Songs Of Comfort And Joy

by SPARC Youth Blogger Dallis Campbell

Maintaining opportunities in the arts in rural communities is a growing challenge. In the last few years it has become important to me to do what I can to create those opportunities, with help from others in my community. And Covid-19 presents so many more hurdles in creating those opportunities.

It became a reality as Christmas 2020 was approaching that all the Christmas concerts, plays, caroling, and everything else that goes with the season, would no longer be occurring that year. This for myself, and others around me, became a problem as it seemed to drain the Christmas spirit out of so many people. 

I was sitting having a conversation with my faith leader about the season when I came up with an idea for a Christmas concert done virtually. All the videos would be pre-recorded and compiled into a sort of movie. I started reaching out to fellow vocalists and dancers to see if anyone would be interested in performing. Their response was overwhelming. Nearly everyone wanted to participate.  


A photo of a computer screen - zoom style meeting. People are pictured singing

Image Description: A photo of a computer screen – zoom style meeting. There are three rows of photos. People are pictured singing


I put together a list of the interested performers. I then discussed with everyone what songs they would be interested in performing. Working with them to find pieces that worked well for their abilities and making sure that no one would be performing the same piece.  

While getting the performers together some local businesses showed interest in participating – in any way they could. I decided to reach out to local businesses and organizations to do short videos wishing everyone a happy holiday, allowing them to be a part of the project. The fire department, the local food bank, different faith leaders, small businesses, political leaders, Santa, and more were all included. These short videos were almost like commercials to help ease transitions between songs; giving a brief pause from the performances. 

Some of the performers had me meet them and record for them, using COVID-19 precautions of course. While others were able to send me their videos themselves. I found myself filming the videos, staging the backgrounds to look their best, being a choir director for one of the small groups, and overall being super flexible and just having a blast. 

A friend of mine agreed to help me out by doing the editing once all the videos were in. I was lucky to have him helping me. It was nice to have the stress of the intricate editing process off my chest. He would put things together and try different transitions, and I would suggest edits. I oversaw checking the spelling of all the names of songs, performers, and businesses. We worked easily together as a team. It was important to have people helping. It took some of the work load off when it became too much. My Dad was helpful in reaching out to local businesses and sending out emails for me. As well as being a person I could just talk to about the process because sometimes you just need to vent.  


Two men stand in front of a stained glass window. They hold open folders and are singing.

Image Description: Christopher Coyea, and Alex Fleuriau Chateau performing Little Drummer Boy. Two men stand in front of a stained glass window. They hold open folders and are singing.


Being from a small town and being a part of the performing arts community, I have always seen it to be important to keep a good network of people. When creating this project, I had so many people who were eager to work with me and help me if needed.  

It was wonderful to see how happy it made people to be part of a project like this. The video received over 500 views, which I felt was a great accomplishment. We also received many positive reviews.  

I had one participant write me about the experience. They said they enjoyed doing the show from their own home. It gave them an opportunity to be creative. They could set the background exactly right, get the perfect lighting, etc. Although the technical aspect was a bit tricky, once they got the hang of it they were fine. They were glad to see everyone coming together to put the show on even if they could not do so in person. They said if they were given another chance, they would love to do it again. 

Another participant told me that with all the negativity and confusion in the media there were so many people looking for comfort. Therefore, they said it was an easy decision when asked if they would take part. While nothing is like the real thing, the virtual concert provided an opportunity to bring some joy to sad hearts. The concert gave them a real sense of purpose. The most poignant moment for them was the closing number. A bunch of the participants filmed themselves singing silent night and my editor pieced them all together to create a virtual choir. They said they were really honored to take part and they pray that it brough comfort and peace to all who watched.

I would consider doing this project again. I would however make a few changes. I would start planning earlier in the Fall, as I had little time between coming up with the idea and jumping headfirst into the project. I would also be strict on deadlines. I allowed people to get extensions on due dates, and many of those people did not end up being in the video as they still did not submit anything. Being strict on the deadlines would have allowed less stress on both myself and my video editor. There were some things that I would likely do again as I found they worked well. I found that for the most part allowing people to pick their own songs made sure they would be interested in performing those pieces. I would continue to have everyone use their smart phones to film as it made sure that the video quality was similar and most people nowadays have a smartphone with a decent camera on it and that have fairly good audio. It also ensured that the videos were in the same format because everyone filmed in landscape.  

Image Description: Johnstown Gospel Singers performing Go Tell It On The Mountain. Pictured are singers in a church, a large cross behind them. They are all standing and signing.

Image Description: Johnstown Gospel Singers performing Go Tell It On The Mountain. Pictured are singers in a church, a large cross behind them. They are all standing and signing.


Overall, this project was a great learning experience. I was glad our community could work together to create something that all ages could enjoy. I am glad that I was able to do something that made such an impact on others, it created joy for those involved and for those who viewed the finished project.

Supporting diversity within the rural theatre community

The final blog in a series of three from Guest Blogger Rebecca Anne Bloom

I never grew up and saw myself as a ‘colour.’ Race was something I learned about, yet I didn’t consider myself to be anything but … myself. It wasn’t until I was in the acting industry did I start to recognize racial discrimination against me.

The first instance was when I auditioned for a film noir play based in the 1960s. The director told me that I wasn’t cast because realistically, there wouldn’t be a black detective during that era. Over the years, I have been prevented leading roles in plays by well known playwrights like Norm Foster or Neil Simon, as well as musicals such as ‘Mary Poppins’ or ‘Anne of Green Gables’ because I was a person of colour. Typically, based on the cast components or era of the play, one visualizes Caucasion actors for these productions. It’s hard to be the BIPOC daughter for a Caucasian family. This then bares the question, why do theatres choose these pieces time and time again? And why is casting not diversified? I can’t say I have a definitive answer, but I have theories.

