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Gateway Theatre Guild offers a stage to grow on for 75 years

'We offer new comers the chance to do something they have never done before'

Rooted is all about the people and the places that make us proud to call our community home.                


The Gateway Theatre Guild has been a beacon of creativity, storytelling, and resilience in North Bay since 1948. For over 75 years this theatrical sanctuary has woven itself into the fabric of the community, offering a stage for countless dreams to take flight. 

It all began with Gateway Gaieties in ‘48, a production that featured 50 performers and 20 crew members, directed by Gordon Lee and produced by Steve Franklin. According to program notes in the Guild's archives, the two men, “… imagined a show which would reflect before the footlights, the gaiety, the energy and the many talents of young people in North Bay. As this city is the gateway to the land of promise in the north, so the show was seen as a gate through which could be found the expression of these qualities created on stage.” 

The Guild has never wavered from that inspiration.  

“We have been a place for young people to gain experience in a safe environment who then go on to pursue the arts as a career and a place for professionals to try a new discipline within theatre,” says the Guild president Johanna McPherson.  

“We bring high-quality theatre to our community and provide people from varying backgrounds and experiences an opportunity to play in the theatre.” 

McPherson adds, “We offer newcomers the chance to do something they have never done before.  We are fortunate to have people involved with the Guild who have formal training in the theatre and who get to practice their craft with us and share their knowledge and expertise with the community.” 

McPherson says the Guild is doing outreach in areas that will hopefully continue to attract more people to the theatre. One of those is a new program called “Not Just Play Readings with and for Seniors.”  

“That program has been a hit!” says McPherson. “Seniors gather monthly, reading plays and engaging in lively discussions. Now, in its second phase, we're adding new venues for readings, including sessions for French, Indigenous, and Italian plays and it is coordinated by Theatre Making North Bay.” 

They also have the "New and Local" initiative which is a a testament to the Guild's commitment to local artistry. 

“This new focus will involve workshops designed to assist and inspire the local creation of new works, as well as readings or 'showings' of new works-in-progress by local writers and creators. We will also potentially get full productions of some of the new works.  The Guild aims to hold regular monthly meetings to review submissions and determine which projects the Guild has the resources to support,” says McPherson.  

She says that new works for performance can include both the writing of “dramatic plays” as well as the creation of what might loosely be called “performance works.”  

“While 'dramatic plays' are generally written texts authored by single writers, 'performance works' might be created by either a single author or by a group working together to devise a new work in many possible formats,” she says, adding they have produced new works by local artists and they offer a bursary to a high school graduate pursuing the arts in post-secondary as well as a bursary to help a Fringe show. 

But all of this work does not come cheap and the funding for the Guild has been a challenge over the years according to McPherson.  

“As a community theatre group run by volunteers, we rely on show revenue, donations, and memberships to maintain financial stability. The pandemic was a serious blow, but we are back and better than ever as Savannah Sipping Society had mostly full houses every night.” 

She adds, “We are getting creative on how to bring our audiences back and how to create new revenue opportunities. Our dedicated and hard-working board is constantly looking at ways to broaden the Guild’s reach and appeal and to help foster a new generation of people invested in community theatre in North Bay.” 

That dedication has garnered support, securing grants from the City of North Bay and Retired Teachers Organization, fuelling their commitment to fostering community engagement through the arts. 

This is great news as the Guild is gearing up for its next set of plays.

"Our winter production, 'Estrangement,' by Terre Chartrand, explores identity, family, place, connection and estrangement, the act of being a stranger in a place of belonging, and the mixing of many cultures in the economic shift between the fur trade and the forestry and rail industries,” says McPherson.  

“It is about a mother and a daughter and their lives through massive shifts. Their positions and identities throw them into a crushing sense of time towards starvation. This play is also about resourcefulness and resilience.  It is a play about Indigenous success and capability." 

McPherson says they also have their spring show lined up. 

"In spring, get ready for 'Hamlet Cha Cha Cha' by Monk Ferris, directed by Scott Vander Waal. Totally insane and totally hilarious.” 

She says it’s a musical twist on Shakespeare's Hamlet   

“Can you envision Horatio as 'an amiable sponge' always seeking the nearest buffet table? Can you see Gertrude and Claudius, married on their way home from King Hamlet's funeral, leading the opening number of the show, 'Boo Hoo! I Do!'? Or picture the soliloquy done by Prince Hamlet with a backup male chorus chanting 'Doo waaah!' at inappropriate intervals? And if you think you know the way the story turns out-- you don't. Not in this version, anyhow.” 

McPherson says if people are looking to get involved and volunteer with the Guild reach out to her at [email protected]. She adds you can stay in touch by getting their email list and watching their Facebook posts for upcoming opportunities to get involved as well.  

If you have a story idea for “Rooted” send Matt an email at [email protected]  

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Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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