What's new with Blue Canoe?

Kingston community theatre company talks upcoming projects and future goals

Kingston's Blue Canoe community theatre.
Credit: 
From Blue Canoe's website.

Community theatre can be challenging at times, but Blue Canoe’s general manager says that the outcome is well worth it.  

Kim Dolan, Blue Canoe’s general manager, spoke to The Journal about the theatre company’s current and upcoming projects. Dolan joined the company in 2018 as its general manager, but has been part of various other productions before this.

In her role, Dolan oversees the entire group, including supporting and contracting the staff who manage the company’s many portfolios. These portfolios include their arts programming, their Launch Point Academy, and the Juvenis Festival—their youth-centred arts festival from May 1 to 9, 2020, which sets up shop all over Kingston. 

Launch Point Academy is Blue Canoe’s educational element, which offers theatre classes, camps and summer programs for children ages four to 15.

Blue Canoe has grown and expanded in the services it offers the Kingston community since the company’s start back in 2007 by a group of high school students.

Explaining the company’s origins, Dolan said, “Some high school students came together and saw a gap […] They wanted to do theatre so they started doing productions, and then more and more people got involved because of the really inclusive and open atmosphere.”

 A few years later in 2011, the company was incorporated as a non-profit.

Today, Blue Canoe puts on a few productions each year, in addition to running their educational camps and the Juvenis Festival for young artists.

“[The Juvenis Festival] is a big festival but overseen by Blue Canoe, and it's inclusive of a variety of arts, not just theatre. It's an opportunity for youth aged 30 and under to be able to submit projects and participate in dance showcases, poetry, visual arts, theatre.”

Currently, they’re looking for original play submissions to put on during the festival’s play series.

“We have a whole bunch of other projects, like an open mic cabaret and a battle of the bands,” Dolan said. “We have a teen show that’s open to high school students, which is going to be High School Musical.”

Dolan says that when it comes to selecting what kind of plays to take on, the company takes the decision very seriously.  

“We try to get as much feedback from the community as we can, from past participants to putting out questions on our social media. Then as a group, with our production staff, we look at what’s feasible for our season, what’s relevant—what are people going to be excited to get involved in?”

However, when it comes to actually putting the plays together, things don’t always work out as planned

“It's just a lot of moving pieces,” Dolan said. “It’s challenging in Kingston, where there are so many opportunities, to find people who are interested in being in the show and to work around all of their schedules.”

Dolan said this was a problem they ran into while organizing the winter production of Elf: The Musical, even though it “went phenomenally” in the end.

“It’s interesting because it’s a community theatre group and everyone doing it are volunteers. It’s our responsibility to work with them so they feel that they’re supported, but not feeling burnt out as well. It’s an interesting balancing act as well to get everyone in the same space.”

Despite all of the barriers and the challenges to get every piece to fit together seamlessly, Dolan says that the culture built backstage amongst cast and crew makes the struggle all worth it. From her own experiences participating in Blue Canoe productions before her time as general manager, she says the friendships that are made there have the potential to last a lifetime.

 “It’s incredible,” she explained. When discussing her favourite part of her job, the general manager said it’s “seeing people laugh together and some of the friendships that I've seen created.”

Overall, Dolan hopes that audiences will enjoy their encounters with Blue Canoe just as much as the cast and crew have throughout the years.

“We hope that they are able to come and have a night where they're fully invested in the performance, that they can be taken into the world that we create for them.”

 

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