Five arms stretch inwards so that the hands are on top of each other. They are over a desk with a laptop and papers on.

Photo by fauxels ( from Pexels (

The case for diversity

There are two ‘camps’ that I have come across in my time as an actor, the one who eagerly tries to hire a diverse cast and the one that is a concious or unconcious racial bias. The later is typically more prevalant in rural communities, because BIPOC individuals and performers are a smaller section of the population. However, both ‘camps’ can be equally problematic. 

When talking to rural theatres, I have been told that hiring BIPOC and LGTBQ+ performers is difficult for many reasons. One, there are not many in the surrounding area. Many theatres also feel that up-in-coming actors from the GTA are not interested in being cast in rural Ontario. The cliental of many theatres are also an older generation, who may be uncomfortable with ‘out of the box’ productions – shows that present BIPOC and LGTBQ+ storylines. And, as I mentioned before, some plays are not created for a diverse cast. It is simply easier to select a ‘tried and true’ play and cast familiar actors. Especially in the time of the pandemic, theatres aren’t looking to produce shows that push the societal envelop and have a lot of financial risk. 

For those that are looking to be more diverse, I’ve noticed that they either select a single person to be the spokesperson of diversity. Or the act of finding or hiring BIPOC inviduals is like a mathmatic formula. Casting has an audition notice that states in politically correct terms that they are open to all ethncities, sexualities, and genders. In my case, I was asked to be part of a diversity performance and specifically questioned about whether I was a person of colour and part of the LGTBQ+ community. When I said yes, the person went on to explain who else was selected, almost boasting about how ‘diverse’ it was. In all those situations, in an attempt to be more inclusive, the BIPOC or LGTBQ+ individual is still made to feel like an ‘other.’

Is there a solution?

You may have reached this part and asked, “okay, so what is the solution then?” I think the answer is simply, if you are a theatre company in a rural locale, make sure you are providing opportunities for BIPOC and up-in-coming performance professionals. When you are picking productions and casting, ask yourself some critical questions.  

  • Are there any problematic elements of the play? Something miminal like a line comparing a person to a monkey may seem harmless, but that example has racial underpinnings. 
  • Can I cast anyone in this role, regardless of race or sexuality? If not, why and is that imperative to the play?
  • Am I allowing new talent into the company? 
  • Am I allowing for all voices to be heard?

Last month, Globus Theatre had a delightful reading of a new play by Ellen Denny called Pleasureville, about a city gal who moves to a small town and opens a sex shop. It was a fresh take on life, and had a female and non-binary cast. Pleasureville: a play reading was an easy way to push away from the typical Caucasian male narrative in plays, and offer a storyline that actually isn’t new, but very – ordinary. Afterall, diversity is something that occurs every day, and we should let art speak about this truth too. 

Hippo Puppets & Joy!/Marionnettes Hippopotames

The final blog in a series of three from Samantha Marchionda writing on behalf of Carousel Players

I’m writing today from the traditional land of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe, the Neutral and Wendat peoples. I thank them and all other nations, recorded and unrecorded, who have cared for the land that I’m on today since time immemorial. I’ve been continuing to spend a lot of time at the creek near my home, finding new trails and taking in beautiful scenery, and I feel eternally grateful for those who have taken care of this land. How will you connect with the land today?

In a time where the world is upside down and the internet and news continue to breed so much negativity, I wanted to take this, my final blog, as an opportunity to spread what is hopefully some joy to you.

Hippo Puppets

In 2005 Carousel Players produced a play called George and Martha (based on the books by James Marshall between 1972-1988) about two best friends who happen to be hippopotamus puppets. While I wasn’t with the organization at that point in time, I’ve been lucky enough to share an office with these two cuties during my time with Carousel Players before we had to shut down and work from home. These past few months while we’ve been working on creative ways to engage with our audiences online, I had an idea. At this point, George and Martha were unfortunately sitting in the office collecting dust. But I thought, what if we incorporated them into our next outreach initiative? They could be performing various tasks from home, much like most of us are these days. We could engage with local businesses and incorporate them into George and Martha’s adventures, and create a little online campaign. Luckily, the team was very receptive to this idea and I got approval to proceed.


Samantha sits between two large puppets of two hippos - George and Martha (Martha is on the left and George on the right). Samantha smiles broadly.

Image Description – Samantha sits between two large puppets of  grey hippos – George and Martha (Martha is on the left wearing a dotted skirt and George on the right and is wearing a straw hat). Samantha smiles broadly. Her long dark hair is down and she wears a burgundy cardigan.


I brought George and Martha home with me and began reaching out to local businesses to gauge interest. Over a couple of months, I interacted with local businesses and made various small purchases. I would bring the items home, stage George and Martha, and capture them doing their at-home activity. I designed all the posts (a first for me!) and wrote the social media content for each. We called it At-Home Adventures. We turned it into a guessing game and encouraged followers to guess which business George and Martha got their items from. It was an absolute blast!

The goal behind this was simply to make others smile and maybe even feel a little warm and fuzzy inside. But to my surprise, it ended up doing the exact same thing for me. Without fail, as I would pose George’s hat just right or angle Martha’s hand perfectly so during a shoot, I would take a few steps back to capture them both in the frame, a huge smile would grace my face! While this ‘joy’ was intended for our followers, I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on me. They were and are SO adorable, and I highly encourage you to take a look on our social media (@carouselplayers) if you’d like to smile today! Sadly, the campaign is coming to an end soon and George and Martha are back at the office, but I know it won’t be the last time we get to hang out. I’m so grateful for the unexpected joy those two brought me.

A close up selfie photo of Samantha and Martha the Hippo puppet. Samantha is smiling and looks happy. She wears a scarf tied as a headband in her dark hair. Martha, on the left of the selfie, is a grey hippo puppet and has a red rose on her head.

