25th Street Theatre Makes Triumphant Return to Producing New Work
Over the last 34 years, Saskatoon’s 25th Street Theatre Company has become synonymous with the Saskatoon Fringe. Held each August, the event has become an integral part of the Canadian fringe circuit, welcoming artists from across the continent for a creative and collaborative few days. However, the organization’s history, dating back to its founding in 1972, has been about producing new work as well. Tough financial times just before the turn of the century meant that the company had to focus exclusively on the Fringe. However, with the support of Creative Saskatchewan’s Live Production Grant Program, the organization has made a triumphant return to producing new Saskatchewan plays.
Those two plays, Fruitcake and Breaking the Curse, received multiple nominations and wins at the Saskatoon and Area Theatre Awards. Breaking the Curse, which was co-produced with another local company, Ferre Play Theatre, tackles the topic of menstruation. Stemming from playwright Rachel Walliser, a University of Regina grad’s, realization that she was one of the few people in her life willing to talk about periods–a reality that was true for her as early as in high school–the play moved from a monologue, to being informed by a series of interviewees, to the full-on production that hit the Roxy Theatre’s stage in May of 2022.
Fruitcake, meanwhile, is described as a comedic family drama that discusses family heirlooms, family expectations surrounding identity, identity, and inheritance. The play, penned by local playwright, journalist, public speaker, and former arts administrator Heather Morrison garnered three SATA nominations having first been created in 2017. Just like Breaking the Curse, Fruit Cake received developmental support from other local organizations like the Saskatchewan Playwright’s Centre. Fruitcake ran at Persephone Theatre/the Remai Arts Centre’s Backstage Stage in December of 2021.
The return to producing new plays is something that Anita Smith, the organization’s Artistic and Executive Director, and her team are excited to have back as part of the province’s theatre ecology. As they proudly write on their website, “As the first professional theatre company in Saskatoon, it is a great honour to be able to use theatre to amplify the voices of those who are underrepresented in our community while supporting the development of new Saskatchewan works…25th Street Theatre is elated to be back, bringing engaging artistic opportunities to the community in and around Saskatoon, from professional theatre productions to workshops and everything in between.”
Alongside the Fringe Festival, which runs from August 3 to 12 this year, the organization is also hosting workshops for kids interested in theatre, named collaboration station. The program, which is described as, “a free, drop-in, theatre-centered program where children (aimed at ages five to twelve) can work with professional artists to engage in hands-on art creation with a focus on theatre” will be an integral portion of the Fringe this year.
Being able to provide professional creative opportunities by producing new work, alongside holding the spectacle that is the Saskatoon Fringe, and doing so while also coordinating youth-based programs mean that 25th Street Theatre is positioned to continue on with the mandate they’ve held since starting out as an artist collective more than fifty years ago: to bring theatre to Saskatoon’s audiences that opens up their understandings of the world.