F rom October 14 until October 23 at Oddfellows Hall, Fixt Point, along with Suitcase in Point, will be putting on The Tale of a Town.
Fixt Point is a theatre company based in Toronto whose express purpose is to encourage people to imagine change in their community through their various projects. One such initiative is the The Tale of a Town project.
“The Tale of a Town is a national oral history and theatre project whose goal is to capture the collective community memory of Canada’s main streets, one story at a time,” said Lisa Marie DiLiberto, artistic director of Fixt Point, cocreator of Tale of a Town and theatre director of the show being put on in St. Catharines. “What we’re doing is touring across the country from east to west while doing projects in Ontario at the same time. We interview people about what they can remember of their earliest memories of their downtown and main street in their own life time. Not the history of the 1800s which you can read in books, but their own memories and stories about their main street and downtown. Once we listen to all the interviews we create different artistic pieces with that material. Sometimes we make podcasts telling the different stories we gather and other times we create plays, and sometimes we make something in between such as a radio play. Tale of a Town is doing that across the country leading up to Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.”
After touring the country for a number of years, they have returned to St. Catharines for the fourth time with The Tale of a Town.
“The thing that makes the St. Catharines project really special is that the first time we left Toronto to look at another main street or downtown, was when we came to St. Catharines in 2011,” said DiLiberto.
“We were really nervous about that but we were welcomed here by our partners at Suitcase and Point theatre company, which is our sister company. We came here to start doing interviews about downtown St. Catharines in 2011, then in 2013, and again in April of 2015 for the In The Soil festival. We needed to do that because the stories about the future in 2011, such as the performing arts centre being just a dream and the revitalization of the downtown just being an idea or something that was starting, is now something that is being actually realized. There was no Meridian Centre, or Beechwood Donuts, or Mindbomb Records, back in 2011. It wasn’t like it is now. So we re-interviewed people on their feeling of downtown St. Catharines and mostly what we heard from people is that now that they have all these great shops and infrastructure, they just need to make sure that they frequent those places as patrons. As we travel around collecting stories we keep coming back to St. Catharines.”
Downtown St. Catharines, like most city downtowns, has undergone many changes since the city was first founded and it was the central part of the city. In recent years those changes have increased in scale and occurrence to make downtown a relevant part of the city yet again.
“Downtown has changed. You no longer have to go downtown to get your mail or go to the drug store,” said DiLiberto. “You can do those things anywhere now. Downtowns these days have become the place of culture. People have to come to downtown for different reasons which is why they have developed into these places of culture and festivals.”
The Tale of a Town project is not just a group of outsiders looking in though. It incorporates locals whenever possible, much like how they have partnered with Suitcase in Point on their current production in St. Catharines.
“I’ve worked with [The Tale of a Town] in various shows around Canada and this one in particular is very close to my heart because it’s about the place where I live and work,” said Dee Jones, artistic director of Suitcase in Point. “It’s a great way to create theatre that’s for and about the community that you’re in. [The Tale of a Town] is important for St. Catharines because our downtown in particular is going through such dramatic changes with all the new facilities. There’s a real attention and focus both city wide and region wide on our downtown. People’s opinions on the future and past of our downtown and where it is today is a really prominent subject now.”
The Tale of a Town is scheduled to culminate in 2017 with the 150th anniversary of Canada. What that will look like though, is uncertain.
“We aren’t exactly sure what the culmination at the end of the project will look like,” said DiLiberto. “It will probably be a play about main street culture in Canada. After that we will probably still continue to travel the country gathering stories and creating pieces because there are so many people who want to share their memories of and hopes for their downtowns and main streets.”
The Tale of a Town will be holding performances in St. Catharines form October 13 to October 23. Those interested in seeing a production of The Tale of a Town in St. Catharines can contact the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre for tickets which are $20. If you want more information about Fixt Point and The Tale of a Town you can check out fixtpoint.com/thetaleofatown.