Image description: A close up selfie photo of Samantha and Martha the Hippo puppet. Samantha is smiling and looks happy. She wears a scarf tied as a headband in her dark hair. Martha, on the left of the selfie, is a grey hippo puppet and has a red rose on her head.



A large part of my job as Outreach Coordinator is to engage with the public, and I have been sorely missing meeting people I don’t already know! I love hearing their stories and engaging in conversations. I didn’t know how much I was missing it until I got an opportunity to connect with local businesses as part of my At-Home Adventures efforts. As we developed the campaign, I got to meet some of the sweetest and kindest local business owners in Niagara. I had no idea how much short exchanges of in-person conversation were missing from my life, and I was finally able to do that again. What a joy! Everyone I met was so grateful that we took an interest in what they do and were so generous, whether that was offering a discount code or a gift certificate for our guessers. Meeting these people was already a blessing for me, but what really gave me a sense of purpose was knowing that our small purchases were making such a difference to them. I know we’ve all heard it from the rooftops, but this is just a friendly reminder to support your small locally owned businesses during this time! You might be surprised how much joy it brings YOU.

Children’s Books

Book cover of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! There is a dark blue background with a grey speech bubble on the left of the cover. On the bottom right is a drawing of a pigeon, in light blue.

Image Description: Book cover of Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! There is a dark blue background with a grey speech bubble on the left of the cover. On the bottom right is a drawing of a pigeon, in light blue.


In my “research” for creating the social media content for George and Martha, I ended up reading the entire anthology of George and Martha books, which includes about 7 books with 5 stories in each. I will admit that I am a full-blown adult here and at first felt a little ridiculous reading these children’s books. But one thing was undeniable: they made me smile SO MUCH! They were charming, witty, and at times hilarious! And I thought to myself, if I enjoy them this much then there’s something to be said for that! I have since continued reading other children’s books from the local library, and I’m not even a little bit ashamed.

I don’t know about you, but in these times especially, when I come across something that makes me smile a lot, I feel a need to hang onto that. With so much heaviness in the world right now, it’s important to balance the light happy things too, and when possible, allow that positive energy to lift us up! I strongly encourage you to see where you can find little timbits of joy in your day (yes you read that correctly). Pick up a favourite childhood book or engage in an activity that you used to enjoy as a child. See if you can find something positive in your day and make that feeling last longer! Hopefully, it can lift your spirits and make you smile.

It has been a privilege to share little parts of myself with you in these few blogs and I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading. Thank you to the SPARC network for this wonderful opportunity, and my first, to write blogs. Please feel free to reach out to me at and I’d be happy to connect with you anytime. Take good care and stay safe. ♥

Le dernier blog d’une série de trois, rédigé par Samantha Marchionda au nom de Carousel Players

Je vous écris aujourd’hui sur le territoire traditionnel des peuples Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Neutral et Wendat. Je remercie les premiers habitants qui ont pris soin de ces terres depuis des temps immémoriaux. Je continue à dépasser mon temps proche du ruisseau de chez moi. Je trouve toujours des nouveaux sentiers et j’admire la vue de la forêt et de l’eau chaque fois que j’y vais. Je suis très reconnaissante envers les gardiens de la terre. Comment allez-vous vous connecter avec la terre aujourd’hui?

À une époque où le monde est à l’envers, où on reçoit toujours de mauvaises nouvelles et il y a tellement de négativité autour de nous, je voulais profiter de ce dernier blog pour partager ce que j’espère va répandre la joie. Voici quelques petites choses qui m’ont apporté de la joie récemment.

Marionnettes Hippopotames

En 2005, Carousel Players a produit une pièce de théâtre intitulée George and Martha basée sur les livres par James Marshall écrits entre 1972-1988. Le spectacle suivait deux meilleurs amis qui sont des marionnettes hippopotames. Bien que je n’étais pas avec l’organisation en 2005, j’ai eu la chance de partager un bureau avec les deux mignonnes quand j’ai commencé à travailler pour Carousel Players en 2019. Récemment, pendant que je travaillais à domicile sur des moyens créatifs d’interagir avec le public, j’ai eu une idée. A ce moment-là, George et Martha étaient malheureusement au bureau seuls et devenaient un petit peu poussiéreux. Je me suis posé la question: qu’est-ce qui arriverait si on les intégrait dans notre prochaine initiative communautaire? On pourrait partager des photos d’eux sur nos médias sociaux en train de faire des diverses tâches à la maison. On pourrait nous engager avec des entreprises locales et intégrer leurs produits dans les aventures de George et Martha. Heureusement, l’équipe était très enthousiaste et j’ai eu la permission de créer une campagne de publicité en ligne.


Samantha sits between two large puppets of two hippos - George and Martha (Martha is on the left and George on the right). Samantha smiles broadly.

Description de l’image – Samantha est assise entre deux grandes marionnettes d’hippopotames gris – George et Martha (Martha est à gauche et porte une jupe à pois et George à droite et porte un chapeau de paille). Samantha affiche un large sourire. Ses longs cheveux bruns sont lâchés et elle porte un cardigan bordeaux.


J’ai visité le bureau pour apporter George et Martha chez moi et j’ai connecté avec plusieurs petites entreprises pour la campagne. Après ça, j’ai mis George et Martha en scène avec leurs objets locaux et j’ai pris des photos. J’ai conçu toutes les images (c’était ma première fois!) et j’ai écrit le contenu pour les médias sociaux. On l’a appelé “At-Home Adventures”. On a transformé la campagne en jeu de devinettes et on a encouragé nos suiveurs à deviner de quelle entreprise George et Martha ont obtenu leurs objets/nourriture etc. C’était tellement amusant!

