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Behind the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series

October 17, 2012

When Ruth Smillie signed on as artistic director of the Globe some 14 topsy-turvy seasons ago, her objective was to change the theatre culture of this city. She wanted to develop a reputation for Regina as a place “where artists could actually stay and make a living.” That doesn’t happen overnight. It remains a work-in-progress. But the operative word is “progress.”

One of the areas Smillie targeted was the so-called “second stage.” (You know it now as the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series.) While new works were not unheard of, the space presented mostly touring productions. That’s not to say it wasn’t good stuff, but the point is, the people who performed it came and went.

These days, the Sandbox Series reflects a far more healthy balance of new works and existing shows. This season, for instance, the lineup features three productions (Bad Blood, The Fusion Project, O.C.Dean) that were created by local artists, and two (Midsummer, Blue Box) that earned their reputations elsewhere but involve local performers or designers or technicians.

As the name suggests, the Sandbox has become a place of experimentation, and if the Main Stage is theatre in-the-round, the second stage would be theatre in-the-raw. “I wanted a place,” Smillie says, “where you didn’t need all the bells and whistles, which can sometimes actually get in the way of the ideas you’re going for.”

Not to mention, bells and whistles don’t come cheap. That said, however, the administration has in fact invested in the Sandbox by strengthening the technical support and by creating the position of associate director, currently filled by Michael Scholar Jr.

“It needs to be dynamic, and it requires younger eyes than mine,” Smillie says. “There have been pieces in the Sandbox that have left me perplexed. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. I probably wouldn’t have chosen them.”

We’ll continue this train of thought over the next couple of days with a preview and a review of Midsummer [a play with songs].

See you at Globe Theatre.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Globe Theatre website at www.globetheatrelive.com.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com.

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