PRODUCTION MANAGER, THEATRE ORANGEVILLE
SCENIC DESIGNER, PRODUCTION MANAGER, BEHIND-THE-SCENES-ER
Beckie Morris is a scenic designer and production manager of Orangeville’s professional theatre, Theatre Orangeville.
“One of the neat things about Theatre Orangeville is our mandate, to only produce Canadian theatre. Theatre is humongously important: it tells our story. Happy 150th, Canada!”
Beckie (on the phone): I am absolutely covered in dust and making a mess of the place. Just trust me when I tell you that I have dust all over me…
Where on Earth are you?
I’m working in the workshop at Theatre Orangeville . We have 6000-square-feet on Dufferin Road 3. We share the building with Community Living Dufferin. We’re making custom trim for a set right now.
Your theatre is really in deep with them and other social organizations. What’s the inspiration for all that, and the youth programming?
A lot of it is driven by our artistic director David Nairn, we follow his lead. He used to sit on the board of Community Living Dufferin. In conjunction with their board chair at the time, David Child, they had this dream about a building for two organizations — two outcasts — that could work together to celebrate first the theatre, then the abilities of the participants. That’s how this happened, with the enormous efforts of the community and fundraising. But the dream was David and David.
So you built a whole new building for this?
We each raised about a million, then the Harper Government was looking for shovel-ready projects and we were ready with all the plans, and they funded the outstanding three million. It all moved very fast and we all lived happily ever after!
Why do you call yourself an outcast?
Well, theatre is often about all the weirdos in the world thrown together.
What lit the spark for you?
I think I was pushed to it. I was really into the arts, but I had no intention of being on the stage. But I knew that I could help the people creating and painting and such, and I ended up doing that instead of getting into trouble.
It helped steer you.
We do a lot of co-op placement, and I keep seeing myself in the kids that come through. Teach them how to build something, teach them how to create and be a part of a team that creates something together: it’s an important thing that can change the course of a life.
Do people know that you’re a professional theatre?
There’s a really strong amateur company in town, called Orangeville Musical Theatre. They’re a bunch of people who have day jobs and love theatre, so they build their sets and they rehearse their shows and they rent space from us a couple times a year to produce. Which is really awesome: we love to support that.
But we often get confused with them, because people don’t understand the difference between us, Theatre Orangeville, and them. People want to see a show, they see it advertised and they go.
At Theatre Orangeville, we are part of PACT, the Professional Association of Creative Theatres. Part of that means we have to hire at least 3/4 equity actors.
How did you hook up with Theatre Orangeville?
I came to work here as a production assistant more than a decade ago out of school. I thought it was a lovely town. I grew up in Niagara, went to school in London, and then I worked wherever the work was.
I’m really lucky right now to have a full time job. I’ve been here for a decade straight. But sometimes it would be a four week contract, then you pick up and go to the next one, all over Toronto and Hamilton, mostly southwestern Ontario. I’ve been across the country twice. But oh, it’s so nice to have a home.
Whereabouts do you live?
I live in the Townline/Dawson area of Orangeville. I have a 7-year-old and a beautiful wife who also works in the arts. So yeah, it’s a slog to pay the bills sometimes, let me tell you! She actually works at Theatre Orangeville, develops and oversees all the youth programming. She’s a champion for kids in the arts and the transformative power of live theatre that can happen on a young person’s life.
It’s an amazing team effort, live theatre.
Often people don’t see the team. There’s a whole huge crew. I remember once hearing one of the patrons come out after a show, saying isn’t it remarkable how much those actors can do, they build those sets, they make the props… they make up their own dancing!
The quality of your theatre is first-rate: when new people come, do they go ok, this is not what we expected.
Absolutely! We have a large subscriber base which is our bread and butter… but the single ticket buyers are the ones that often will say, I had no idea that you get this here, or that it would be so good. Why would I drive to Toronto if I could see that same caliber here?
So when you’re not working, which is never, where do you and your wife like to go out in Headwaters?
If we are doing take-out, we will do Indian from Coriander Kitchen, And we go to Soulyve most of the time.
As you know, this is Canada’s big birthday year: how does theatre fit into that for you?
One of the really neat things about Theatre Orangeville, and one of the reasons that I stayed here, is that our mandate is to only produce Canadian theatre, and to produce as many new works as possible. So we foster new and upcoming playwrights, and do a lot of workshops — even the most seasoned playwrights need workshops for their shows.
Theatre in Canada, I think it’s humongously important. It tells our story.