Perchance actors treading the boards again after shift along the bay

By Alexandra Brothers, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / August 4, 2023 Edition

It’s not every day that a theatre up and moves to a brand-new location, but that’s exactly what Perchance Theatre company has done this summer.

Perchance Theatre was established in 2010. The company performs primarily Shakespearian and other classical pieces along with newer Newfoundland plays. For more than a decade, the troupe has been putting on summer plays in an open-air theatre in Cupids.

However, due to a change in the ownership of the land that the theatre was built on, the company had to relocate. After two years of searching for a new location, it settled on a property in Conception Harbour.

The company has set up an interim venue at the new location while it raises money to build a new permanent theatre. The interim theatre was constructed out of the surviving materials from the company’s original venue in Cupids. “(The temporary theatre) has enabled us to go ahead this summer with a full operation of shows and allow us time to get to know our new community and new home so that we can start building our roots for the future,” said Danielle Irvine, artistic director of Perchance Theatre.

“It’s not something that’s done very often,” said Irvine of this kind of relocation. Moving venues has presented many challenges for the company this year.

Interestingly however, this move ties Perchance Theatre to its Shakespearian heritage. “Shakespeare himself… and his company members were in a similar position where they owned their theatre but not the land and they had to move,” said Irvine.

After moving across the river Thames in London, Shakespeare and his company constructed the Globe theatre — the theatre that Perchance’s venue in Cupids was modeled after. Irvine said she takes great comfort in the fact Shakespeare himself once faced a similar conundrum.

Still, it has been a difficult year for Perchance Theatre. Moving venues is not the only challenge the company has faced. The theatre has been met with issues ranging from funding and staffing shortages to weather-related crises like floods and the ongoing heat wave.

The heat has caused delays in every aspect of the theatre’s operation. With temperatures reading up to 44 degrees on Perchance’s stage, it has been unsafe for actors to carry on with their rehearsals or for set designers to finish building the sets for each play. The construction of the company’s stage itself has likewise been hindered by the heat. The company even had to push back the opening of its production of The Tempest due to the unbearable temperature in the theatre. “It’s been really hard, physically and mentally, on everybody,” said Irvine.

Nevertheless, the troupe has kept a positive attitude. “We’ve had a lot of challenges,” Irvine allowed, “but we’ve also been given a lot of incredible gifts of support from the community (and) from company members in order to get where we’ve gotten.”

Irvine expressed excitement about working in Conception Harbour. “Just getting here has been the biggest, most exciting gift,” she said. “The community has been super supportive and while we were really, really sad to have to leave Cupids, we’re very blessed to come to a community that is excited to have us and has been helping make what’s been a very challenging process possible.”

Thanks to their interim venue, the company is running three main shows this season. They include Mary Walsh and Rick Boland’s High Steel; Molière’s The Flying Doctor, which local playwright Evan Mercer has adapted to 1990s Newfoundland; and director Irvine’s production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The theatre is also home to a rotating series of weekly guest performances.

So far, the shows have been great successes, said Irvine, with full parking lots and laughter-filled audiences. “I’m just excited to have these shows here and have people come and love them,” she said.

Irvine added that she and her coworkers look forward to working with a permanent venue again in the next year or so. Their new theatre “will stand up into the future,” according to the director. The company has big plans in store moving forward including shifting to a year-round performance schedule and introducing community activities including art, music, and acting classes. The next five years, said Irvine, “(are) going to be five years of tremendous growth.”

Perchance is “at the beginning of a really big journey,” she said. One that will “be exciting to track and be a part of.”

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