MONCTON – Real estate developer Cyril Johnston believes theater can be an economic engine, so he decided to open RoundHouse productions, a theater company that is hosting its first show at the Empress Theater next week.
Johnston, the company’s president, said the idea had been debated for a few months before it was founded on Feb.1.
“It’s a project that some of us have been talking about for a long time,” he said.
He named the company RoundHouse Productions because of Moncton’s history as a railroad town. He also liked the name, and his office is near an old roundhouse.
Johnston says his wife Andrea was involved in the decision to start the company. Both own Colston Properties, a commercial and industrial property developer.
“The commercial background helped us enormously in the business-oriented tasks of setting up the theater,” he says.
The couple also have a theater background. Johnston has worked for companies in New Brunswick – such as the Saint John Theater Company and Collective Theatrics in Fredericton – and Ontario for about seven years. They decided to take time off from the theater to raise their children.
“When the kids were old enough to be out and about, we really got more active in the theater world,” he said.
Johnston says the idea wasn’t that difficult because of his theater network in Moncton and because he and his wife have the skills necessary to move the project forward.
“I knew that if we could create a good framework and give the creatives, the director, the people of light, the actors the support they need, then people would be very excited to get on board,” he said.
RBC Dominion Securities’ Tingley Group is the main sponsor of the company’s first show, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Other sponsors are Grant Thornton, Cox & Palmer, Cheers, Heritage Developments Limited, Roadway Systems, Cushman & Wakefield, Incolor and Newco Construction, who also built some set constructions.
Johnston says all of the sponsors were excited to contribute to the show.
“Every single person we asked was on board immediately. We had a budget of what we hoped for through sponsorship and we achieved that and I’m sure we could have got more if we had asked, ”he said.
He also noticed that the sponsors shared his view of the theater as an economic engine.
“Sponsors seemed to really understand the importance of theater in terms of both community vibrancy and offering in terms of community economic development,” he said.
The company’s board of directors picked the show because it is known as a Roman and had a good theatrical adaptation.
“It’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever read and I think the audience will enjoy it tremendously,” he said.
Johnston says the show is a small show with about 20 people in the cast – excluding the Empress Theater staff – and a budget in the low five-figure range.
He believes Moncton – and New Brunswick as a whole – is lagging behind other maritime provinces like Prince Edward Island in terms of theater as an economic engine.
“The town of North Rustico has professional theater every night all summer, and that draws a tremendous number of people to this community over the summer. Victoria-by-the-Sea draws large numbers of people to this community as part of the overall vacation experience, ”he said.
Johnston believes that a real summer experience could be developed in Moncton and New Brunswick, where people can reliably see good theater.
“Our group is of course far from offering that, but I would like to see that develop over time in this area, where the people who live here and who travel here have this on their radar as something that” They’d love to do that while they’re in the area, ”he said.