Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland

Location: St. John's, NL
NLAC Program Funded Under: Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations
Amount Funded: $30,000

Artistic-Fraud-Colony

Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood in Artistic Fraud's promotional photos for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, based on the novel by Wayne Johnston

Artist Contact: Patrick Foran
Artist E-mail: generalmanager@artisticfraud.com
Artist Website: http://www.artisticfraud.com

In its 20th anniversary year, Artistic Fraud has a robust resume to celebrate that includes 15 original pieces of theatre, and a number of tours, lectures, and workshops that it has presented at home and away – both nationally and internationally.

Formed in St. John’s, Artistic Fraud has built a reputation as being one of English Canada’s most daring and innovative companies.  The company’s roots were originally in Toronto. While still completing her undergrad at York University, Jillian Keiley created In Your Dreams Freud with cohort Chris Tolley under the banner Artistic Fraud. That 45 cast-member show went so well, that Jill decided to mount her own version of the show upon her return to St. John’s, which led to the formation of Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland.

The work of the company was originally based on Jill’s interest in director-driven theatre in the spirit of Edward Gordon Craig. In plays and workshops for the first ten years, Keiley and her co-creators explored and developed a process she called Kaleidography, which involved the pre-rehearsal charting of instances on stage, timed and executed utilizing music as a time piece. This process evolved into a more collaborative exploration of chorus and ensemble in performance. One of the trademarks of the company is the actual size of its productions; the choral theatre aesthetic often calls for large casts, with works involving up to 20 contracted professional performers.  This pioneering process is, in part, what led to Keiley’s recognition in 2004 when she won the Siminovitch Award for directing. She had also been awarded the John Hirsch Prize for emerging directors.

feat-fraud-colonyAstrid Van Weiren in Artistic Fraud's promotional photo for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, based on the novel by Wayne Johnston.

Robert Chafe was a close friend of Keiley as well as the other members of the initial Freud team, and was part of the show’s original cast playing Freud himself.  He was also a performer in other early Artistic Fraud shows such as The Cheat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Great Big Stick.  In 1997 his involvement expanded when his collaborative creative relationship with Keiley led to Under Wraps, which was developed with composer Petrina Bromley. Over the next three years it played three sold out runs in St. John’s and toured to Halifax, Calgary, Banff, and Vancouver. By the time Under Wraps wound down in 2000, Robert was acting Artistic Associate for the company, and he and Keiley were full steam ahead on other collaborations.
 
The company went on to create a number of original productions including Signals, Icycle, The Chekhov Variations, Burial Practices of the Early European Settlers Through Today, Belly Up, Nightingale, Emile’s Dream, Fear of Flight, Afterimage, and Oil and Water as well as staged works by Michael Crummey (Hard Light, and Salvage), and Berni Stapleton (The Pope and Princess Di).

When Keiley left the administration of Artistic Fraud in 2012 to take the helm of the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre, Chafe became the Artistic Director. Patrick Foran, who had a long connection with the company as a performer and one time board member, was hired as Artistic Fraud’s producer.

Chafe’s penned Afterimage earned him the Governor General’s Award in 2010 which was adapted from one of Michael Crummey’s short stories. The most recently produced work from Artistic Fraud again had its roots in Newfoundland and Labrador literature.  Wayne Johnston’s 1998 best selling The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, which was shortlisted for the Mann/Booker Prize, Giller Prize, and Governor General’s award for fiction is ready for the stage thanks to Chafe.  Over the last six years he developed the adaptive stage script with the support of the Shaw Festival, Playwrights Workshop Montreal, the Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre, the National Arts Centre’s English Theatre, the City of St. John’s, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.

Q and A with Patrick Foran...

NLAC: How and when was the decision made to work on adapting Colony for the stage? Why was that title chosen?

Patrick: A few years ago, Robert was approached by the Shaw Festival in Ontario to pitch projects that could be adapted for their season. The Shaw Festival produces George Bernard Shaw’s plays and plays from and about his era.  Set in pre-confederation Newfoundland, Wayne Johnston’s bestselling novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams was definitely the right era for that festival. As time went on, it became clear that the Shaw Festival, though impressed with Robert’s adaptation, would not produce the play. Meanwhile, Artistic Fraud was about to celebrate its 20th season and this project was a perfect fit to celebrate two decades of original theatre from St. John’s.

NLAC: Was the book’s author involved? What did Wayne think of the process and end result, if so?

Patrick: Wayne Johnston, like Robert and Jillian, hails from The Goulds.  He’s a fan of Artistic Fraud’s work and he trusted Robert and Jillian with the adaptation and stage production. Wayne chose not to be involved in the development, saving the surprise. After opening night, Wayne wrote about what “a joy and a privilege it was to see the stage adaptation ... it was brilliantly written by Robert Chafe, directed by Jillian Keiley, produced by Patrick Foran and scored by Patrick Boyle. And what a cast! Colin Furlong, you were so good you made me wish I could go back in time and vote for Joey. Just once, but still. Astrid Van Wieren, you are Sheilagh Fielding. Jody Richardson brought Sir Richard Squires to life-- a mesmerizing performance.”

NLAC: Who was involved in the production of Colony?

colony-performanceColin Furlong as Joey Smallwood in Artistic Fraud's production The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, based on the novel by Wayne Johnston
Photo by Victoria Wells

Patrick: There was a massive team behind this production. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is part of The Collaborations with Canada’s National Arts Centre (NAC). The goal of Collaborations is to “place different components of NAC English Theatre resources into the hands of artists launching their work or honing shows in all corners of Canada.” For Colony, Artistic Director of NAC English Theatre Jillian Keiley directed the production and Artistic Associate, Sarah Garton Stanley served as Dramaturge. Christine Brubaker, who last appeared in Fear of Flight, also joined the company as Assistant Director. Christine frequently joins productions that Jillian is directing, most recently on the NAC English Theatre production of Alice Through the Looking Glass in association with The Stratford Festival.

