As William Shakespeare so eloquently put it, all the world's a stage. With that spirit in mind, the February subject for the Airdrie City View's monthly 'Qs with the View' interview feature is Robin McKittrick, the president of local theatre company Nose Creek Players.
A native of Cape Breton, N.S., McKittrick made his way to Alberta in 2002 to obtain a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Calgary. He eventually settled in Airdrie in 2006, where he immediately got involved with local theatrical productions. He has been involved with Nose Creek Players since its inception in 2011.
City View: How did you get involved with theatre?
McKittrick: When I was a small child, I have one brother, and my mother used to say my brother was good at “outside” things and I was good at “inside” things. With that in mind, she signed me up for drama classes when I was in Grade 6, just as a means to build my confidence, as I was a bit of a shy young fellow. I got involved that way, signing up for a community drama class for youth.
From there, my love and passion for theatre grew. I was heavily involved in community theatre in university back in Cape Breton, and had the good fortune to work on professional theatre as a way to supplement my income when I was going to university. It just became a lifelong passion of mine.
City View: Why did you come to Alberta?
I think like many Cape Bretoners at the time, Alberta was the land of milk and honey. I knew some people who had moved out this way to start fresh and see a bit more of the world. My brother had also moved out to Calgary a few years before, so I had a connection from home, which was good. I came out and went to the University of Calgary, where I got my Bachelor of Education, and I started teaching.
City View: When did you settle in Airdrie?
McKittrick: I think I’ve been in Airdrie since 2006, so it’s been a while. I bought a house and, being a small-town person, I appreciated the small-town feel of Airdrie. It was still close enough to Calgary to have that warm welcoming small town feel to it.
City View: So Nose Creek Players hadn’t started yet, had it?
McKittrick: It came a bit later. I had established a career teaching. I had the good fortune to work for an independent school in Calgary called Renfrew Educational Services, which focuses on children with special needs. I had established my career and was looking for a way to meet new people and have a creative outlet. I auditioned for a play called A Prescription for Murder in 2010, put on by Airdrie Little Theatre. I was fortunate to get a role in that play, and from there, I’ve been involved in local theatre.
Shortly after we mounted A Prescription for Murder, we had started another show for the following season, but unfortunately Airdrie Little Theatre had to fold. But there was a number of us who were involved in that final production and we really appreciated the opportunity to have a creative outlet and have that stage to inspire us. We didn’t want to lose that, so Kim Cheel, Warren Jones, Anne Mulder, myself, and some others decided we didn’t want to let that go. From the ashes from Airdrie Little Theatre, there was a small spark that ignited to form Nose Creek Players in 2011.
City View: What do you like most about community theatre?
McKittrick: I’ve always had that playful spark, and theatre is just a place where that is embraced. It’s a place where everyone has an opportunity to explore their own creative outlet. It’s a place that is safe, and we feel very strongly about ensuring it’s a place where people can be vulnerable. Acting is a vulnerable practice, so it needs to be a warm, welcoming, and safe space.
It’s also the social connection. I’ve met some of the most important people in my life through community theatre, so I feel it’s incredibly important.
City View: How does theatre bolster community?
McKittrick: Research shows art-making is a form of healing. It’s a way to explore personal growth and wellness. Research shows long-term positive effects on the brain when someone is doing those things and is involved with making art.
Especially in the past two years with everything people have had to endure with COVID and everything that has entailed, it’s so much more important that people have a stage to inspire their creativity. It truly is a healing practice. You need to have that creativity and social connection in your life. More specifically for me and the folks at Nose Creek Players, theatre arts is a way for us to heal and move forward after everything we’ve endured in the last few years.
City View: Given the struggles the art community has faced in Airdrie – including the shuttering of the Airdrie Film Society and the Airdrie Regional Arts Society last year – how do you see the local arts scene persevering in the coming years?
McKittrick: That was a huge blow for our community. I know there were some very passionate people at the helm of those organizaitons, so it was a tremendous loss. I truly believe art is the spirit and soul of the community, and with that, volunteers are the lifeblood. It’s about having people volunteer for these organizations, because we can’t expect art in our community but leave it to just a handful of people to sustain that.
It comes down to community support for the art that is being made. If there are visual artists showcasing their work, the community needs to go see that. If there are local films being made, the community needs to consume that. If there are theatrical productions being mounted, buy a ticket to go see it. That’s how we sustain and support it. It’s the volunteer spirit that needs to drive it, so volunteering for creative endeavours in your community is a way for citizens of this community to keep art alive and well.
City council is putting together an art council or committee, and I think that is very important – to have the leaders of our community investing and showing the value and importance of art.
City View: What’s next for Nose Creek Players?
McKittrick: We’re really excited about our next production – Seussical the Musical – which will be in late May. We’ve been talking about it for a couple of years. It’s a way for Nose Creek Players to team up with the City of Airdrie and the brilliant folks at Bert Church LIVE Theatre to put on a musical. Nose Creek Players has not put on a musical before, so this is a great opportunity for us to build our capacity in that area. We’ll be learning from some musical theatre artists who will be coaching and mentoring us as we put this production on, so we can learn and continue to grow as an organization. It’s going to be a great show with some really talented people involved.
We’re also going to be involved in the Foothills Regional One Act Play Festival, taking place in Okotoks in the beginning of April. We’ll be bringing a couple one-act plays to represent Airdrie. It’s always a wonderful chance to see some good theatre and meet some new people.