The calm before the storm

A tranquil off-season at Showplace quickly builds to a feverish pitch, thanks to dedicated staff

While the theatre at Peterborough's Showplace Performance Centre remains empty over the summer, staff are hard at work behind the scenes preparing for the fall season, which begins on September 11 with blues musician Dewey Via in the Nexicom Studio (photo: Emily Martin)
While the theatre at Peterborough's Showplace Performance Centre remains empty over the summer, staff are hard at work behind the scenes preparing for the fall season, which begins on September 11 with blues musician Dewey Via in the Nexicom Studio (photo: Emily Martin)

I have always considered a theatre to be a sacred space. There is something especially awe-inspiring in the hush and stillness of an empty performance hall. I have a ritual of sorts at Showplace: after a performance, when the lights have dimmed and the audience has filed out, I often stand on the apron of the stage in the cathedral-like expanse, taking in the majesty of a place that has been host to an endless parade of performance magic.

From Canadian music legends such as Bruce Cockburn, Serena Ryder, The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Murray McLauchlan, Measha Brueggergosman, Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy (to name a very few in recent years), to outstanding local productions like this past season’s Les Misérables by the St. James Players, and a stunning sold-out run of the musical Cats by the Peterborough Theatre Guild, our stage has been the site of many memorable and bitter-sweetly ephemeral performances. I find the echoes of such talent to be particularly humbling when a show has lulled to repose.

The hard work of staff allows Showplace to bring a wide range of performers to Peterborough; pictured is chantreuse Jill Barber, who wowed the Showplace audience with her performance in March (photo: Kait Dueck)
The hard work of staff allows Showplace to bring a wide range of performers to Peterborough; pictured is chantreuse Jill Barber, who wowed the Showplace audience with her performance in March (photo: Kait Dueck)
This hallowed quietude has been the scene at Showplace Performance Centre since the end of June. Many may be unaware that Showplace closes its doors every year for the summer months, which allows our hardworking staff a much-needed opportunity to recharge and prepare for the coming season.

While July and August represent a time of relative calm for the Showplace team, there are always stirrings of activity from our dedicated personnel as we rev up for our nineteenth year of performance excellence.

Showplace staff taking a coffee break at the nearby Silver Bean Cafe: Theresa Foley, Jennifer Sek, Emily Martin, Ray Henderson, and Ray Marshall (photo: a friendly bystander)
Showplace staff taking a coffee break at the nearby Silver Bean Cafe: Theresa Foley, Jennifer Sek, Emily Martin, Ray Henderson, and Ray Marshall (photo: a friendly bystander)
Showplace staff fueling up at the Brickhouse Grill & Bar on Water Street: Kait Dueck, Ray Marshall, Emily Martin, Peggy Milton, Rael Corkery, and John Milton (photo: a lovely Brickhouse server)
Showplace staff fueling up at the Brickhouse Grill & Bar on Water Street: Kait Dueck, Ray Marshall, Emily Martin, Peggy Milton, Rael Corkery, and John Milton (photo: a lovely Brickhouse server)

The following is a dramatis personae of sorts, a behind-the-scenes look at some of the cast of Showplace characters who shift our theatre from a still and nostalgic place to a production and road house of astonishing creative output:

Rael Corkery

A tireless worker; the calm, kind, collected and forever competent Lighting Director of Showplace. From changing and re-hanging (thousands and thousands of) lights to constructing complete staging, lighting and sound requirements for an Elite Blues concert in the Nexicom Studio from scratch in July, Rael always keeps the theatre humming and ready for action.

Showplace's Lighting Director Rael Corkery (photo: Kait Dueck)
Showplace’s Lighting Director Rael Corkery (photo: Kait Dueck)

Arlene Davis

The multi-talented, endlessly efficient and semi-retired former Box Office Manager of Showplace for 17 years. Arlene is consistently at the ready to answer current staff members’ endless questions, and to manage our membership base.

Kait Dueck

As well as working at Showplace, Kait Dueck is an active member of Peterborough's artistic community. Here she performs as Elizabeth in the Showplace Players' 2012 production of "Pride and Prejudice" (photo: Ray Henderson)
As well as working at Showplace, Kait Dueck is an active member of Peterborough’s artistic community. Here she performs as Elizabeth in the Showplace Players’ 2012 production of Pride and Prejudice (photo: Ray Henderson)
The always-in-motion House Manager and coordinator of the 140 remarkable volunteers that keep our non-profit community theatre thriving. I keep my toes happily in Showplace waters by constructing calendars of events and volunteer information reels for the coming season, assessing and ordering stock for our successful concessions stations, communicating with clients regarding front of house requirements, and getting our audience services areas prepped for a busy and exciting fall/winter 2015 season.

Theresa Foley

The queen of customer service, Showplace’s effervescent Box Office Manager. Theresa keeps busy during the off-season processing a slew of internet ticket orders (tickets are always available through www.showplace.org), managing on-sale dates and specifics with promoters, and setting things in order for the buzz of activity which is sure to commence when the Box Office officially re-opens on August 24th at 11 a.m.