Le but de tout cela c’était simplement de faire sourire les autres et peut-être même d’encourager des sentiments chaleureux, mais à ma grande surprise, cela m’a fait exactement la même chose! Je poserais le chapeau de George un petit peu à la droite ou la main de Martha parfaitement, et lorsque je reculerais pour les capturer, sans faute, un gros sourire ornait mon visage! Alors que cette «joie» était destinée pour nos suiveurs, je ne savais pas que ça m’impacterait aussi positivement. Les marionnettes sont assez adorables! Je vous encourage vivement à jeter un œil sur nos réseaux sociaux (@carouselplayers) si vous souhaitez voir George et Martha et leurs aventures “chez eux”! Malheureusement, la campagne approche bientôt sa fin et George et Martha seront de retour au bureau, mais je sais que ce ne sera pas la dernière fois que nous allons jouer ensemble. Je suis tellement reconnaissante pour la joie inattendue que ces deux hippopotames m’ont amené.

A close up selfie photo of Samantha and Martha the Hippo puppet. Samantha is smiling and looks happy. She wears a scarf tied as a headband in her dark hair. Martha, on the left of the selfie, is a grey hippo puppet and has a red rose on her head.

Description de l’image : Une photo de selfie en gros plan de Samantha et de Martha la marionnette hippopotame. Samantha sourit et semble heureuse. Elle porte un foulard noué comme un bandeau dans ses cheveux noirs. Martha, à gauche du selfie, est une marionnette hippopotame grise et a une rose rouge sur la tête.


Connexion Humaine

Une grande partie de mon poste de coordonnatrice communautaire c’est d’interagir avec le public, et je m’ennuie tellement de rencontrer des gens que je ne connais pas déjà! J’adore discuter et écouter leurs histoires. Je ne savais pas à quel point cela me manquait jusqu’à ce que j’ai eu l’occasion de me connecter avec des entreprises locales dans mes efforts avec “At-Home Adventures”. Pendant la campagne, j’ai rencontré plusieurs propriétaires d’entreprises locales et ils étaient tous extrêmement gentils. Je ne savais pas que les courts échanges de conversations en personne manquaient tellement dans ma vie, et j’ai finalement eu la chance de parler avec les autres. Quelle joie! Tout le monde que j’ai rencontré était si reconnaissant d’avoir reçu le soutien communautaire et ils étaient très généreux. Plusieurs ont offert un code de réduction ou un chèque-cadeau pour nos devineurs. Le fait que j’étais capable de rencontrer des nouvelles personnes était déjà un cadeau pour moi, mais ce qui m’a vraiment donné le sens du but était le fait que nos petits achats les aidait beaucoup. Je sais qu’on entend souvent parler de l’importance de soutenir nos petites entreprises locales ces temps-ci et je vous le répète! La joie que cela peut vous apporter pourrait vous surprendre.

Les livres pour enfants

Book cover of Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! There is a dark blue background with a grey speech bubble on the left of the cover. On the bottom right is a drawing of a pigeon, in light blue.

Description de l’image : Couverture du livre Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late ! Il y a un fond bleu foncé avec une bulle de texte grise sur la gauche de la couverture. En bas à droite se trouve le dessin d’un pigeon, en bleu clair.


Dans mes “recherches” pour le contenu des médias sociaux pour George et Martha, j’ai eu de l’inspiration directement à la source: j’ai fini par lire l’anthologie entière George and Martha, qui comprend environ 7 livres avec 5 histoires chaque. J’admets que j’ai plus que trente ans et je me sentais un petit peu ridicule en lisant des livres pour enfants. Mais quelque chose de surprenant m’est arrivé: ils m’ont fait sourire BEAUCOUP! Ils étaient innocents, charmants, et parfois très drôles! Je me suis dit, si je les trouve aussi plaisants, il faut que je continue à m’apporter des sourires! Depuis lors, je continue à louer des livres pour enfants de la bibliothèque locale et je les lis, je ris, et je vous le dis sans embarras. Ils me font chaud au cœur et cela pour moi est très important.

Je ne sais pas pour vous, mais en ces temps-ci, quand je tombe sur quelque chose qui me rend content, je ressens le besoin de m’accrocher. Avec tant de lourdeur dans le monde, c’est important d’équilibrer avec la légèreté et, quand possible, permettre l’énergie positive de nous élever. Je vous encourage fortement à trouver des petits timbits de joie (oui, vous avez bien lu) dans votre journée. Ouvrez un livre préféré de votre jeunesse ou faites quelque chose que vous avez aimé comme enfant. Trouvez quelque chose de positif dans votre journée et faites-la durer aussi longtemps que possible! Remarquez ce que vous ressentez. J’espère que ça touche vos esprits et que vous souriez davantage.

Ce fut pour moi un privilège de pouvoir vous adresser et de partager avec vous des petites parties de moi. J’espère sincèrement que vous avez apprécié la lecture. Un gros merci au réseau SPARC pour cette merveilleuse chance de vous écrire. Si vous voulez me contacter, envoyez-moi un courriel à et je serai heureuse de vous répondre. Prenez soin et restez en bonne santé. ♥

From Typical Country Hockey Kid to Emerging Artist

By SPARC Youth Blogger Darian Willis-Maddock

Have you ever wondered where to find local, young artistic and creative talent in your rural community? Have you ever considered checking at your local arena?  What could a young typical country hockey kid have to do with the arts? Well, let me tell you my story.

As a young artist growing up in the rural area of the Haliburton Highlands, I was exposed to lots of different things, but I was especially directed towards activities like hockey, basketball and other sports. In my home town everyone really prides themselves with our athletic culture. I really love that our community, and most rural communities, have this passion, but I later discovered in my high-school years that there is another component to our community that often gets put on the back burner –  the arts!


 a headshot of Darian Willis-Maddock. He wears a dark spots coat over a white t-shirt. His hair is short and he looks directly at the camera.

Image Description – a headshot of Darian Willis-Maddock. He wears a dark spots coat over a white t-shirt. His hair is short and he looks directly at the camera.


