From its New Musical Incubator to a Jam-Packed 50th Anniversary Season, Theatre Aquarius is Leading Canadian Theatre into a New Era
Sep 19, 2023
Aisling MurphySenior Editor, Intermission Magazine
Hamilton’s a pretty happening town.
Contrary to the beliefs of some elected officials in Toronto, the city’s not just an annex for Torontonians priced out of the TO housing market. Hamilton’s a worthy destination all its own, with some of the best of what Ontario has to offer — show-stopping craft beer, scenic overlooks, tempting local cuisine.
But perhaps the most exciting facet of Hamilton is housed inside Theatre Aquarius, in the form of the just-launched National Centre for New Musicals (NCNM). Funded by the Hamilton-based Incite Foundation for the Arts, the Canadian musical theatre incubator will nurture new projects through their development periods, shepherding them to their eventual homes on stages around the world. It’s an ambitious project, and artistic director Mary Francis Moore and executive director Kelly Straughan have their eyes set on success well beyond the Canadian border.
“We’re building the scaffolding for the program,” Moore said in an interview. “We recognize that there are other theatres in Canada developing new musicals, and developing new work. But we’re not looking at pieces with the aim for us to produce it, necessarily. We’re not looking at pieces, saying, ‘oh, there’s 18 people in it, so we can’t afford to do it.’ We’re interested in the ideas behind these pieces — we want to create a space for those projects, and match projects with folks who can help them through their development.
“We’re interested in the ideas behind these pieces — we want to create a space for those projects, and match projects with folks who can help them through their development.”
MARY FRANCIS MOORE
“If it’s something we feel like we can produce at Theatre Aquarius, great, but if not, we can pick up the phone and call theatres in Vancouver or Edmonton or New York,” she continued. “There is a hunger for new musical theatre. There’s a need for this work.”
It’s true — the National Centre for New Musicals will fill a gap in the Canadian theatre ecology. While groups like Musical Stage Company are similar in how they escort new projects through their development process, the NCNM is unique in how it will educate the national theatre community on the financial ins and outs of producing new work.
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