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TOROS ... 25 years and counting

The 'Oldies' as they called themselves because they were in the first TOROS shows have a Sears moment during the 'TOROS 25- Glimpses from the Past' show.

The 'Oldies' as they called themselves because they were in the first TOROS shows have a Sears moment during the 'TOROS 25- Glimpses from the Past' show. From left to right: Heather Gowan Burke, Allan MacAskill, Jocelyn Bell-Summersby, Rob McCubbin, Jill McMillan, Karen Schiavone-fava (photos), Maria Pinsent Work and in the back Mike Glussich.

It was a musical walk down memory lane for hundreds of people who packed the Capitol Centre Sunday to reflect, enjoy and celebrate 25 years of TOROS magic.

Crediting Art and Marty Southcott, families in the audience and performers on stage all talked about the close knit community TOROS is, the lifelong friendships made, and about the comfortable atmosphere that allowed them to be who they are. Whether students attended TOROS for school credit, develop skills, or just purely for the love of musical theatre everyone agreed TOROS had a major hand in shaping the people they have become.

Leading up to the event we caught up with two TOROS alumni and asked them three simple questions.

How did TOROS help shape your life?

“TOROS, and earlier Challenge, allowed me to live my youth to the fullest. It brought self-confidence and life long friendships,” notes Allan MacAskill.

“Depending on what high school you went to, being in the drama club or being a 'dramoid' guaranteed you were an outcast of sorts, not generally accepted by the cool kids. But with TOROS, you saw that at other high schools, there were cool kids doing drama. Smart, funny, good-looking kids. And in that environment, if you displayed talent or drive or passion, you were recognized for it, and more importantly accepted,” states Darius Murray.

“I looked forward to my summers in high school for that reason. In TOROS, I was a cool kid. Through TOROS I made some lasting friendships, gained confidence as a person and performer. You met older kids who were finishing high school, had already started university, and they took you in, made you feel loved and respected. They were the ones we looked up to. As time went by, I became one of the older kids, keeping up some informal traditions, and trying to be as open and accepting and welcoming to the new kids coming in, as had been done for me. I felt as though that was one of the cornerstones of TOROS, nurturing the next generation of young performers to take over once I was too old to keep doing it.”

Favourite production?

Both MacAskill and Murray agree on JC Superstar.

“During the crucifixion scene in Jesus Christ Superstar, North Bay was hit with a massive thunderstorm. The storm-flaps on top of the Capitol Centre roof opened due to the gusting winds. Remarkable, really,” says MacAskill who will direct the musical this fall for Dreamcoat Fantasy Theatre.

“Jesus Christ Superstar, 1988 production,” notes Murray.

“It should be noted that while JC Superstar was my favorite production, the summers we did West Side Story and The Wiz were some of the best summers I ever had,” he adds.

And the final question was what is your fondest memory?

MacAskill's answer is short and sweet, “The thrill of the curtain call.”

For Murray it was a bit harder to come up with just one stand out moment.

“It's hard to pinpoint a favourite memory, but as I mentioned earlier, the summers we did West Side and The Wiz were an absolute blast.”

“Some of the best times I ever had as a teenager.”

Jocelyn Bell-Summersby, who was a cast member for several years starting with the first show Lil Abner in 1987 moving onto staff member and now parent of a cast member, along with fellow former TOROS staff member Marg McDairmid shared some little known facts about the company's history the Southcotts had been holding close to their chest all these years.

“One of the best things about Marty and Art were that they kept all the business of the behind the scenes, all the stuff that wasn't going so well, to themselves,” says Bell-Summerby.

“And as cast members little did we know that three days before opening night for Lil Abner there were only 76 tickets sold for the entire run of the show,” Bell-Summersby says to which the audience let out loud gasps and nervous laughter.

“Another interesting story is that I choreographed Oliver,” explains McDairmid.

“In the process of moving the set for Oliver from our rehearsal space at Centennial School to the Capitol Centre and returning unused borrowed stuff to various places we set off the alarm systems at not only Centennial, but Widdifield, and West Ferris all on the same day,” she says as the crowd erupts in laughter.

“At the third school the security guys brought us coffee.”

The audience continued to laugh as the they moved from stories of Doug Taylor hanging in the rafters at the end of the crucifixion scene for JC Superstar, the flooded stage opening day of JC Superstar, to buying Value Village out of sweaters in the middle of July for the production of Cats and a parking lot rendition of Fiddler on the Roof due a power outage downtown.

Unfortunately the Southcotts were unable to attend the silver anniversary celebration but sent greetings promising to be back in the Bay for TOROS 2012.

“The opportunity we had to work with literally thousands of young people over the years, all of them with special talents and gifts to share has been an amazing trip. We always felt that this was something we were fortunate to be able to do, that someone trusted us to take this on and let us just run with it was almost to good to be true,” reads McDairmid.

“And then people kept thanking us for doing something we enjoyed so much. We often said to people who asked why we did this ... well lots of people play golf and we do this - and you know this is way more fun.”