St. John’s ‘DIY’ theatre group introduces new play

‘You Are Here’ demonstrates dynamic change for Engine Productions, “by no means a traditional theatre company”

St. John’s is a city pulsating with creativity; our theatres and bars are consistently populated by locally-produced plays and musical acts.

One local artist-run, DIY theatre company that has been generating some buzz since its inception a couple years ago, Engine Productions, is stepping it up a notch with its latest production. Working on You Are Here has been a learning experience for the all-female group, giving them new perspective in working with a hired director for the first time.

Brown, one Engine’s three co-founders and You Are Here’s producer, says she was very enthusiastic about working with Kevin Woolridge, explaining the producer brings experience to the production which in turn allows them to grow as a company and explore new roles for themselves – two of whom are performing in the production. Accompanying the new faces and changes, says Brown, are a mostly returning cast of actors from previous productions.

Engine Productions is “by no means a traditional theatre company,” she explains, referring to the group as an “artist-run, DIY, theatre company.” Born out of three women’s difficulties in getting involved with other projects, Engine Productions’ Jenn Brown, Laura Huckle and Kim Drake combined their resources, talents and backgrounds to form the company, stripping down to the bare bones of theatre, without the financial obligations and bigger budgets of more established companies.

You Are Here, the company’s sixth production, opened Thursday in St. John’s. The show, which has been a new experience for the nascent company, says Brown, will be Engine’s first directed by someone other than Brown, Huckle or Drake. Instead, they invited Woolridge to assist them in their adaptation of the Daniel McIvor play.

As Drake read McIvor’s book she felt an immediate connection, Brown explains. “We’re very much a collective,” she continues, explaining that choosing the work by McIvor, a Canadian playwright and director, was effortless for the trio. The biggest challenge they face this time around is scheduling for such a large cast and crew. A 12-person cast, all volunteering their time, makes for a challenge to work around day jobs, and other appointments, Brown admits.

“We (agreed to) trust one another completely,” she explains. While Brown is producing this one, they all took a backseat to directing and are exploring and learning different roles, approaches and styles in an effort to figure out how to communicate their methods to an outside director, Brown explains.

Brown says she sought McIvor’s interpretation and inspiration for the play and was pleased to receive a response from the award-winning playwright by email, explaining his inspiration for the plot.

“It could be described as a one-woman play with 11 or 12 characters,” she says. The play takes us through the life of the main character as she is looking for love, forging connections with the people in her life, and trying to find herself.

You Are Here runs Nov. 28-30 at the Barbara Barrett Theatre (formerly the Basement theatre of the Arts and Culture Centre). It features Kimberley Drake, Shawn Parsons, Rob Kean, Laura Huckle, Ross Moore, Issa Russell, Michael Rhodri Smith and Evan Mercer. Directed by Kevin Woolridge, produced by Jenn Brown, with Cindy Stone as stage manager. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Showtime is 8 p.m. each evening with a 2 p.m. matinee on Nov. 30 ($10).

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