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Theatre CBS gearing up for the Battle of Foxtrap

By Craig Westcott/March 31, 2023

Two of the principal organizers of Theatre CBS gave council last week an update on the progress of the troupe since its founding and its plans for the year ahead.

The occasion for the update was the signing of a proclamation by Mayor Darrin Bent declaring March 27 as World Theatre Day.

“It’s a privilege and an honour to be with you and to provide a short report card, or ‘State of the Union address’ to you for Theatre CBS,” said actor Gord Billard. 

He said the troupe was founded in 2021 with a vision of becoming a key player in a vibrant CBS arts community.

The troupe provides “learning and personal growth opportunities,” he said, through theatre workshops, acting lessons and the production of plays. Theatre CBS also collaborates and partners with other charitable and volunteer groups, and businesses, as much as possible.

So far, the company has staged three shows to full houses, including two radio dramas and a full stage production of Agatha Christie’s The Hollow.

“Those first three shows involved the participation of over 80 volunteers, crew and front of house staff, and attracted over 1,000 theatre goers,” Billard said.

One of the company’s co-founders, Jackie Cooke, known to many graduates of Topsail Elementary as the music teacher there, said there are even more exciting plans in the months ahead.

Earlier this month, she said, the group held another successful introductory acting workshop at the Kiwanis Club in Kelligrews, which resulted in several eager new actors joining the troupe.

They’ll get a chance to participate in the company’s next production, Ageless, a series of short plays which Cook said will take a lighthearted look at aging. “These plays are written for mature and senior actors and are sure to bring a smile and a few gut laughs to audience members,” she said.

Some 25 actors and crew attended the first workshop for the production, said Cook. The show dates are May 5 and 6 at the Kiwanis Club, which is a smaller and more intimate venue perfectly suited for this genre of performance, she allowed.

“This summer we will be working on an exciting new venture with close ties to the cultural fabric of CBS,” Cook added. “We will be presenting an adaption of the ghost and fairy stories from a native of Conception Bay South and one of the country’s pre-eminent poets, Tom Dawe. Duckish will be told as theatre-in-the-round, an exciting new approach for our company.”

Cook said the company is hoping to include the participation of other CBS artistic groups in the show, including dance, music and arts school students. “It promises to be a truly unique and homegrown show highlighting the traditions and storytelling culture that is so clear to our Newfoundland identity,” she said.

Duckish is scheduled to be mounted in October.

“For Christmas, we will be performing another radio adaption of a play,” Cook said, “and this is fast becoming our signature format for the yuletide season. This year we have decided to take on another classic – Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

The group is also working on making podcasts of two of its previous productions and will make them available on its website.

“In the fall of 2023, Theatre CBS will be developing two performance pieces for the 2024 season,” Billard added. “The Battle of Foxtrap will outline the story of the debate of Newfoundland’s entry into the railway age. “We’re already in discussions with local authors and playwrights to come up with a script and a performance that will tell this story in 2024. 

Another play in the hopper for next year is Understanding Wonderland which is co-written by Peter Halley of Spirit of Newfoundland Productions and Theatre CBS actor Leah McDonald. “It explores the world of autism and neurodiversity through the eyes of a young girl who loves the Alice in Wonderland story,” said Billard. “It’s ideal for school tours and educational settings and we’ll be exploring those possibilities this fall and into next year.”

Mayor Bent said the reception Theatre CBS received for its first three shows reflects a “desperate hunger” for live theatre in the community. The quality of the performances and the staging were “above and beyond,” he said.

“Congratulations on the successes you’ve had,” said the mayor. “The Town of Conception Bay South is very pleased to be a supporter, and I’m very pleased that you’re going to be reaching out and tapping into local talent, because there’s lots of talent in Conception Bay South, and you’re going to be tapping into our history as well. I suspect you’ll probably need some brooms and shovels and so forth for The Battle of Foxtrap… We look forward to the shows.”

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