When I was in elementary school, I hated the thought of anything to do with the arts!  Whether it was visual art or drama or even music, I dreaded going to those classes, and in rural schools I don’t think this was an isolated case. All throughout elementary grades my friends and I despised the arts, but once we hit high-school, for most of us, the narrative changed. In Ontario you are required to take an arts credit in grade nine, so I joined drama and I quickly realized… I actually like this!  I apparently had a hidden talent that I never knew I had. I loved to be in front of people, to tell stories and playing different characters. In my grade nine year I received the junior drama award and my career in the arts confidently grew from there!

In the summer when I was fifteen, I decided to try guitar class instead of drama, and once again, surprised… I fell in love with music. Music became my favorite pastime outside of hockey. I sat in my room for hours practicing songs and learning chords. In grade ten I met Greg Sadlier who was doing various arts education programs at my school, and he saw a lot of artistic potential in me. That  summer I was asked to  join his  organization Camexicanus as their assistant director.  Camexicanus is a non-profit organization that connects rural youth artists around all North America and Central America. During my time working for Camexicanus I have learned incredible amounts about myself as an artist and I have  fallen more and more in love with the arts as a whole. Last summer we toured Northern Ontario and visited a town that really struck me, a small town called Wawa- there’s a lot more to it than just “the goose”! In this past year getting to know Wawa I have met so many passionate young artists that are struggling to find their way due to the same roadblocks that all rural artists face. I have learned that it is a common theme for rural artists to experience challenges, such as not having enough public support and not having proper funding.


Two white males stand together holding a sign for Camexicanus. There is a car behind them

Image Description: Darian stands with Greg Sadlier.They hold a sign for Camexicanus Backroad Arts Collective. They are both smiling.


These types of issues are enormous “show stoppers” for young artists in rural areas. It usually begins with a lack of interest due to the lack of normalcy the arts have in rural communities. Often in rural communities such as Haliburton and Wawa there is a  stigma that the arts are reserved for retired folk and cottagers, but my own experience proves that this is simply not true! Once young artists can realize their initial potential, they quickly run into yet another roadblock. Rural communities (or other levels of government) do not invest heavily in local arts and culture. There are very few significant arts programs/facilities that are able to be funded by the municipal governments for kids. Without these spaces where youth can grow and feel safe to pursue their art, they will struggle to become accomplished artists or feel good about themselves and be proud of who they are and what they create.

On a larger scale I have also learned that there are a lot of artists in my home town of Halliburton that I didn’t even know about!  Artists that are great mentors for youth and young adults. I have come to believe that the arts in small towns like mine and Wawa are not normalized enough. For youth like myself, who have hidden passions and a love for the arts, it is so important that we are exposed to it from an early age. I consider myself very fortunate to have been surrounded with such amazing artists and role models, and my passion is to help bring more attention to rural arts so that other kids like me can have life changing opportunities. As adult artists allow me to ask on behalf of all the hidden, rural youth to reach out within your own communities and find all of the young creators. The arts have changed the life path of this country, hockey kid and I believe it can change it for so many more!

The Hidden Cost of Pivoting

The second blog by Guest Blogger Rebecca Anne Bloom


I remember when I first started performing. Feeling nervous, pre-show jitters. Sensing the sizzling energy of a house full of patrons ready to see some magic unfold. There is nothing like a live performance – an experience that many people have been without since the pandemic hit. 

A blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Picnic tables with red umbrellas are set up on a grassy field/lawn This past week, Globus Theatre opened their Patio Theatre Festival with an almost sold-out play reading of Norm Foster’s Here on the Flight Path. I both greeted patrons and acted in the show, experiencing the excitement of opening night in many ways. I spent time chatting with audience members, many of whom enthusiastically exclaimed how thrilled they were to be out soaking in the theatre along with the sun. Then, I felt the age-old tingle of joy from being on stage, enjoying the sound of laughter and cheers ringing in the air. But despite finally opening the theatre after over six months of being dark, I couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief. For one thing, I didn‘t have time, since on Sunday we had a three-show day, having moved a performance from another day due to rain. But I also carried the weight of a summer theatre season that had been shortened and dismantled due to the province’s staggered re-opening plan.

A large room, a rehearsal hall perhaps, with a wooden floor and pillars. A few chairs are scattered around the room

The original topic for my second blog was going to be how professional theatre venues can be an economic driver for small tourist towns. For Globus Theatre, we were looking forward to recouping some of the losses that 2020 brought. We envisioned an extended summer season from May to September, filled with guaranteed crowd pleasers as well as new and exciting Canadian works. From play readings to concerts and memorable plays, our season was announced and ready to go. But, when the Ontario government announced in early June that there was a new reopening plan, our dreams were dashed. Everything quickly had to change and let me tell you, it’s hard to create a sense of optimism when indoor theatre performances are closed until at least August. It’s even harder to say theatres are economic drivers at the moment, when many are struggling to keep their doors open.  I watched members of artistic teams cry after they heard the news. I sat in board meetings and listened heavy hearted as we crunched numbers and struggled to revise best laid plans. I’ve come to dislike the word ‘pivot’. Behind all the social media posts, the press releases and interviews that enthusiastically describe the latest ‘pivot’ from a local theatre venue, there is a mountain of grief and heartbreak. 

Globus turned on a dime, switching to online shows and take out dinners. From there, our team built and painted picnic tables, assembled umbrellas and tested sound equipment. We booked entertainment, created a new patio menu, patiently waited for Stage 2 to open and scoured weather forecasts just before opening night. There are many factors in play when it comes to changing up a theatre season, and even more when it involves the outdoors. Over the past weekend, at almost every table, I heard the chipper murmur of patrons:

 “Isn’t it great that something cA musician plays on an outdoor stage. Picnic tables with blue umbrellas are set up for patrons to watch the show. A red barn is off to the leftan happen in the theatre?”


