The show will go on

The show will go on

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Contributors:

Joey Fitzpatrick

When Jeremy Webb took over as the artistic director of Neptune Theatre on Jan. 1, 2018 he had a vision and a long to-do list. High on that list was accessibility. Since then, the theatre has introduced a number of initiatives including American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted performances for the hearing impaired community and relaxed performances for those who have sensory sensitivities.

“Live theatre can be difficult for people with sensitivity issues or who are on the autism spectrum,” Webb says. “Relaxed theatre has a number of components: house lights are kept up, sound effects are played at a lower volume, strobe lighting is eliminated, violent scenes are broken down and explained to the audience beforehand. We relax our usual house rules to be more accommodating.”

“Some plays lend themselves to this more than others” Webb says. “It’s a balancing act — we still want to give the audience a theatrical experience.”

“The idea is to allow every member of the family to come in and see productions together,” adds Leslie MacDonald, Director of Development and Partnerships with Neptune Theatre.

With approximately 22 permanent administration staff, another 66 people are hired seasonally to work behind the scenes, plus actors and designers hired on a show-by-show basis, the theatre generates significant employment revenue.

“It creates hundreds of jobs over the course of a year,” says Webb. “Many of these people are hired from the local theatre community.”

Mounting a theatrical production and making it more inclusive is a massive undertaking and could not happen without partnerships with the local business community.

“Our corporate partners are absolutely vital,” says MacDonald. “There are so many ways companies of every size can partner with us and take advantage of what we have to offer.”

With 90,000 people coming though the doors each year, Neptune offers exceptional brand awareness to local businesses. A wide range of partnerships are available, including show sponsorships, naming rights and ticket packages. Show sponsorship comes with a block of tickets, numerous advertising opportunities and the ability to host a reception at one of the theatre’s lounges. Partner companies also have the satisfaction of supporting arts and culture, while having a real impact on the community.

“There is a lot of value in partnering with Neptune,” MacDonald points out. “No matter the size of the company or what it has to offer, we can come up with something that will work for both parties.”

The business community also supports Neptune by bringing their teams to the theatre for special events like holiday parties and client entertainment.

Marking its 57th season, Neptune Theatre is the longest running and largest professional theatre company in Nova Scotia. It occupies the second largest piece of real estate in the downtown core and plays a pivotal role in the city’s economy.

“We’ve done impact studies that show for every dollar spent at Neptune, another is spent downtown,” MacDonald points out.

A vibrant arts and culture scene also plays a key role in economic development. When a company is considering locating in Halifax, it wants to know the cultural and entertainment options available to its employees.

Neptune’s fall season kicks off on Sept. 10 with The Last Wife, a modern re-telling of the compelling relationship between Catherine Parr and King Henry VIII. A lottery will be held while the show is running and someone will win the beautiful Swarovski jewelry that will be part of the set. Lottery tickets will be
$5 each or five for $20.

To support the next generation of emerging theatre artists, Neptune has created The RBC Chrysalis Project, a mentorship training program that allows participants to work with Neptune’s professional directors, choreographers, musical directors, set, lighting and sound designers. Each season up to 11 protégés come in and work on two shows each, getting on-the-job training.

“It’s basically succession planning,” Webb explains. “We’re training the next generation of theatre professionals who are going to carry on our work. They’re now going out and finding work with professional theatre companies.”

Additionally, the Neptune Theatre School has been training young actors for more than 30 years. The theatre school provides an array of programs for children, youth, adults as well as the Youth Performance Company (YPCo).

In all aspects of its operations — programming, casting, staffing and future plans — Neptune is reaching out
to all members of the community.

“We want Neptune to be a place where the audience want to come to be entertained and spend their time and where artists want to come and create,” Webb says. “We want the doors to be wide open.”

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