RCA Theatre Company

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Resource Centre for the Arts Theatre (RCAT)


RCA Theatre Company’s mandate is to provide opportunities through mentoring and production for the artistic growth of all Newfoundland and Labrador theatre artists; to offer a platform to facilitate emerging theatre artists’ work; and to produce theatre that cultivates, enriches and promotes the culture of Newfoundland and Labrador.

History of RCA

The Resource Centre for the Arts Theatre Company (RCA Theatre Company) grew out of the RCA Foundation and the purchase and renovation of the L.S.P.U. Hall in the 1970s. The company and its theatrical base at "the Hall" remain a keystone of St. John's theatre.

RCA began as the Resource Foundation for the Arts (RFA). The RFA was set up to cultivate the arts in Newfoundland, but it was also the parent company for the Mummers Troupe Ltd. (established in 1972). With financial support from the Department of the Secretary of State, the Bronfman Family Foundation, and cash and in-kind donations from the St. John's community, the Mummers bought the Hall in 1976 and renovated it. Their intention was to build a small, flexible space available for rehearsals, performances, and meetings of the arts community.

In September 1979, an elected board of directors took over the operation of the Hall, and changed the name of the RFA to the Resource Centre for the Arts (RCA). The name change not only marked a shift in policy about how the Hall would be managed, but it marked the start of the RCA Theatre Company. The Resource Centre for the Arts is an umbrella organization with four main divisions, all of which are administered through the board and all of which are housed in the L.S.P.U. Hall. The four areas facilitated were: the RCA Visual Art Gallery (the only non-commercial gallery in the province where emerging artists can have solo exhibits), the RCA Neighbourhood Dance Works (a resident contemporary dance company, operating in a festival format each year), RCA Operations (which manages the day-to-day operation of the Hall and coordinates the use of the space as a multi-purpose, multi-disciplined facility), and the RCA Theatre Company. In the early 2000's, both the Art Gallery and Neighbourhood Dance Works became independent entities.

History of RCA Theatre

According to an article in 2001, the RCA Theatre Company has produced and presented more than 50 original mainstage plays to date. Its talented community of professional theatre artists have produced work of local and national significance and has included artists such as Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Rick Mercer, Bob Joy, Jillian Keiley, Robert Chafe, Lois Brown, and Danielle Irvine. Each season, RCA Theatre undertakes a full program of mainstage plays, focusing on local Newfoundland playwrights with demonstrated skill in staging full-length drama or comedy. Unlike the majority of Canadian theatre companies, RCA Theatre does not have an Artistic Director; rather, it has an Artistic Animateur.

The Board of Directors operates like an artistic director and the Animateur then works to shape their directives. The Animateur is a theatre facilitator; she or he solicits scripts and coordinates open auditions, but does not necessarily direct the mainstage plays. This arrangement omits the controlling presence of an artistic director. Originally called a "Program Animator" (Mary Walsh served in this role in 1983), the title changed to Artistic Animateur (AA) in 1988.

From 1988 to 1991, Charlie Tomlinson was the AA. His main goal was to promote and create new works, as well as provide an alternative space for the development of new scripts. Tomlinson started the "second space" at the Hall and combined that with the Theatre Arts Workshop. Some of the plays produced by RCA Theatre during Tomlinson's tenure, both as mainstage and as second space, were Chickens and Cat Lover by Janis Spence, Hanlon House by Greg Thomey and Bryan Hennessey and a collective comedy called We Have No Pity for the Pseudo-Downtrodden that involved the talents of Lois Brown and Rick Mercer.

In 1991, Bryan Hennessey became AA but resigned after a single season.

In 1993, Lois Brown became Animateur, remaining until 1997. The first season of her tenure included plays such as Joan Sullivan's Wolf in the Fold, Connie Hynes' Later That Same Night, Liz Pickard's multi-media The Alienation of Lizzie Dyke, and Ed Riche's Possible Maps. During her work with RCA Theatre, Brown also changed the name of the second space project to the Significant Other Series (SOS), and that name remains for the smaller productions of new works.

In 1997, Michael Chiasson became Artistic Animateur. Some of the mainstage productions he produced were Funicular by Fran Locke, Empty Girl by Robert Chafe (both in the 1998/1999 season), and Power of the Unemployed by Kathryn Welbourn and Chris Brookes in 1999/2000. In 1998, Chiasson brought in children's theatre as a regular addition to the RCA Theatre season. Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! by Frank Barry and Amanda Greenleaf by Ed Kavanagh are two examples.

Amy House is the current and longest-standing Artistic Animateur at RCA Theatre.

Sources: www.rca.nf.ca, www.heritage.nf.ca/arts/rca