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Musical Theatre Explosion: Is Tweed Ontario the Next Stratford?

Tweed and Company Theatre

By Michelle Annette Tremblay, WordBird Media

There’s something incredible happening in Tweed, Ontario. Live theatre is seeing a dramatic resurgence, and it’s because an innovative and motivated group of talented young artists have been completely embraced by their community, not only putting the talented theatre company on the proverbial map, but positioning Tweed to become the next Stratford.

HASTINGS! The Musical

HASTINGS! The Musical is a dramatic and comedic retelling of the history of Hastings County. Photo courtesy of Tweed and Company Theatre

Tweed and Company Theatre brings uniquely Canadian stories to life on stage, performed with precise choreography, and original, live music. For the audience, it’s a revelation. Billy Piton, from Central Hastings News calls their latest show ‘magic.”

Based equidistant between Ottawa and Toronto, the company draws patrons from both centres, as well as smaller communities within Hastings County. The company of young thespians also tours venues throughout the province. Their current production, HASTINGS! the musical won the BroadwayWord Award for best Independent Production in its debut season, and will be featured this summer in Belleville, Bancroft, and Perth.

Tweed & Company Theatre photo

TWEED & COMPANY Theatre is a creator and producer of Original Canadian Musical Theatre and professional grassroots regional theatre. Photo by Michelle Annette Tremblay

Written by the Tweed & Company Ensemble with assistance from the Hastings County Historical Society, HASTINGS! the musical is a comedic retelling of the history of Hastings County. It features original music from several Canadian composers from the Stratford Festival, The Second City, and with major Toronto credits, and saw rave reviews and numerous sold out performances at the Tweed Pavilion last summer. It’s the fourth successful large-scale original Canadian musical that Tweed and Co has produced, and features original music played live on stage by nine performers.

Artistic Director, Tim Porter, says much of the company’s success stems from being based in Tweed, and being supported by local Member of Parliament Mike Bossio, Hastings county’s economic development office, the municipality of Tweed, and the local business community.

“Both our municipality and the county have been huge influencers for us, and have contributed massively to our success. I can’t even count the ways. From simple things like advertising and social promotion, to more complex meetings with economic development officials and small business reps, to building connections between us and other businesses,” lists Porter.

Audience photo

Part of Tweed and Company’s success is thanks to a supportive and engaged community. Photo by Michelle Annette Tremblay

“We feel incredibly fortunate to be in such an active and engaged region, where hands-on support is usually right at our fingertips. We’ve had  access to local grants, workshops and exposure that we would not receive in a larger centre.”

Porter says it’s also been easier and more exciting to partner with local businesses and events.

“We all love working together, and it just makes for such a better product. Some of our favourite things have happened because of [local] partnerships, like our annual winter carnival events, our Dark Night Cabarets, and a new event this year, the Harvest Dinner with Enright Cattle Company.”

Porter and his company are delighted to have so many opportunities in Tweed, and they’re part of a growing trend. Over the past decade, waves of creative professionals have been giving up the city-life to live their dreams in more rural settings, where the cost of living is lower, the quality of life is higher, and the opportunities within the creative economy are vast. A 2006 study for the Ontario Arts Council found that a significant concentration of artists – at least double the national average – are found right here in Hastings County.

“I still spend a bit of time each year in Toronto, says Porter, “but slowly over the years, I have spent more and more of my time in Tweed, with the balance the past couple of years definitely being in Tweed’s favour.”

Tim Porter

Artistic Director, Tim Porter, addresses the crowd at the Theatre Company’s anniversary party at the Tweed Pavilion, in May, 2018. Photo by Michelle Annette Tremblay

“People are special here, and they support each other and care about each other, even when they don’t always agree. The collaboration in this community is unmatched! I can’t remember the last time someone in this community wasn’t at least willing to hear us out with a new idea or initiative. And nine times out of ten that thing comes to fruition.”

Tweed and Co. Theatre hires local talent, and also draws from Belleville and surrounding communities for actors, musicians, and crew. Some members of the company, like actor James King (also the mesmerizing lead signer of James King and the Midnight Hours), come all the way from Toronto, and treat Tweed as a home away from home.

“Most of our cast members say their favourite thing is the scenic drive between Belleville and Tweed. You can feel all the cares and worries of the city slipping away as you drive through the beautiful lush forest and rolling farmland. Our favourite word for the region has always been ‘authentic.’ No matter which community you are in in Hastings County, there is just an authentic rural feel, and an authentic kindness that is hard to find elsewhere.”

James King

Up and coming rocker, James King, who was featured earlier this year on CBC’s Searchlight top 100, performs at the Tweed and Company Theatre anniversary party at the Tweed Pavilion. he is a regular on the Tweed and Company stage. Photo by Michelle Annette Tremblay

As the theatre company prepares for summer 2018, they also have their eyes on the future. In the long term, their vision is a major, year round professional theatre festival in Tweed, like those in Stratford, Shaw and Drayton. In the shorter term, Porter suspects there’s more in store for HASTINGS! the Musical.

“The show has caught the eye of many people across the region and beyond,” Porter beams.  “Assuming everything once again goes well this summer, we expect there will be more in store for this beautiful show…so stay tuned…”

In the meantime, you can get your tickets here.

Further Reading:

Stay and Play!

For the past ten seasons Tweed and Company has been culminating the perfect vacation or staycation for ticket holders, presenting its top picks for dining, accommodation, and experiences during their performances. Whether you’re seeing a show in Tweed, Bancroft, or Belleville, Tweed and Company has recommendations and special deals for ticket holders. Click here to for details.


Tweed and Co. 2018 Performance Dates

There are 4 shows being brought to life this year by Tweed and Co. Click on the links below for more info:

August 2018 – HASTINGS! The Musical

September 2018 – Aleck Bell: A Canadian Rock Opera

September – The Dark Night Cabaret

December – A Tweed and Company Christmas

Interested in Hastings County’s Creative Economy?

The creative economy is flourishing in Hastings County. Learn more here >>