RCA: Raising the curtain, rocking the cradle

Rocking the Cradle writer Des Walsh, director Richard Rose and actor Ruth Lawrence.

Without a home to call their own until February, RCA Theatre Company will open its new season at MUN’s Reid Theatre with the production Rocking the Cradle

David Keating sat down with Amy House, the company’s artistic animateur, to talk about the play and the ongoing renovations at the LSPU Hall.

In the over 30 years of the Resource Centre for the Arts’ storied existence, the 2009/2010 season will likely prove to be a standout year. While still at the mercy of construction timetables, Amy House and the staff at RCA are anticipating being back in a completely renovated LSPU Hall sometime in February.

“We’re living in great anticipation of returning to the Hall, says House. “It’s going to be a wonderful space for artists and a great space for audiences.”

House says the efforts of staff and the Hall board to secure funding to revamp the space will finally bring the facility into the 21st century.

The renovations—a do-or-die situation for the space, according to House—will include an adaptable performance area that can be changed for theatre-in-the-round, entrances at both stage left and stage right, a lift that makes the theatre more accessible, and a new 50-seat second space downstairs for smaller shows, newer companies and works-in-progress.

Basic amenities like heat and air conditioning, as well as updated phone and ticketing systems, are also being added.

Claimed by the Mummers Troupe in 1971 as an artist’s space, the Longshoreman’s Protective Union Hall has been at the center of St. John’s art scene since its inception as a theatre and gallery.

Generations of performers—including member of CODCO and Rick Mercer—began their careers on its stage.

Part of the new vision for the Hall, in both in its space and its mandate, is the continued cultivation on new writing talent and a longer incubation period for new works before they reach the main stage.

“That 50-seat space downstairs is going to be instrumental in being able to present experimental and new works, and for artists to be able to try out new things in a less expensive venue,” says House.

“What I think is a great accomplishment is the development that’s happening before productions are being put on stage… Now we find productions that are in development for maybe two years before they’re considered for mainstage production.”

The RCA Theatre Company’s first production of the year, Rocking the Cradle, has benefited from this extended development process. The show has been co-produced with Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, and the show and its cast will transfer to Toronto for an extended month-long run after closing here in town.

House hopes that future mainstage productions will likewise find a life beyond their presentation at the Hall.

Rocking the Cradle
Written by Des Walsh and directed by Tarragon Theatre Artistic Director Richard Rose, Rocking the Cradle is an adaptation of Spanish poet and playwright Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Yerma re-imagined in 1960’s outport Newfoundland.

“It’s going to be a beautiful show, visually, for sure… the essence of that small community, that remote outport Newfoundland, the sound, the wind, and the visuals,” says House. “It’s going to be extraordinary to watch.”

Without a home base to work from, RCA has leaned on the resources of the whole theatre community to bring Cradle to life. The Arts and Culture Centre provided rehearsal space and resources, Holy Heart Theatre is handling box office and ticketing and MUN’s Reid Theatre is hosting the production.

“Doing this show has really brought home to me a sense of community,” says House. “There’s an advantage of being out of your home. You’re out in the world, and you’re out there with everybody else.”

Rocking the Cradle is presented by RCA/Tarragon Theatre at the Reid Theatre from October 8th to October 18th. Tickets are available at the Holy Heart box office. More info at rca.nf.ca.

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