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Theatre by the Bay launches its 2018 season

Locally written, produced 'Northern Lights', about historical cannabis grow-op to premier this summer

After a massively successful 2017, Theatre by the Bay is back and has announced, via a launch party, its upcoming 2018 season which will expose more local history; hilariously and dramatically.

At launch party at Drors Studio Friday evening, it was announced that four events are planned for the upcoming year and vary from the annual Stars Come Out event in May, to a story of a strong woman who helped shape the community, a children’s play and one production that has legendary written all over it.

Theatre by the Bay’s Artistic Director Alex Dault wrote and will produce the play Northern Lights which will take place at the Five Points Theatre from July 18 to 28. Dault explains that the play will be a funny fact-based production on the infamous Molson plant marijuana grow-op from 2004.

Northern Lights is going to be hilarious,” said Dault. “It's a comedy about a Barrie mom who thinks her son got a high paying job at the Molson Brewery but then finds out he's been arrested at the US border by DEA agents for trying to smuggle 400 pounds of marijuana. She goes to the brewery to demand that they get him a lawyer and bail him out and through a big misunderstanding ends up working for the grow-op herself. The show is based on the true story of the real Molson grow op, including interviews with the growers themselves, the Barrie police and some of the prosecutors.”

Dault and his company have been telling Barrie’s history over the last couple of years as a way to be different than other city troupes. Having produced plays about the city’s involvement in war and about Barrie’s famous Five Points intersection, Dault says it was current events that helped bring about Northern Lights.

“I was definitely inspired by the upcoming legalization of marijuana,” said Dault. “This is also a story that everyone in Barrie knows of but I don't think many people know what really happened. The story is super interesting and also very funny; I was especially interested in "The Trimmers" who were a group of about twelve women who would be driven up to Barrie blindfolded in the back of a U Haul. They actually lived in the brewery for two months straight a few times a year, whenever the plants were ready for harvest, and it was like a sort of a commune living inside the place. I remember back in the day many people were embarrassed that we became known as "the place where the Molson marijuana grow op was" but with legalization I see an opportunity to turn the shame into a point of pride. The name Northern Lights comes from the strain of cannabis that was being grown at the brewery from 2000-2003. It's a popular, well known type of indica that won the Cannabis Cup in the eighties.”

Iain Moggach is also excited about the upcoming season and the Theatre by the Bay Executive Director sees a great rise in popularity for him and his team from years gone by.

“We had more than 3,000 people attend our 2017 productions,” said Moggach. “This is an extraordinary accomplishment for a company that only does four shows a year. But the most exciting accomplishment actually came after we had tallied up our surveys. We discovered that the vast majority of our audiences were people who had either never seen a play in Barrie before, or had only seen one in the last year. What this shows us is that our productions are bringing out entirely new audiences from within our community. People of all backgrounds are discovering there is a theatre company in their community that is telling stories that they want to hear. It is an amazing thing.”

Moggach also knows that it takes the dedication of the actors and all involved to make Theatre by the Bay a success. With the company focusing on local history, Moggach knows that they need a stream of local actors to tell it properly.

“This year we will have 22 actors, the vast majority of which will be local, and a production team almost exclusively from Barrie,” said Moggach. “It is important to us that Theatre by the Bay continue to be an incubator for local talent, while also maintaining the high professional calibre our audiences expect from us. What I love about artists in this community is that they have great talent and a hunger for opportunities, as there are not many out there. They give it their all every single time. It would also feel wrong to tell local stories and not have the majority of our artists come from said community. Hiring locally adds authenticity to the experience and it also tells artists that Barrie is a place where you can find work that is meaningful and exciting.”

The season begins with the May 14 Georgian Theatre annual Stars Come Out, which is always a star-studded event and full of different entertaining acts. The headliner for Stars Come Out will be announced next month and also includes silent auctions all with the help of over 30 volunteers.

May 25 to June 10 will be Mary of Shanty Bay at the St. Thomas Anglican Church at 28 Church Street in Shanty Bay. Leah Holder (director of We Must Have More Men) tells the story of Mary O’Brien, through her real life diaries, the local Shanty Bay woman of 1828 who helped shape the community she moved to from England.

The kids will have Lost and Found (July 18 to 28), a musical from Mike Holland and Isaac Haig (Land of Make Believe and Adventure Island) that will be more of an interactive choose-your-own-adventure type story. While the season kicks off in May, Moggach assures that it all really gets going for Theatre by the Bay much earlier.

“Usually we have our next season mapped out before the end of the current season only something remarkable will change it,” said Moggach. “For this year, the announcement by the Canadian Government that cannabis will be legalized pushed one of our 2018 shows into 2019 (stay tuned for info on that show) as it made it very clear that we needed to do Northern Lights in 2018."

"Alex then proposes the season to our Board of Directors. Thanks to our survey data, all our show proposals are backed by statistical data. The Board, our Artistic Director and Executive Director, discuss the logistics and it will either be approved or denied. As soon as it is approved, we launch right into the prep for the season," he said. "This includes writing grants, getting sponsors, doing vast amounts of work to close the books on the previous season and getting everything ready for 2018. Now, the majority of the work is done, so we are ready to share our season with the world.”

For more information on the upcoming season and Theatre by the Bay in general, check out its website 


Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based on Barrie
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