“Tell us more about your recent pivot to the outdoors.”

“You should keep doing theatre outside!”

“I bet you’re excited to be back.”

The support from our customers has truly been overwhelming and yes, I am excited to have our season underway. But many theatres were not built for outdoor performance. And many did not foresee having to pivot to digital shows, outdoor stages, and alternative ways to stay afloat in 2021.

As we continue through this latest adventure, I resign to the fact that we cannot predict the future. No one anticipated the pandemic, and we cannot see where it will lead us. Our staff are amazing, they worked tirelessly to make the opening a success. But I know we eagerly look forward to being back to our regular theatre programming. In the meantime, we set our eyes on our next large-scale show, an interactive murder mystery called The Great Cottage Catastrophe that allows the audience to turn detective! We’re busy putting all the pieces into place and creating the Downtown Detective Trail in Bobcaygeon – a ‘live scavenger hunt’ with clues performed by kids from Globus’ School of Dramatic Art. It’s going to be a boatload of fun – hey, maybe I’ll see you there!


A Creek, A Lake, and Multicoloured Pom Poms/Un Ruisseau, Un Lac et des Pompons Multicolores

A new blog by Guest Blogger Samantha Marchionda for Carousel Players


This past weekend, I found myself craving the outdoors. I decided Sunday morning that I would spend as much time outside as my body wanted me to. So I went to my usual spot and hiked away. It was sunny and cloudy, a little cold but bearable, wet and muddy in some spots, but mostly dry. Eventually I found myself in a clearing between the Four Mile Creek and a human-made lake. I stood there for a little while, listening to the reeds blowing in the wind, watching both waters and how different they were. The creek was a deep aquamarine blue, and the lake was a muddy looking brown. The lake was still, unmoving, rippling with the wind, while the creek was flowing, moving, changing. You could hear the movement in it and the washing away of the winter. I stood there and thought to myself how interesting the differences were between these waters.

Golden weeds along a creek


I found that in that moment I felt more like the lake. A bit muddy (good thing I wore my waterproof boots), kind of still, unmoving. When what I really wanted was to hop in a boat, cast off down the creek and go on an adventure! I imagine many of us can relate to this feeling of being stuck. Maybe that’s mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or maybe even socially in our interactions, or lack thereof in the current climate. Don’t we all want it to be over? To be able to attend a loved one’s wedding, celebration of life, birthday, Sunday brunch, to be out in a crowd at a concert, or taking our seats in a theatre, or meeting new people at community events… It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?

I never thought I would take something like being out in the community for granted. As the Outreach Coordinator for Carousel Players, I was so used to seeing people all over the Niagara Region. In parks, on festival grounds, in streets turned into pedestrian walkways. Waving hello and smiling, back when we could see everyone’s full faces. I miss meeting families and supporters and engaging in conversations so much that I can feel it in my body. I have very fond memories of people I’ve met at community events while representing Carousel Players over the years. 


A street festival. The sky is blue, there are people walking down the road. The sun is shining

Ridgeway Fall Fest


One afternoon in beautiful Ridgeway, Ontario at the Annual Fall Festival, I met an incredible man. This was back when in-person events existed. A volunteer and I were hanging out under the Carousel Players tent waving hello to passers-by and handing out Carousel Players swag as usual, and this man approached us. It was evident that he was highly intelligent and a big thinker. He came out of the gate with these huge questions about politics, the young generation, the economy etc. that I truthfully didn’t know how to answer. I can’t be sure that he was asking because he expected us to answer in that moment or because he wanted us to think about what he was asking. At the end of what was a remarkably interesting conversation, he handed each of us a multicolored pompom from his pocket, and told us that we are all connected, and to go off and make the world a better place. I still have my multicolored pompom and decided to pay it forward a week later, where I was putting on a performance of my own. He actually used the words “rainbow connection” which coincidentally enough, was one of the songs I was singing in my concert. Before I sang the song, I told everyone the story of meeting this man, gave everyone a multicoloured pompom and told them to go off and make the world a better place.

I think there’s something to be said for this message, especially these days. I cherish that afternoon, and how the offering of such a tiny, pleasant object and kind words impacts me still today. I think we can all take a cue from him. It goes without saying that things are difficult and different right now, but how can you offer your proverbial multicoloured pompom to the world? How can your kindness make a difference? Or perhaps that means showing yourself more kindness and patience. Either way, today I encourage you to spend some time in solitude with the water and perhaps practice a little bit of kindness, whether that be toward yourself or others. It can certainly go a long way and make a world of a difference. Stay well and until next time!


A button with a Red bird sitting on a brown branch. Button Reads - Carousel Players - Theatre you never outgrow


La semaine passée j’avais envie d’aller dehors. J’ai décidé Dimanche matin que j’allais passer autant de temps possible à l’extérieur. Je suis allé au parc et j’ai fait une longue excursion à pied. C’était une belle journée avec un ciel ensoleillé et partiellement couvert par quelques nuages, le vent un petit peu froid mais tolérable, la terre humide mais pour la plupart sec. A un moment, je me suis trouvé dans une clairière entre deux plans d’eau, un lac et le ruisseau Four Mile. Pendant quelques instants j’ai arrêté de marcher, j’écoutais les roseaux dans le vent et je remarquais comment différents les deux eaux étaient. Le ruisseau semblait un bleu profond aigue-marine et le lac une sorte de couleur brune boueuse. Le lac était très calme, presque immobile, même avec le vent léger, mais le ruisseau coulait à pleine vitesse. Il se précipitait et changeait tout le temps. Le son et le mouvement du ruisseau semblaient emporter l’hiver. Quelles différences intéressantes entre le lac et le ruisseau.