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams was produced in association with The St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. Their support as a staff was instrumental in realizing the production. Much of the credit goes to Karl Simmons, who served as technical director and head carpenter.

Fans of Artistic Fraud’s work will have recognized the skilful design and production elements that were in Colony. Shawn Kerwin, who designed the set for Oil and Water and Afterimage, returned to design Colony. Leigh Ann Vardy (Lighting Design), Don Ellis (Sound Design), and Marie Sharpe (Costume Design) all returned to the company for Colony, having previously worked on Oil and Water. Design associate Brian Kenny (Mindless Theatrics) was a tremendous help in realizing lighting and sound design elements. Composer Patrick Boyle created the jazz soundscape with Bill Brennan, Heather Kao and Frank Fusari. 

The cast of Colony included Colin Furlong, Astrid Van Weiren, Jody Richardson, Alison Woolridge, Steve  O’Connell, Willow Kean, Brian Marler, Paul Rowe, Charlie Tomlinson, Darryl Hopkins, and Angus Younghusband. Stage managers Kai Chen and Mark Denine kept us caffeinated, organized and on time.

NLAC: What challenges did Artistic Fraud, and Robert, face throughout the adaptation and then the production process?

Patrick: We produce in the winter all the time, so we’re used to weather messing up plans. But our production team and cast always takes it in stride. Logistics became an issue with a show of this size. We were constantly moving gear and people from one location to another. I’m on a first name basis with my Uhaul dealer, Richard, who is a great guy, but I’d prefer if we had not had to spend our time in rental trucks. I would love it if there was an empty building, say, an old school that’s no longer in use, that we could use to build our set, run rehearsals, house a wardrobe department for fittings and sewing,  a kitchen, some washrooms, and a production office.. oh! And a loading bay. And properly vented painting studio. Maybe a recording studio too. A guy can dream.

NLAC: Were there any new and interesting techniques used with respect to how the show was produced/directed?

artistic-fraud-cardsArtistic Fraud Trading Cards

Patrick: In our productions we always try to push the boundaries. For Colony, the entire show was wheels, literally. Now, we didn’t re-invent the wheel, but it took a lot of experimentation with different types of casters for each piece of furniture that was in use on stage. The goal was to enable almost seamless transitions between many scenes and locations. There was also a lot of artificial snow in this production.

NLAC: Why was it important to have Jillian return home from Ottawa to direct this production?

Patrick: Jillian is Artistic Fraud’s founding Artistic Director. And it was clear to all of us that, even with her departure from the administration, the heart of our work is, and would continue to be, her creative collaboration with Robert. Colony - like all of our shows – is the product of this relationship. We’re thrilled, given her schedule, that she was able to continue to work with our company through The Collaborations program at the NAC.  Like all Newfoundlanders, Jillian has her own feelings about our protagonist, Joe Smallwood.

Jillian: Joey Smallwood has been housed deep in the Newfoundland psyche for 65 years. My grandmother swore he saved our country and my grandmother-in-law drew the curtains when he “sold our country out for a penny.” Never has anyone provoked such polarization in our nation.

NLAC: Now that Colony’s run at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s has wrapped, what is next?

Patrick: We plan to tour it across Canada in the 2016-17 season to coincide with Canada’s 150th Anniversary. In the coming months we’ll reaching out to our presenting partners to build that tour!

NLAC: It’s Artistic Fraud’s anniversary, what have you planned to celebrate throughout the year?

Patrick: In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we wanted to do something special to acknowledge the hundreds of artists that have worked with us and made us what we are. We wanted to offer more than a list of names. We wanted to make it possible for audiences to sit and get to know each of these extraordinary people individually, if only for a few seconds. Cue Artistic Fraud Artist Trading Cards!

Based on the hockey and baseball cards of our youth, these cards each feature an artist who has worked with us and their show stats. These cards were on sale each night during the run of Colony. Five dollars got you a pack of ten. All the proceeds went to benefit the Actors’ Fund of Canada. The Actors’ Fund is the lifeline for Canada’s entertainment industry. Over 10,000 professional members of the industry from all over Canada and in the fields of film & TV, theatre, music and dance have been helped by the Fund, which provides emergency financial aid to assist cultural workers in recovering from an illness, injury or other circumstances causing severe economic and personal hardship. Artistic Fraud Artist Trading Cards were made possible with the assistance of Newfoundland Power. We’re thrilled to report that we sold out of them and raised nearly $5,000 for the Actors Fund of Canada. The next phase of the trading cards is an online gallery at Artistic Fraud’s Facebook page.

NLAC: How does the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (NLAC) funding from the Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations help?

Patrick: The sustaining funding from the NLAC is the cornerstone of our budget. With the $30,000 in sustaining funding we received in 2014 we were able to leverage more than $500,000 in funding and earned revenues from outside the province, which resulted in employment for 20 artists over a period of 14 weeks when we toured Oil and Water across Canada.

As a touring company, our budget fluctuates a great deal depending on our activity. During a touring season, our budget can grow to as much as $650,000. That’s almost three times greater than our budget when we’re creating new production for a home audience in St. John’s. The sustaining funds from NLAC bring stability to our finances; it allows us to leverage other funding to build a tour as well as giving us the flexibility to experiment as we create a new production. The support from the NLAC is vital our continued success.

NLAC: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Patrick: We are fortunate to have the NLAC supporting the arts in this province. Our sector returns so much to the economy and to our well being. Thank you for investing in the arts!