This year, Kim Blackwell is marking her 25th year at 4th Line Theatre in Millbrook.
The managing artistic director has played an integral role in the development of the outdoor theatre company for more than two decades.
Born in Toronto and raised in Peterborough, Blackwell was involved in the local theatre community from a very young age. It was while performing in a play in 1992 at the former artist-run The Union Theatre in Peterborough when she first heard about Robert Winslow — one of The Union’s founding members — staging The Cavan Blazers at his farm in Millbrook. She began working with 4th Line Theatre two years later.
“She is a force of creative energy,” says Winslow, the founder of 4th Line Theatre and its creative director. “Kim has given a quarter of a century to 4th Line Theatre and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for her significant contributions.”
In 2001, Winslow made Blackwell an artistic associate at the theatre and she soon directed her first production at 4th Line, 2002’s Gimme That Prime Time Religion, following it up the next year with Ryan Kerr’s Attrition. In 2014, she was appointed the theatre’s managing artistic director by Winslow and the theatre’s board of directors.
During her career at 4th Line, Blackwell was nominated for the John Hirsch Award for Directing Excellence in 2009 (Canada Council) and in 2014 (Ontario Arts Council). She was the winner of a 2013 KETS Award for “People Who Rock Our World.” She was the only Canadian invited to train with Felix Barrett, the renowned artistic director of Punchdrunk (Sleep No More) in his immersive and promenade theatre style.
Blackwell was inducted into Peterborough’s Pathway of Fame in September 2016.
“As a director, Kim Blackwell manages to pull the seemingly impossible together,” says actor Linda Kash. “Braving the natural elements, leading an enormous cast with a wide spectrum of experience, demanding professionalism and, all the while, maintaining a great sense of humour. She not only helps to tell meaningful, original and local stories, but also makes the experience of the telling itself meaningful.”
“She is a dedicated and driven theatre-maker, passionate about her work, the work of the artists she develops and the Canadian theatre scene in general,” says playwright Alex Poch-Goldin. “Kim’s leadership as artistic director and a director at 4th Line has galvanized it into an essential and iconic institution, unique in the Canadian landscape, where history comes to life and reflects contemporary issues.”
Renowned playwright Judith Thompson, whose ground-breaking play Who Killed Snow White? at 4th Line last summer was directed by Blackwell, agrees.
“She is one of the major voices in Canadian theatre,” Thompson says. “Her work at 4th Line as artistic director is brilliant, fully respecting 4th Line traditions while helping the theatre to grow creatively and reach wider audiences. As a playwright with 35 years experience, I can say that this was my finest experience with a director. She has a profound understanding of the space, the professional actors and the volunteers and most importantly the play. Kim is a woman of strong convictions and her principles shine through in every work she directs.”
During her time at 4th Line Theatre, Blackwell has directed 16 productions including seven world premieres. This year, she is directing the first show of 4th Line’s summer season: the world premiere of Beau Dixon’s Bloom: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fable.
“With her guidance, patience and determination, Kim helped cultivate my craft and gave me a safe platform to explore and grow as an artist,” says Dixon, who is a well-known musician, actor, and playwright. “As a director, she’s fearless, articulate and insightful. She is a fierce leader with relentless passion for producing provocative Canadian theatre.”
Bloom: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Fable opens at the Winslow Farm in Millbrook on Thursday, July 4th. Tickets, gift certificates, and picnics for 4th Line Theatre productions can be purchased by phone at 705-932-4445, online at 4thlinetheatre.on.ca, or at 4th Line Theatre’s Box Office at 4 Tupper Street, in Millbrook or its ticket outlet at the Peterborough Museum and Archives at 300 Hunter Street East, Museum Drive in Peterborough.