Get to know the Board of Directors
Interview with Board Member – Michell McGrath
1. You are currently the Past President of the Board of Directors for Itopa, how long have you been volunteering with the Theatre group?
I started volunteering with ITOPA’s costume department even before I officially moved to Ingersoll in September of 2015. Before my relocation, I was involved in several amateur theatre groups during the 28 years I lived in the Orillia area.
2. Why do you think community theatre is important?
Community theatre gives everyone a chance to be involved in something their town can be proud of. Not all of us are destined to be professional actors, but ITOPA gives everyone a chance to be a part of the show in some way. We are proud to put on four plays a season (in a non Covid year of course) but it would not be possible to do that without the support of Ingersoll and the surrounding communities. It is amazing to me that we have so many theatre groups in such a small area. Many of the skills learned in theatre are useful in other areas of our lives. Public speaking skills, the ability to be patient and quiet until it is your turn to have the spotlight, learning to take direction and to work as a team are all things theatre experience can teach us.
3. What are some of the performances you have been apart of over the years?
I have worked on costumes for MASH, Miracle on 34th Street, Black Patent Shoes, The Foreigner, Til Beth do Us Part and many, many more. Some years I think I worked on all the shows that we put on! When a Director agrees to put on a show with ITOPA they may choose to make use of the people who volunteer with the theatre for their show or sometimes they bring a crew of people with them that they are familiar with from other shows they have done.
4. What is your dream role?
I would really like to get back on stage as an actor in a show someday, ideally a musical because I love to sing, but right now I am unable to commit to the amount of time it takes each week for rehearsals. With costumes at least I can sew in the middle of the night if that’s when I have free time!
5. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in theatre?
Be friendly! Get to know the other actors and crew in the show you are working on. Ask questions to further your knowledge of why things are done a certain way. You don’t have to start out on stage, there are lots of opportunities to volunteer for things like handing out the programs or serving up snacks and drinks during the intermission.The theatre does not run without all the smaller parts coming together!
6. How have you been keeping yourself busy over the lockdowns?
This question actually makes me laugh, because I work for a retail store that sells fabric and elastic, so you can imagine how busy we have been for the last year with everyone making masks. I have possibly worked more hours per week this last year than ever before in my life! If I do have any free time I like to make quilts.
7. When the theatre finally opens again, what are you most looking forward to?
When the theatre opens again I will be so happy to see all the friends I have made while working with ITOPA, even if we can’t hug yet! I get real joy from seeing a character come to life on stage in clothing that helps the audience learn who they are and what they may become. Also, the costumes provide clues as to the decade setting for the play. It will be exciting to have all our patrons back as well, as a show is nothing without the energy that comes from having a live audience!
Interview with Board Member- Dave Parker
1. You are new to the ITOPA board, what made you decide to get involved?
I really enjoy all aspects of Theatre and I look forward to new challenges. Since I have been involved at ITOPA both on stage and back stage it seemed appropriate to expand my involvement.
2. What makes community theatre so important?
People. Meeting new people. Making friends with those you work with on stage as well as some of the audience members. Community Theatre gives so many people the opportunity to gain so much that they wouldn’t get anywhere else whether as a member of the production or a member of the audience.
3. Have you acted in or directed any shows prior to joining the board?
My first play at ITOPA was called Murder by the Book and if I remember correctly, it was back in the late 90’s. Since then, I have been involved in a few productions. My last on-stage role was as Louie in Flaming Idiots and I had previously directed The Foreigner.
4. Do you have any favorite shows?
I have many favorite shows. “Over the River and Thru the Woods” is near the top of my list but my all-time favorite at this point has to be “A Bench in the Sun”.
5. When we can eventually reopen, what kind of performances are you hoping to see?
My idea of a good book or play is one that makes me laugh, makes me cry and tells me a story. If at the end of the book or play I am left thinking about it and the possibilities it brings to mind then I feel that it is a winner, so, anything that will make me think.
6. How have you been staying sane during this past year with no theatre?
Well, I guess that depends on how you define ‘sane’. Through last summer I golfed a lot and this past winter has found me spending many hours in my workshop, but life is just not the same without the involvement, comradery and enjoyment that theatre provides.
7. Can we expect to see Dave Parker in a leading role in our next performance? Why or why not?
I suppose that depends on the play as well as many other factors. Given a choice I would prefer to direct rather than be on stage. Watching my vision of what the playwright has written, as it comes to fruition through the actors, is so gratifying, but yet, there are so many more aspects to directing. However, that being said, if I was offered a role with a good challenge, such as my role as the Captain in Captains Outrageous, I certainly wouldn’t turn it down.