Ray Henderson

The caring, charismatic and connected Social Media Manager of Showplace. Ray is active all summer keeping our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts humming, relevant and up-to-date. He’s also engaged in producing many promotional materials for the theatre, such as our member newsletter, event posters, graphic images and logos for coming events.

Along with staff, Showplace also depends on dedicated volunteers like Norman Savage and Jim Ross (photo: Emily Martin)
Along with staff, Showplace also depends on dedicated volunteers like Norman Savage and Jim Ross (photo: Emily Martin)

Ray Marshall

The passionate and compassionate, skillful, yet down-to-earth man who sits at the helm of Showplace as General Manager. Ray keeps the pulse of Showplace steady over the summer months, and may often be found doing so from his “second office” at the Silver Bean Café. He discusses future rentals with clients, finalizes contracts, meets with with his team to discuss upcoming projects and deadlines, and manages our considerable facilities. The latter ranges from small items such as overseeing the organization of storage areas and archives to massive projects such as the complete rebuild of our main stage (a generous donation of all parts and labour from Whelan’s Floor Covering Ltd. commencing on August 24th).

Emily Martin

Our forever ethical, proficient and smiling Marketing and Administrative Manager. Em is rarely still during the warm months, ever engaged in brainstorming creative marketing tactics, sending out the e-newsletters, ensuring the community gets advance notice of ticket on-sale dates, discussing plans with promoters, and starting to structure the biggest conference of theatre managers in the province, Ontario Contact, which Showplace is proud to be hosting in the fall of 2016.

Showplace is a not-for-profit organization with a volunteer board; pictured is Marketing and Administrative Manager Emily Martin with Board Chair John Cranfield (photo: Ray Henderson)
Showplace is a not-for-profit organization with a volunteer board; pictured is Marketing and Administrative Manager Emily Martin with Board Chair John Cranfield (photo: Ray Henderson)

John Milton

An accomplished master of many trades, one always knows that our Technical Director is in the building by the peals of good-natured, resounding laughter which echo through the hall. John regularly plans for technical riders and requirements for our 2015-2016 season over the summer, and will soon begin a flurry of maintenance activity along with his wife, dedicated Stage Technician Peggy Milton, ensuring that the complex machinery which supports live performance at Showplace is in top working order.

Jennifer Sek

Our practical, capable and seriously smart Box Office Staff member. As one of only two employees of the Showplace Box Office (the rest are, amazingly, volunteers), Jenn has a heavy load of work ahead of her when we re-open for in-person ticket sales on August 24th. This is to say nothing of the furtive shifting of gears she faces moving from her summer role as expert arborist!

When all the hard work pays off: one of the full houses at Showplace for three sold-out performances by fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy last December (photo: Emily Martin)
When all the hard work pays off: one of the full houses at Showplace for three sold-out performances by fiddlers Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy last December (photo: Emily Martin)
The legendary thespian Maggie Smith has cunningly observed: “I like the ephemeral thing about theatre; every performance is like a ghost — it’s there and then it’s gone.”
The efforts of Showplace staff and volunteers do not go unnoticed by performers, judging from this thank-you note from Classic Albums Live (photo: Kait Dueck)
The efforts of Showplace staff and volunteers do not go unnoticed by performers, judging from this thank-you note from Classic Albums Live (photo: Kait Dueck)
This is the very crux of live performance — each one is an immediate, visceral, solitary experience which can only truly be held in the heart, blood, and bone memories of the performers and audiences who are a part of a one-time phenomenon.

Rarely seen in this process is the skilled work of those who, behind the scenes, set the stage for the magic to unfold. I also believe that performance halls hold almost sacred reverberations, ghostly traces of the ultimate pursuit of expression and exploration of the human condition: performative art.

Until September 11th, when we welcome Kawartha audiences back to Showplace with what promises to be an electric performance by the multi-faceted Dewey Via in the Nexicom Studio, I’ll continue to relish the unearthly calm of our beautiful theatre, and breathe in the presence of performances past, yet forever indelible upon our hearts.

The first concert of the 2015 fall season is Dewey Via on September 11th, who will be performing in the Nexicom Studio located on the lower level of Showplace (photo: Kait Dueck)
The first concert of the 2015 fall season is Dewey Via on September 11th, who will be performing in the Nexicom Studio located on the lower level of Showplace (photo: Kait Dueck)
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Kait Dueck
House Manager and Volunteer Coordinator at Showplace Performance Centre, Kait Dueck has had the privilege of being a part of downtown Peterborough's artistic community since she was whisked from the wilds North of Havelock to attend PCVS’ Integrated Arts Program at the tender age of 14. Since then, Kait has had the opportunity to perform in in a plethora of theatrical productions, become a political scientist of sorts via Carleton University, and sometimes work and play joyfully as a vocalist. Outside of music and theatre, some of her favourite things include her superlative immediate family members, local ecology, gender studies, the spring migration (and all things feathered), and her fuzzy life partners, Dorothy Parker and Henry.

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