|Photo by Robert Hiscock|
Since joining the Toulinguet Players at 17 years of age, Greg White realized he wanted theatre to be a central part of his life. “They were a community group here in Twillingate and they regularly put on musical theatre productions,” recalls White. “Those musicals were written by a local person about the local history—that’s when I knew theatre was for me. It was a great example of community in every sense of the word because you could be acting and singing, or helping with props, costumes, the set…anything at all.”
After that, White left his hometown of Twillingate for a while, completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre and a Bachelor of Education (Intermediate/Secondary). He also worked with a number of theatre companies across Newfoundland & Labrador, including New Curtain Theatre, Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL), and serving as artistic director for World’s End Theatre on Fogo Island.
In 2011, White starred in a one-man show, that he also wrote, called Adrift, which he performed at the LSU Hall in St. John’s. This was the launch for making his dream a reality—of starting a theatre company that engaged the community. He called it Fathom Theatre and brought it home.
|Photo by Robert Hiscock|
“I wouldn’t choose any other place, because not only is it home, but Twillingate is just one of these rural communities that is filled with amazing stories and natural talent and it’s just great to be able to keep those things alive and inspire people to perform on stage and tell the stories of their fathers and grandfathers or grandmothers—stories that if we don’t tell, we’re going to lose them,” enthuses White. “So Fathom Theatre is something that not only inspires the younger generation, and any generation for that matter, but also preserves stories and it exists in a beautiful place!”
For those who have never had the pleasure of visiting Twillingate before, it is a small island off the north eastern shore of Newfoundland. White explains that to reach his hometown of approximately 2,500 year-round residents, you actually have to cross several islands via causeways to get there. Twillingate is known as the Iceberg Capital of the World and its natural beauty and diversity of whales, birds and other wildlife attract many tourists, particularly during the summer.
"Twillingate is just one of these rural communities that is filled with amazing stories and natural talent and it’s just great to be able to keep those things alive and inspire people to perform on stage and tell the stories of their fathers and grandfathers or grandmothers..."
“There’s a reason people keep coming here and it’s quite obvious when you come and visit,” says White. “It’s hard to describe but it certainly is a beautiful, beautiful place! We have some of the best hiking trails in Newfoundland and we really are a community that is very celebratory of our culture, our heritage. And there is a lot of talent here for the small population size!”
White and his colleague Sarah Carter (Artistic Associate at Fathom Theatre) have been observing much of this talent first hand. Earlier this year they began running a weekly Youth Theatre Programme for participants aged 14 to 19. White explains they’ve been working on a variety of skills—such as objectives and obstacles, character studies, monologues and scene work—and that the group is very keen to be challenged every week to enhance their stage presence. A few of the youth are now considering going on to theatre school once they graduate from high school because of their experiences at Fathom Theatre.
“To see them take what they’re learning and use it elsewhere—whether it be theatre or not—to use the communication skills or the literacy skills and those other things they’re gaining, that makes me really proud,” says White. “That’s why I’m always advocating for theatre for youth, whether it’s rural or urban, because they just get so much out of it!”
This summer marks Fathom Theatre’s first festival as it paves its way to becoming Twillingate’s first professional theatre arts organization. Just last week White held recruitment days to hire actors, as well as technicians, a designer and stage manger for the two productions slated for July-August: Adrift (which portrays a sealing tragedy, based on a true story, told through the eyes of Joseph Jacob) and Of Heroes and Herring (an interactive experience where actors-storytellers share the history and heroes of Twillingate and invite the audience to do the same).
White says Fathom Theatre’s goal is to emphasize hiring local talent (for both on- and off-stage) while also attracting professionals from across the province and beyond. “We’re a company very much grounded in community and that’s what we hope to carry forward in the future.”
To learn more about Fathom Theatre, visit http://www.fathomtheatre.ca