Fenelon Falls is experiencing a cultural renaissance. The community is quickly making a name for itself — and its residents — as a cultural hub and must-see destination for the arts.
In recent years, Fenelon Falls — the jewel of the Kawarthas — has seen an explosion of multi-disciplinary artistic activity.
One of the newest of many exciting initiatives underway is the construction and inauguration of The Grove Theatre, a 450-seat open-air venue built into the garden grove of the Fenelon Falls Fairgrounds.
Beginning this summer, with plenty of space to accommodate physical distancing, audiences will enjoy COVID-safe, outdoor performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Musical.
Before that can happen, there’s much work to be done and little time to do it. Starting a summer theatre festival from the ground up — during a global pandemic no less — requires a highly specialized skill-set and a great amount of labour.
Nicole Myers-Mitchell, the inaugural general manager for The Grove Theatre, is up to the task.
“It was a no-brainer, because the entire community is so on board,” says Myers-Mitchell of accepting the position. “Everyone that I talk to in the community wants this, appreciates it, and supports it. I didn’t even think twice about it.”
Myers-Mitchell brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role at The Grove.
She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of Windsor, was the development coordinator and later manager of corporate development and special events for Opera Atelier, the manager of communications and enrichment at both Volcano Theatre and Peggy Baker Dance Projects, and producer and then general manager for Shakespeare in the Ruff in 2014 and 2015.
“I love theatre so dearly,” Myers-Mitchell says. “I’m also a super-organizer and, over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to learn how I want an organization to run. Just like creating accessible theatre — where you’re trying to include everyone — I believe a workplace should be like that too.”
Beyond her many qualifications, what stood out most about Myers-Mitchell was her passion. She is dedicated to making The Grove Theatre an unforgettable experience and opportunity for community building.
“Grove is so focused on the community,” she says. “Because of that, it’s so brilliant that it’s an outdoor space.”
“When you go to see an outdoor performance, you’re part of that land, you’re part of the community that is there watching the show, and you’re a part of the greater community,” she adds. “It blows my mind to think of it in that sense. It brings me to tears a little bit.”
Myers-Mitchell is relocating her young family to Fenelon Falls, which is a dream come true for the young professional currently living in Toronto.
“I grew up in a small town,” she explains. “I was always hinting to my husband that we should move to a small town. We’re just so excited to have a community.”
Before Christmas last year, Myers-Mitchell was able to visit Fenelon Falls with her husband Chris and two-year-old son Max. They instantly fell in love with the jewel of the Kawarthas.
“We were able to go on a cultural crawl,” says Myers-Mitchell of her first impression of Fenelon Falls. “There are so many things, culturally, that you can do there. Everyone has said, ‘You are going to love Fenelon’ — I can see why.”
Myers-Mitchell will be required to wear many hats from now until opening night on July 29th, 2021. From grant writing, drafting ticket and rain policies, to fundraising, volunteer coordination, and insurance, the Grove Theatre’s new general manager has her work cut out for her.
However, her top priority as the new leader of The Grove is to benefit the community that will become her home.
“I hope that my knowledge and experience will help us expand to create more permanent, full-time administrative positions in the community,” she says.
In addition to the prospect of permanent jobs, the festival will also create much seasonal work for the residents of Fenelon Falls and the Kawarthas.
With professional theatre productions requiring a plethora of personnel from design, set building, and wardrobe, to front-of-house and concession staff, The Grove Theatre will have a massive impact on the local economy.
Theatre festivals are huge economic drivers for communities, so The Grove Theatre will benefit many businesses in Fenelon Falls. Hotels, restaurants, breweries, gas stations, retail stores, groceries, real estate brokerages, and construction companies all stand to benefit from The Grove Theatre.
What’s more, the open-air amphitheatre is not just for professional theatre — it’s also intended to serve as a multi-use hub for community activities.
“It’s a space that the community can use and we do hope that people will use it,” says Myers-Mitchell.
When a festival is being built from the ground up, the sky is the limit in terms of potential community impact, because the community has the opportunity to become involved every step of the way.
As of the end of last month, The Grove Theatre has raised over two-thirds of its fundraising goal of $600,000 for its inaugural season.
If you want to help this dream become a reality, you can donate to The Grove Theatre through their charitable partners, The Community Foundation of Kawartha Lakes or The Rotary Club of Fenelon falls, on The Grove Theatre’s website at grovetheatre.ca/donate. A gift of $25 or more will get you a charitable tax receipt.
Nicole Myers-Mitchell and her young family are still looking for a rental property in the Fenelon area, where they hope to live until they purchase their forever home. If you know of available rental properties, contact The Grove Theatre by email at email@example.com.