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Letter: STC must remain ‘a magnet’ for northern pro theatre

Renowned playwright and Governor General Literary Ward-winner Colleen Murphy is a beacon for Northern Ontario theatre performers and must remain so

I grew up in Manitouwadge, a small mining town north of Lake Superior. My first job was at Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay, before it was called Magnus Theatre. When I heard Sudbury Theatre Centre was created, I thought, 'Two professional theatres in Northern Ontario — wow!’ It took years before STC did one of my plays, but ”Armstrong’s War” was produced in 2016. The play gets done often, but it was special that STC produced it. As a result, I decided to bring my new project to STC. 

In 2017, I was awarded a Canada Council New Chapter Grant to write and put on a concert presentation at STC of Part One of a five-hour play (in French and English) about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham called ”Geography of Fire / La Furie et sa géographie”. 

For my project, I contracted a Copper Cliff artist to create the animals and hired 18 actors — most of them from Sudbury — to workshop the material for a week under CAEA’s DOT contract. 

In May 2019, we had a successful presentation. I continue to develop the project in the hopes of producing it at STC in the future. 

But there is talk that STC is dying – that it’s being starved, even cannibalized. 

I hope STC remains a professional theatre, not just because I want to present my project there, but because a long time ago I had to leave Northern Ontario in order to make a living in the theatre. 

I hope STC remains a professional theatre, a magnet for actors, playwrights and technicians who live in Sudbury, and also for artists from across the country to come and work there. I hope STC remains a professional theatre because a lot of people over a lot of years have put their hearts and souls into keeping it alive. 

Colleen Murphy