Tim Porter here, Artistic Director of IANA Theatre Company. For those who are new to us, and for those who just don’t know us that well, I will tell you what we are all about.
IANA started in 2007, because it was Christmas, I was most of the way through my college Musical Theatre Performance Program, and I wanted to put on a show. More specifically, I wanted to be creative, and have fun with my friends, and bring live theatre to the town of Tweed, ON. We did a small christmas show with a bunch of young local performers at the St. Edmund’s Parish Hall. I then graduated from college, went out into the musical theatre world (very different from ‘the real world’) and started to gain experience around the province. I came back to producing after my stint in ‘Evil Dead: the Musical’ in Toronto. I found myself out of a job after 8 months of performing in one of my favorite shows, when it finally closed so they could build a condo where the theatre was. Surprise surprise. So, with a little extra time on my hands, we produced a reading of a play in Belleville, ON, by our lovely and talented, and still very active in IANA friend, Joel MacMeekin.
Joel’s show was enough of an impetus for me to want to continue producing, so after spending another several months performing (A stint in Stirling, my first tour as a Doodlebop) we got back at it with a production of ‘The Last Five Years’. I plan on writing blog posts about all of our past productions, why we did them, how we did them, what they mean to where we are now, so for now, I will just say it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I will say that a lot. We took that show to Belleville, Brockville, and Toronto, and to this day, if I ever have the opportunity to work with the amazing Amanda Struthmann, I never say no. And I don’t think I ever will.
Our Toronto production of ‘The Last Five Years’ is when another very important part of this company came into being. And that is the addition of the amazing miss Emily Mewett to our team. Emily came on to assistant Stage Manage the show, and after that point we never let her go.
I asked Emily to come on as the General Manager, at that time the only other permanent member of the staff. Emily was ecstatic, and has made this company what it is today. Without Emily’s help, guidance, and hard work, most of what we do would never get off the ground. She is our rock.
Emily and I decided that in the following year, 2010, we should do our first full season of production. From that was born some amazing, amazing experiences. We programmed three shows, ‘A Taste of Broadway’, ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’, and ‘Cocktails for two hundred’.
At this point, I had read a book called ‘Broadway North’, a book about Canadian Musical Theatre I highly suggest. I became saddened and frustrated by the lack of Canadian Musicals being produced across the country, and the loss of some of our good ones. IANA was founded to meet this need, and to at least be a small part of the solution in getting more Canadian Musical Theatre out there.
At this point, I will go off on a bit of a tangent, to tell you about another amazing person who has really shaped, defined, and inspired this company. I met Andre Morin in the young company of the Stirling Festival Theatre. We were doing a production of ‘Anne of Green Gables’ led by the one and only Caroline Smith, and we were having the time of our lives. Andre and I went on to cultivate a great friendship, spending many more summers in Stirling together, and winters in all kinds of other crazy theatrical ventures. It is one friendship that I hope will never fade. In the early winter of 2008, Andre and I were in the Stirling Actor house between rehearsals, and we started talking about writing a musical together. It was a discussion we had had in the past, but something we had never had the time to sit down and start on, or the idea to begin with. We went out and started looking for source material. I had recently read a book about the town of Tweed (my hometown) and I gave Andre the cole’s notes of the fascinating things that had happened there, and how I invisioned a musical of the town’s history. He took my scribbled beginnings of a song, and short scene I had typed out on my laptop, went up to his room, and didn’t come out for several hours. When he did, it was with a beautiful song about the two lead characters falling in love, a song that started our long and wonderful process of writing TWEED, and a song that remains in the show today, in much it’s original form. With a few changes of course.
Jump forward two years, and I pitched the idea to Andre that we do the show in our 2010 season. It was a huge risk for us, neither of us having ever created a new Canadian Musical from scratch on this large of a scale, and the show not even being fully completed at the time of season announcement, or for that matter at the time of casting. But we’ll get to all that later on.
The previous year (This blog is the best! I had forgotten much of what I am writing, and am having an amazing time going back to it) a group of the most beautiful souls had gotten together to produce a concert in Kingston in support of IANA Theatre. Entirely unbeknownst to me, I had gotten a call one day that I was going to get a cheque in the mail from these three ladies, and I was to use it to continue to produce Canadian Theatre! I have never even really talked to these girls about it, but it was one of the most inspiring and beautiful moments of my life, and could very well be the only reason we continued to produce at all. Who knows. Having looked at the program after the fact for this surprise show, I realized it was a show that I would very much like to see, and so, we programmed the show ‘A Taste of Broadway’ into our next season. Those three lovely ladies, Heather Mastromarco, Julie Kevan, and Amanda Struthmann, were not all available, so Sarah Strange, Julie Kevan and myself did the show.
We then did the original workshop production of ‘TWEED! A New Canadian Musical’. At the end of this production in Tweed, the only word I can use to describe my emotions (And I would say Andre’s as well) is overwhelmed. It had been the most magical experience I had ever had, with a cast of the most beautifully talented people in Canadian Musical Theatre, and a behind the scenes group that was just as overwhelming. I will write a book about TWEED the Musical later, so I’ll save the good stuff for that.
Next came ‘Cocktails for Two Hundred’. Cocktails is an original Canadian Musical that premiered at the Charlottetown festival in the 80’s. It was great fun to bring the show back to life with the hilarious Ashley Keefer, and hopefully we will get to do more of this kind of project in the future.
Then came our most recent season. ‘ALECK BELL: A Canadian Pop Rock Musical’ and ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’ in Toronto. We were looking for a show to do for our next season, and I searched through a Wikipedia list of famous Canadians. Alexander Graham Bell, for whatever reason, stood out from that list, and I started reading a biography of his life. It was fascinating, and to me, his life seemed to be meant to be a musical. I found out early on in that book that he was never even a Canadian Citizen, although he did live here for a portion of his life, but at that point, it didn’t matter much to me, I wanted to do this show.
I approached my good friend, and great writer Joel MacMeekin to help write the script. Joel and I spent countless hours going through his life, figuring out exactly how to shape the show, finding the perfect music, and building the show. Joel then took that away and wrote one of the most impressive shows I’ve ever read. He is a genius.
This year also saw our first major forray into the Toronto Theatre Community with our production of ‘TWEED: A New Canadian Musical’ in Toronto. In my opinion it could not have gone better, and I am excited to see where that will lead.
During BELL, we met an amazing person by the name of Jon Deighan. Jon helped us out at the production in Tweed for a few performances, and then we asked him if he would be willing to come on ‘TWEED’ as an independant producer. Jon did amazing things for us, and was so wonderful, that this year he has joined the company as our third permanent member. Jon is the perfect addition to our team to bring us to the next level, and we can’t wait to see where that relationship leads.
So, now you are all caught up! That is who we are, it’s where we came from, and it’s where we intend to go, and we’re glad you’re coming with us. I am really looking forward to sharing more about the company’s past, how our shows came to be, and what they mean to us, and hopefully, what they mean to you! Feel free to send us a quick note at any point, and let us know what you would like us to tell you about.
Thanks for reading! Looking forward to writing the next one.