As the temporary and oh-so innovative stage for The Baker’s Wife is being dismantled following the end of the run of the latest production by the Burns Wharf Theatre Players, and the sanctuary at Manitowaning’s Knox United Church returned to its normal configuration, we take a moment to reflect on how the Burns Wharf Theatre Players have established themselves as the little theatre company that could.
Thanks to an incredible outpouring of community support and the grit and determination of members of the company in the face of adversities that would have shut down countless less valiant thespians, not only has the company managed to survive the loss (hopefully temporarily) of their namesake venue, but also managed to expand their repertoire delightfully beyond the confines of the Gilbert and Sullivan genre upon which they have build an enviable reputation and into the realm of more current productions.
Burns Wharf Theatre Players have expanded the members of their cast and crew far beyond the borders of Manitowaning, Assiginack and Tehkummah to encompass most of the Island. While there are still many members of the company who call those original communities home, the company has gone on to become a truly Island-wide conclave, with members hailing from across Manitoullin to include Little Current, Mindemoya, Honora Bay, Kagawong and Providence Bay.
Anyone familiar with the immense amount of sweat equity that underlies any theatre production of note will appreciate what an incredible undertaking that mounting any play entails, but there are special challenges to be found in productions that feature huge ensemble casts. We need also mention those additional challenges when mounting a musical to even begin to appreciate the scale of the accomplishments of the Burns Wharf Theatre. Topping it all off with a very large cherry is that this company is, incredibly, made up entirely of community volunteers who dedicate countless hours of their valuable time to help make each season’s offerings a new success.
The willingness of the congregation of Knox United Church to offer up their sanctuary as a temporary home for this year’s production speaks volumes as to how important the Burns Wharf Theatre Player’s productions are viewed by the community. Previous temporary hosts have included Assiginack Public School and Debajehmujig’s Creation Centre.
Thanks to all these efforts, Manitowaning is established as a hub for theatre on Manitoulin.
Recently there has been a suggestion that a youth theatre troupe may be developed, with the blessing and support of Assigninack town council, and can only be a sign that bigger and complementary things are in the offing. Stay tuned on this development as it is a work in progress.
With the town now apparently willing to lend their shoulder to the efforts to refit the Burns Wharf Theatre good things are bound to happen.
We would be remiss if we did not mention the other theatre company whose home base is in Manitowaning. The Debajehmujig Storytellers have not only been entertaining Island fans of live theatre for decades but have also played host to productions whose tour stops include some of the most august venues on the planet. Rumblings from just outside the green room suggest that Debaj’s latest mainstage offering will be particularly spectacular this season.
Certainly the perennially award winning productions of the Gore Bay Theatre summer season are well worth the trip west and will undoubtedly continue to provide outstanding professional level theatre for many years to come.
Live theatre is alive and well the length and breadth of Manitoulin Island and we have the dedication and hard work of some very remarkable people here among us to thank—not the least of which are the many patrons who come to fill the seats and appreciate the polished product.
Look out Broadway—we’re coming up!