CONSTANCE BAY – The Rural Root Theatre Company (RRTC) battled a challenging 2020 that forced the theatre troupe to be light on its feet, agile and adaptable during the year of COVID-19.

The RRTC is community theatre at its finest operating out of the theatre at the NorthWind Wireless Fibre Centre in Constance Bay.

Every year the West Carleton-based community theatre troop puts on several professional shows, primarily in Constance Bay, but known to travel around on occasion as well.

The RRTC was founded Nov. 1, 2004 and has been providing a place for West Carleton residents with a taste for the theatre life a place to get their fill. Rural Root’s first production, Council Chamber Capers, was held at the former township council chambers (now the Client Service Centre at Kinburn) in the spring of 2005.

RRTC is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in Ontario and is governed by a board of directors. 

The RRTC held its 2020 annual general meeting during a Zoom teleconference last night (Dec. 6).

While West Carleton Online did not attend the AGM, it’s regular coverage of the RRTC tells the tale of a challenging year involving innovative solutions thought up by now past president Ronald Gardner, the board and its volunteers.

The RRTC was looking forward to a trouble-free year as soon as it was evident Constance Bay would avoid the extreme flooding that ravaged the community in 2017 and 2019. Both of those floods forced the RRTC to cancel its spring production as the NorthWind Wireless Fibre Centre had been turned in to the staging area for flood relief in Constance Bay. The rest of the community was of course, under water.

But 2020 brought its own unique challenges – the COVID-19 global pandemic. This cancelled the RRTC’s planned production of Norm Foster’s The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby, a play the troupe had been working on since February.

The RRTC, which already changed their annual spring production to later in the season in hope to avoid flooding issues, had to pivot again.

The RRTC brought their skills to the Internet and created a live production designed to be enjoyed on a computer screen. It is believed the RRTC was the first troupe of its kind in the Ottawa area to attempt this approach to live theatre.

“It’s completely different from anything we’ve done before, and it’s not without its challenges,” director Roy Ballantine told West Carleton Online last May. “We don’t know of other theatre groups who have tried this, so there will be a learning curve, and we’ll be at the mercy of technology. But we really wanted to do something that would engage our members, promote our sponsors and give back to our community.”

The productions was called Couples and it revolved around three groups of couples going through online therapy. It was a 30-minute production held June 11 to June 13 through Zoom video conferencing.

The show was free of charge and the RRTC asked viewers to make a donation to the West Carleton Food Access Centre instead.

The RRTC put on an October show in the same manner but increased the audience interaction. This production was an adapted play from Ian McWethy and Carrie McCrossen called Bad Auditions…On Camera.

A casting director had one day to find an actor to fill a role and the audience joins her as she fields several auditions through the course of the day. Following the production, the audience was able to pick the winning audition.

The RRTC ran three live performances between Oct. 21 to Oct. 24. Admission was free with the request being a donation to The Shepherds of Good Hope this time.

So, while 2020 was an incredible year for innovative live theatre from the RRTC it was a poor year for revenue. The two productions the RRTC presented were fundraisers for other organizations. Yet, if you watched one of the productions, you could easily tell a lot of work went in to both efforts.

The new RRTC 2021 board

  • President – Mandy Sauvé
  • Treasurer – Donna Pritlove
  • Secretary – Ann Empey
  • Artistic Director – Carolyn Walsh
  • Technical Director – Martin Weeden
  • Membership and Training – Dee Staigh
  • Publicity Director – Marilyn Lilienthal
  • Box Office Director – Cheryl Dalbec
  • Director at large (sponsorship) – Angie LeSage Sullivan
  • Director at large – Judi Paquette Bastable
  • Director at large – Susan Doyle Smith

Non-voting positions

  • Past president – Ronald Douziech Gardner
  • Webmaster – Ivo Mokros