Richard Varty is no stranger to the spotlight, having been heavily involved in the city's theatre community for many years.
BarrieToday is tapping into that knowledge, with Varty joining our team as an arts and entertainment columnist. His new column, titled Scene Setter, will debut this weekend.
He will help not only shed light on the city's growing theatre and arts community, but also provide a rundown of what's coming up in the local music scene and nightlife.
Varty has been involved with theatre since his parents enrolled him in theatre camps at a young age. High school offered the opportunity to be part of a number of theatre productions as part of the academic year, including the Sears Drama Festival, now called the National Theatre School Festival.
“I had amazing drama teachers who, with my parents, supported my decision to pursue the arts in post-secondary," says Varty, who attended Brock University and graduated with a bachelor of arts with honours in drama studies.
The 32-year-old has spent most of his life in Barrie after moving here many years ago from the Toronto area.
“My family moved here from Etobicoke when I was young and the first school I attended was Assikinack before they built Holly Meadows and I transferred there,” he says. “I was fortunate enough to experience not just one but two new schools when Bear Creek opened a year before I graduated in Grade 8.”
During his time in St. Catharines at Brock, Varty had the opportunity to work with professional and independent theatre companies, which he says “opened my eyes to some of the intricacies that go into live theatre production.”
Having now been involved in the arts for two decades, he's the director of outreach for Talk Is Free Theatre and has been working on marketing, promotions, education and outreach for nearly three years. But he will be providing readers with an all-access pass to all of the city's theatre companies by highlighting upcoming shows and events.
When it comes to his favourite performances, though, Varty says there are simply too many to choose from.
“One of my favourites was during the Rocky Horror Show at the Loft on Anne Street. Part of the experience as a performer is the interaction with the audience who were prompted to throw objects, hurl insults and sing along," he says with a laugh. "There is nothing quite like a sold-out house getting up and singing 'Let's do the time warp again.'
“Another one of my favourites was working with Theatre by the Bay on We Must Have More Men! and telling the story of Barrie during the First World War," Varty says. "While the space was very hot and the costumes very thick, it was such a unique experience to be part of portraying a lesser known part of our community's history."
Making the theatre experience even better is that he says he was lucky enough to perform with his fiancee.
“It is that time together on stage I cherish the most," he says.
With his new bi-weekly column, Varty says he hopes people will see “how much art is in motion in our beautiful city.”
“Barrie is home to an eclectic assortment of artists who are creating new works every day, whether it be poetry, theatre, traditional art and everything in between,” he says. “Like many people and sectors during the pandemic, the arts have been deeply affected and are striving to return better than ever.”