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Theatre group aims to foster community

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/12/2019 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Theatre is all about bringing people together, but when it’s your job, it can sometimes be an isolating experience.

While many people spend their evenings relaxing with friends and family, people who work in theatre are just getting started. The late nights and long hours can take a toll, but four local theatre-makers are set to change that.

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Crafts, Cocoa and Coziness
Pop Up Theatre
● Friday, 7-9 p.m.
● Room 0T09, Asper Centre for Theatre and Film
● Admission is free

"If you were to sum up Pop Up Theatre in three words, it would be gathering, community and celebration," says Taylor Gregory, one of the four founding members of Winnipeg’s new Pop Up Theatre group.

Gregory is the founder and artistic director of Meraki Theatre Productions, which most recently presented Quest at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. Like the three other group members, Gregory has a passion for theatre and also believes in the importance of community.

Pop Up Theatre is a newly formed organization devoted to fostering community. The group’s first workshop — Crafts, Cocoa and Coziness — offers an opportunity for people, whether they are involved in theatre or not, to gather with the intention of casual, creative community-building.

“The independent theatre community in Winnipeg is bursting at the seams with talent.” – Tanner Manson

"The independent theatre community in Winnipeg is bursting at the seams with talent," says Tanner Manson, a member of Walk&Talk Theatre Company. The troupe won the 2018 Harry Rintoul Award for their Winnipeg fringe play The Ballad of Johnny Boy. "What we’re interested in with Pop Up Theatre is cultivating a space so that everyone can come together."

"Seeing shows is amazing," Happy/Accidents member Erin Meagan Schwartz adds, "but it is nice to show support and build community in other ways."

Though the four artists hail from four different companies, each with a different creative methodology, they are united by their love of theatre.

"Theatre brings people together," says Lindsay Johnson, a member of Fill the (W)hole Theatre Company. "It tells stories and it cultivates understanding. It’s live and it’s transformative. Why not celebrate that and use your voice, and encourage other people to use theirs? That’s what independent theatre should do. Otherwise you’re at risk of losing out on so many voices and stories."

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Erin Meagan Schwartz (from left), Tanner Manson, Taylor Gregory and Lindsay Johnson are the founders of the Pop Up Theatre organization.</p></p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Erin Meagan Schwartz (from left), Tanner Manson, Taylor Gregory and Lindsay Johnson are the founders of the Pop Up Theatre organization.

"It excites me that theatre can be so many things," Manson continues. "It’s so malleable. Drag is theatre, standup comedy is theatre... theatre is an umbrella term that holds so many wonderful forms and artists. It’s important that all these artists have a chance to share their voice and stories."

"I find so much value in not only collaborating, but seeing people experience joy through theatre or work through difficult things or both using theatre as a tool or just for fun," Schwartz adds.

"Everyone can do theatre and everyone does theatre differently," Johnson says, "and we’re excited to meet people who have different ways of doing, learning and making."

Their collective passion for the art form was united at a meeting for independent theatre artists.

"We got to chatting about what exists, what doesn’t exist and what we would like to see happen within Winnipeg’s independent theatre community," Johnson explains. "We appreciate what we are each trying to cultivate, which is very different in all of our practices. The independent theatre community in Winnipeg is amazing, which is why we want to contribute to it."

"We live in a city that is so sprawling," she adds, "so hopefully by creating a pop-up community, we can cultivate more of a hub, more of a reason to get together."

“Everyone is welcome. We’re going to have snacks, hot drinks, a crafting corner, a calendar of upcoming events of shows and workshops and a vision board for what we want the future of Winnipeg theatre to look like.” – Erin Meagan Schwartz

Although Pop Up Theatre is geared toward theatre artists, the group encourages people from all backgrounds and experience levels to gather together.

"Everyone is welcome," Schwartz says. "We’re going to have snacks, hot drinks, a crafting corner, a calendar of upcoming events of shows and workshops and a vision board for what we want the future of Winnipeg theatre to look like."

That future includes the upholding of values that are important to them, like accessibility.

"Accessibility is important to us and it’s something we take into consideration when planning events and finding spaces," Manson says. "It’s difficult because Winnipeg architecture is not always friendly for everyone."

"We look at whether the building is physically accessible, if it’s near bus routes... there’s so many different things to consider when choosing a venue to make sure it’s accessible for as many people as possible," Johnson continues. "When you say you want to make something open to everybody, I think it’s really important to try to do that."

The group’s commitment to its values includes a willingness to listen and to learn.

"We don’t know everything," Schwartz says, "so if somebody has a concern, we’d love to hear it. We would love to move forward with that knowledge, assistance or critique."

In the spirit of moving forward, the group plans to host additional workshops in other locations, with the workshop theme inspiring the venue, or vice versa. They also have high hopes for the future, including solidifying a permanent gathering space.

"That’s our dream," Manson says.

"A consistent space where artists can gather."

frances.koncan@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @franceskoncan

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