Interview with Board Member- Michelle Murphy
1. How long have you been involved with ITOPA?
I performed in my first show at ITOPA back in 2000, but then had a child and had to put theatre to the wayside until about 2016 and have been acting and directing ever since.
2. What are some of your favorite performances?
I had this crazy idea to act in and direct Always a Bridesmaid in 2017. This was my favourite show to direct and perform in. I also loved playing the role of Judith in My Darling Judith.
3. As an accomplished director, what tips would you give young actors wanting to start out in the theatre?
I would say that if acting is something you have wanted to try, then do it! Do not hold off for fear of being inexperienced – we love new faces and new talents! This applies not only to acting, but to any aspect of theatre. We are always looking for new volunteers.
4. What is your favorite part of the process of putting on a performance?
As a director I love witnessing the actors grow and form new relationships while observing the characters and production take shape. As an actor I love the relationships that form among the cast-they are truly like no others.
5. How important is local theatre to the community?
I think we notice now, in CoVidian times more than ever, because me miss it so much, that community theatre brings people together in a way that not many other things can. Performance art truly can be transformative for many, and a really enjoyable experience for people at the very least.
6. What is your dream show to direct?
I have always wanted to direct Crimes of the Heart by Beth Henley. But I think I want to play the character of Babe as much as I want to direct the show.
7. How are you coping due to the current lack of theatre during the Covid crisis?
I am keeping in touch with many people I have worked with at ITOPA, which helps. We all miss being at the theatre. I am also lucky enough to be a high school drama teacher, so I can get a bit of a fix that way. I just continue to hope for healthier times, when we can get back to the stage.
Interview with Board President- Jim Konopetski
1. How long have you been involved with ITOPA?
My first connection with ITOPA, or live theatre for that matter, came along in 1992. The producer for ITOPA’s upcoming production of Arsenic and Old Lace suggested I audition, as there were some small roles for men that needed to be filled. I was cast as Lieutenant Rooney and got hooked!
2. What do you love about the Theatre?
I’ve come to learn theatre provides an outlet for our creativity, and a unique connection with other people that share the experience with us. I love crossing paths with a person that has been part of a past production with me and realize that bond is still there. There is a trust that develops while being part of a show, and I treasure that connection with all the friends that I’ve gained over the years.
3. Why do you believe community theatre is important?
The importance of community theatre lies in the people that embrace the experience, whether as a participant or patron. Every live event is unique, and different from a recorded medium. People are part of each performance.
4. With the current pandemic and lock down measures in place, what kind of future do you see for community theatre?
This little epidemic we’re enduring has profoundly impacted how society operates, and community theatre is no exception. There is a fear in the population of getting together in groups, and enjoying a show while sitting beside a stranger for a couple of hours. I’m sure that feeling will ease in time, once the virus has been eradicated, but we may not recover our audience base of all of our members for a year or two afterward. I’m confident the need we feel to reconnect with each other will return stronger than ever.
5. As the new President of the Board of Directors, what are some of the initiatives you have planned for ITOPA, over the next 12 months?
ITOPA is sitting idle right now, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t moving forward. Our facility costs about $2,000 monthly to operate, and that means our bank account is getting a little smaller every month. We’ve been very fortunate to have had some donations from our community and are thankful for their support. The board has been exploring a couple of other fund-raising options, so stay tuned! As well, there are a few projects we are getting done, like painting and organizing. A new box office program is taking effect in February too. Our board of directors has a wealth of talent and experience, and I’m privileged and excited to be working with them.
6. With the theatre currently closed, what do you miss most about the days of the past?
Prior to taking on the role of President last November, I was responsible for ITOPA’s publicity. Getting the word out about our news and upcoming events kept me occupied throughout each season, and I looked forward to connecting with each show’s production team. Suddenly, there wasn’t much to do. And the news wasn’t good. I miss the excitement and anticipation of each opening night. As well, I had the wonderful experience of acting in Theatre Tillsonburg’s February 2020 show, “The Birds and the Bees”. That was such a blast! That’s what is so difficult about the quarantine…the joy we’re all missing from our theatre lives.
7. What are some of your favorite past performances?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have portrayed a variety of characters, from a murdering vigilante in “The Donnelly Trial”, to the owner of a nudist camp in “Bare Bear Bones”, as well as an English businessman stranded in the middle of a lake in “Neville’s Island”. Two roles that were extra special to my development as an actor were Inspector Davidson in “The Sound of Murder”, and Richard Cresswell, a romance novelist in “Seduced by Moonlight”. I can’t wait to get back on stage! And back on stage is what ITOPA will do! When we reopen later this year, I know you’ll enjoy top notch live entertainment at your community theatre in Ingersoll. Until then, play safe!