The Windsor-Essex region has a lot to offer.
This comes as news to a lot of people who’ve lived here their whole lives. But to those who’ve moved here from elsewhere, like myself, it’s both astonishing and obvious. Let’s just focus on theatre here – putting aside, for now, all the terrific musicians, painters, comedians, and other artists who live and work in the region.
Windsor-Essex has one of the largest, most diverse, and most vibrant theatre scenes in all of Canada. There are at least 26 active theatre companies in the region (you can find links to them in the “community” section at postproductionswindsor.ca), which together provide audiences with opportunities to experience a staggering breadth of stories every weekend. Whatever your tastes – dramas, comedies, musicals, dance, classics, original work, kids’ shows, adult-oriented shows – there’s more than any one person can take in. I know, because I try to see everything, and it’s impossible.
Not only that, our region boasts a high school that provides teenagers with programs to really hone their performance skills, a university with a well-regarded Dramatic Arts program, and a college with a growing musical theatre program. Add to this list the theatre companies that train children in performance arts and the companies that offer workshops and courses for older actors, and our region contains a wealth of education for people of all ages who are pursuing – or want to pursue – careers in theatre.
And let’s not forget all of the behind-the-scenes people who work in the local theatre scene – producers, directors, playwrights, choreographers, musicians and composers, set designers, carpenters, painters, sound and lighting technicians, costumers, stage managers . . . it’s a long list.
Theatre is an industry worldwide. Windsor already has an immense theatre industry. But it’s been kept a secret, held back by a lack of organization and a lack of support by governments at all levels. As a result, many theatre companies in the region are either entirely or partially reliant on volunteer labour. And those who offer financial compensation can’t offer much – certainly not enough to live on.
It’s time this changed.
On January 25th 2020, more than 40 representatives from 17 local theatre companies and venues met for a workshop co-organized by the Arts Council Windsor Region and Post Productions to discuss ways we could work together to lift the local theatre scene to the next level. As a result, we created a new advocacy and lobbying group – the Windsor-Essex Theatre Alliance (WETA) – so we could make progress together.
It’s time to recognize that Windsor is in a position similar to, if not better than, Stratford was in 1952. It’s time to recognize the economic, social, and cultural potential of Windsor as a tourist destination and as the place where great theatre careers are built. It’s time to invest.
When the time comes for your support, we hope we can count on it. Ours is a vision you can believe in. A rising tide, as they say, lifts all boats.