Brown trees beside a greens blue creek. The sky is bright blue


En ce moment, je me sens plus comme un lac. Un petit peu boueux (une bonne chose que j’ai porté mes bottes imperméables), tranquille, silencieuse. En vérité, je voulais partir à l’aventure par bateau et prendre la mer! J’imagine que beaucoup parmi nous peut se rapporter à ce sentiment d’être coincé. Peut-être c’est mentalement, physiquement, émotionnellement, spirituellement ou socialement dans nos interactions, dont peut-être il n’y en a pas beaucoup dernièrement. Ne voulons-nous pas que ce soit fini? Que l’on peut être présents pour un mariage, une célébration de la vie, un anniversaire, un brunch du Dimanche, dans une foule à un concert, dans un théâtre assis pour le spectacle, ou à un événement communautaire…Ça fait déjà plus qu’une année.

Je n’ai jamais pensé que je prendrais la rencontre des gens pour acquis. Puisque je suis Coordonnatrice Communautaire pour Carousel Players, j’étais tellement habituée à voir de la foule partout dans la région de Niagara. Dans des parcs, sur les terrains des festivals, sur les rues converties en promenades piétonnes. Je saluerais les gens et je leur dirai bonjour. Lorsqu’on pouvait voir la totalité des visages des gens. Je m’ennuie tellement de rencontrer les membres du public que je peux le sentir dans mon corps. J’ai d’excellents souvenirs des gens que j’ai rencontrés aux événements communautaires en représentant Carousel Players au fil des ans. 


Children wearing masks and looking excited. A few adults are amongst them

Ridgeway Fall Fest


Un après-midi dans le petit village de Ridgeway à leur Festival d’automne, j’ai rencontré un homme incroyable. C’était avant 2020, quand on pouvait se rencontrer en personne. Un bénévole et moi étions en train de distribuer des kits d’artisanat sous la tente Carousel Players comme d’habitude, et un homme s’est approché de nous. C’était évident qu’il était très gentil et intelligent. Un grand penseur. Il nous a posé toutes sortes de questions à propos de la politique, la jeune génération, l’économie etc. et honnêtement, je ne savais pas s’il demandait parce qu’il s’attendait à une réponse à ce moment-là ou parce qu’il voulait que nous réfléchissions à ce qu’il demandait. A la fin d’une conversation très intéressante, il nous a donné un pompon multicolore. Il nous a dit que nous sommes tous connectés par l’arc-en-ciel et nous a encouragés à contribuer à la création d’un monde meilleur. Quel beau geste! Je garde toujours mon pompon multicolore et, la semaine suivante à mon propre concert, j’ai décidé de passer son message. J’allais déjà chanter la chanson “Rainbow Connection”, ce qui était assez ironique, et il m’avait inspiré de donner un pompon multicolore à tous. J’ai raconté à tout le monde l’histoire de la rencontre de cet homme, et je leur ai aussi dit d’aller rendre le monde meilleur.  

Il peut en effet être intéressant d’associer la gentillesse de l’homme, dont je ne sais pas son nom, devant la situation actuelle. Je chéris l’après-midi que j’ai rencontré un nouvel ami et comment l’offre d’un si petit objet et de paroles aimables m’impacte encore aujourd’hui. Je pense que nous pouvons tous nous inspirer de lui. Il va sans dire qu’à présent, tout a changé. Tout est difficile et différent, mais je vous conseille de penser à comment pouvez-vous offrir votre pompon multicolore proverbial au monde? Comment est-ce-que votre gentillesse peut-elle faire une différence? Peut-être vous bénéficierez de plus de gentillesse et de patience envers vous-même. Peu importe, aujourd’hui je vous encourage à passer du temps seul avec l’eau et soyez aimable, que ce ça soit envers vous-même ou envers les autres. Un peu de gentillesse facilite bien des choses. En bonne santé et à la prochaine!


A button with a Red bird sitting on a brown branch. Button Reads - Carousel Players - Theatre you never outgrow



Taking a Piece from Rural Musicians

by SPARC Youth Blogger Alexis Kuper

Growing up in rural Canada as an aspiring musician can feel like an isolating uphill challenge. Then the world throws the COVID-curveball at you and you feel 10 times lonelier than before. Fortunately, there are other musicians in the same shoes as you and they’ve curated some advice: 

Meet Luca Martin, a culinary student and aspiring musician from Drayton, Ontario. He started his journey six years ago when he was gifted a guitar. He’s inspired by classic rock musicians like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin, and is currently working on an EP of covers – called Garage Days – with hope to release it on streaming services this summer. 

Guitar and laptop on a brown table


Martin acknowledges the good and bad aspects that come from being a musician in a rural community. In his experience, small towns seem to “breed honesty,” and he’s not surrounded by “scuzzy” people trying to scam him out of a gig, take advantage of his skills, or tell him something sounds really good when it’s not. On the flip side, his contact with larger musicians and industry professionals is limited to a less lucrative, online approach. This can feel significantly more isolating than pitching yourself in a music-mecca city. 

Fortunately, there are other resources he has found for the young, and possibly broke, musician. He feels that the app and IOS software Garage Band has a large arsenal of basic recording and creation tools for a beginner. He also recommends taking advantage of the online landscape: there are thousands of other musicians and teachers creating content on social media sites like YouTube for you to learn from and interact with. But his most important piece of advice to an aspiring musician is to not give up. It might sound cliché, but it rings true. “The first few months is when your self-doubt is the highest,” he says. “You see other musicians who have been working with their instrument for years and you think ‘I’m not cut out for this.’” 


a young man wearing a black parka and mask stands in from of the brick building. sign on building reads skyline studios.

Dustin Skysmith in front of his business, Skyline Studios


Another rural musician with similar experiences to Martin is Dustin Skysmith. From Mitchell, Ontario, Skysmith is a working musician as well as a small business owner. He’s the owner and operator of Skyline Studios, a music studio that offers DJing services for events and music lessons for a variety of ages, instruments, and skill levels (currently online for the safety of all his students). Believe it or not, his dad was a Garth Brooks impersonator, so music has always been a part of his life and he started playing guitar at the age of ten, 18 years ago. 

