Niagara is inspiring, with its rolling escarpment and farm fields next to casinos where people gamble away their life savings. And it’s from this diverse terrain that Jason Cadieux draws his inspiration.
A Genie-nominated actor and theatre veteran, Cadieux has carved a niche as a playwright who captures the light and dark sides of the region he calls home. Hard Ways shows a gambling addict pushed to his emotional brink as he crosses the Rainbow Bridge. 17.5 is the story of a triathlete who hails from Niagara.
Both plays will be shown on the Sean O’Sullivan stage on March 4.
Cadieux and partner Stephanie Jones are the founders of Essential Collective Theatre, a St. Catharines-based company with a mandate to bring audiences stories they can relate to, often in communities they recognize as their own. A Toronto native, Cadieux moved to Niagara in 1998 with Jones, who had a dream of bringing quality theatre to her hometown. He was immediately inspired by Niagara, from its wineries and open roads to its role as a border town. There’s also, of course, the falls themselves.
“I don’t think there’s any creative person who hasn’t felt the power of the falls,” he says. “There’s something romantic about the falls and there’s something dangerous about the falls.”
It’s important for Niagara to have its own contemporary theatre, he says. “It’s a way of gaining perspective of who and where we are now.”
Since its formation in 1998, Essential Collective has staged many of its performances in the Sullivan Mahoney Court House Theatre in downtown St. Catharines. It is one of the theatre companies that will benefit from new theatre space created when the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts moves downtown, joining with the City of St. Catharines and its new Niagara Centre for the Arts. Jones sits on several local arts and culture committees, including those advising on the new performing arts centre.
“We are all very excited there’ll be more formalized space for us,” says Jones, who attended Brock. “You can’t get any better than space that celebrates what you do for a living.”
Hard Ways premiered at the Summerworks Festival in Toronto in 2007. 17.5 premiered at Summerworks in 2005. The Centre for the Arts performance is just one in a series of touring performances of the plays, which will also be performed at the Guelph River Run Centre, the Oakville Centre for the Arts and the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s Undercurrents Festival, among others.
Those attending the pair of one-person plays will see themselves reflected in the intense, intimate performances, Cadieux says.
“These two shows are really exploring the light and dark sides of humanity,” he says. “We can do a lot with a little.”
Hard Ways and 17.5
Friday, March 4
Regular tickets – $39
University/college students – $20
High school students – $5
905-688-5550 x3257, arts.brocku.ca