for every hour of performance. That time increases if music and dance are involved. Recently adding up the amount of volunteer hours that have been donated to a cause like community radio, I do know that it counts significantly to their success in being funded. Fortunately, the Ville de Lac Brome administration has prioritized these organizations and events in their Cultural Policy and has implemented a Cultural Initiatives Fund.

A group like the Knowlton Players or Sunshine Theatre has been able to invest in large cast shows because of the generous support of their audiences. Some years there have been two or three productions for each company; all bringing indirect funding to local business such as the restaurants and the incidental spending that accompanies a night out. Sadly, the audiences are aging and sometimes it is not clear if the community values theatre events as it used to. Where thirty or forty people would audition for a show ten years ago, the numbers are halved now.

However, there is an intention to maintain this tradition and ensure it remains an institution in our town whether the venues change or the outlet has a different format for diffusion. Even if the audience might now listen to a broadcast on 99.1FM rather than come out for an evening, our children will still need a place to sing, to hear a piano being played, or to experience the joy of pulling off a challenge.

Live theatre and music is present in the community for those who value it and seek creative activities for their children to be inspired. Sunshine Theatre will follow the influence of Knowlton Players, who have been donating scholarships for students for many years, and will set up a fund for five years to encourage young artists in their pursuits.

The Sunshine Cabaret fundraiser, which takes place from June 22 to 24 at the new and unique Radio Village Hall at 305 Knowlton Road, is just one of many events being planned in Knowlton to bring community artists together in a creative project. The evening will feature a fantastic program of Broadway hits from plays such as Phantom of the Opera, State Fair, Spamalot, Guys & Dolls, Wicked, Sound of Music, Sweeney Todd and many more preformed by talented Townships artists including Sarah Biggs, Ralph Steiner, Laura Teasdale and Danny McAuley. Ari Snyder will accompany the performance on the Radio Village Hall’s marvelous Steinway Piano.

Shows will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 24. Tickets, $25 each and including one drink, can be reserved by calling 450-242-9873. Catch Kate Wisdom’s interview with Doug Hooper and Ari Snyder, on 99.1FM during About Townshippers, this Friday, June 22 at 5 p.m.

By: Kate Wisdom, Community & Culture Coordinator

Photo cutline: The cast of the Sunshine Cabaret are preparing for a few evenings of Broadway inspired songs designed to cultivate the artistic talents of local youth by raising money for a newly created Sunshine Theatre drama scholarship.