Skysmith has also had difficulties connecting with other musicians and finding opportunities away from big cities. However, he is grateful for the connections and networks he can take part in; there is little in the way of competition and due to the close-knit nature of small communities, lots of support. There are other ways to make your career as small town musician fulfilling, as well. A few years ago, Skysmith started The Shelter Project, an annual online charity event each May. 

The Shelter Project is a proud supporter of the Tanner Steffler Foundation – a non-profit aimed to increase mental health and addiction resources/supports in Huron County, created by John and Heather Teffler after the tragic passing of their son. Each May, Skysmith and his students create and preform art online to gather donations for this foundation. 

This year, Skysmith is also working with Blue Waters Music in St. Mary’s, Ontario, and is encouraging artists of all types to get involved – whether it’d be through music, art, or photography, to name a few. This year’s original song for the project is called Beneath and can be listened to on Youtube and other streaming services, and more information can be found here. 


Two men hold an oversized cheque. They are outside

Dustin Skysmith Presenting John Steffler with the Shelter Project’s 2020 Donation


What else can aspiring, rural musicians do? Be willing to play anywhere when opportunities come to you. Playing the intermission at your local high schools’ talent show or softly strumming during the horticulture society’s silent auction may sound boring, but it builds up your network and notoriety where you are. Take advantage of the fact you may find it easier to travel to different small communities and the closest urban centres than an artist operating directly somewhere like Toronto. Furthermore, having versatility in the instruments you play can help you a lot as well as its easier for you to perform in different situations or have more interesting sets – Luca Martin can play bass, guitar, drums, and a little trumpet! Finally, commit to being an integrated part of your community as a musician and it will encourage your community to be committed to music as well. 

And as for our featured musicians? Right now, Luca Martin is finishing up his culinary degree and you can find his first few singles on all major streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music under “Luca Martin.” As for Dustin Skysmith, he’s working hard right now on 2021’s Shelter Project, his music is also available on all major streaming services, and you can find him on Instagram at @dustin_skysmith. 

Rural Arts Space: How Theatres Can Go the Distance

By Guest Blogger Rebecca Anne Bloom


Scrabble tiles spell Social Distancing on a brown background

Photo by Joshua Miranda from Pexels

“But there wasn’t the merest whiff about of the kind of magic that comes when the theatre darkens, the bottom of the curtain glows, the punters settle down, you take a deep breath… none of the person-to-person magic we put together with spit and glue and willpower.” ― Angela Carter, Wise Children

For many theatres in 2020, only the ghost light lit stages where previously stories had come to life. The auditoriums where cheerful and excited audiences once sat lay dormant, blanketed by darkness. Artistic teams, performers, and patrons waited with bated breath as the arts and the world were rattled by an invisible enemy. There appeared to be some home when at the start of March, the Ontario provincial government announced it was investing $25 million into the arts sector; however, many arts and culture spaces in rural or remote communities were excluded. This begs the question; how could theatres stay alive? If we ever come out of this pandemic, would there be any art spaces left?

Although there is a shroud of uncertainty, many rural arts spaces continued to unite and engage the community during a time of social distancing. Places like Theatre Orangeville, the Foster Festival and Westben switched to showcasing performances through online platforms. Artistic teams got creative, focused on ensuring the arts were kept alive and the members of their communities were nurtured with uplifting entertainment. To understand more about how members of the arts community continued to stay optimistic, I looked at the theatres in the City of Kawartha Lakes to learn how they fostered innovative ways to keep performing while ensuring patrons and artists were safe. I spoke with the Artistic Director of Globus Theatre in Bobcaygeon, Sarah Quick, and members of the Board of Directors at Lindsay Little Theatre, to see how rural theatres can still produce quality performances, regardless of social distancing protocols.


Winter photo of a large barn. The top of the barn is red, the bottom is cream. Into centre, just below the peak is a large sign that reads LAB. Below is a banner that reads Lakeview Arts Barn. there is snow on the ground

Photo by R. A. Bloom Creations & Photography


Globus Theatre @ the LAB

Situated just outside of the village of Bobcaygeon, sitting back from Pigeon Lake Road/Highway 17, is a big pink barn. Once a working cattle barn, the Lakeview Arts Barn, is a contemporary 150 seat black box theatre, with Globus Theatre as the theatre-in-residence. A professional summer theatre formed in 2003, Globus as produced over 10 world premieres and over 15 Canadian premieres. Their 17th season was set to be their largest one yet; however, it like many others was cancelled. As restrictions slowly shifted late in the summer, Artistic Director Sarah Quick and Artistic Producer James Barrett saw an opportunity to bring theatre to light once more.

“When we saw the possibility of opening for a smaller season, we immediately knew that we wanted to do something,” explained Sarah Quick. “The LAB is a versatile venue, with removable seating, 7,000 square feet of open floor space and high barn ceilings.” From a play reading series that showcased new Canadian comedies, to a live-streamed improvised soap opera, a festive comedy show to musical performances, Globus Theatre ensured that proper protocols were followed at all times. “We booked based on social circles, removed our curtains to ensure all our tables were 6 feet apart and even invested in a custom 12’x24’ vinyl curtain from Ontario Staging Ltd. to surround our stage.” Having experience with working on a budget, the artistic team knew having a season could be possible, within their parameters. What resulted was their fall Season Within Reason and a winter Sprinkling of a Season which featured dinner and socially distanced live programming for audiences of 50 patrons. This proved so popular with audiences; Globus is forging ahead with an extended summer season with limited audiences but not limited programming!

Lindsay Little Theatre

Tucked away on George St. in Lindsay is a small community theatre that has been in operation for over 50 years. At full capacity, the Lindsay Little Theatre’s (LLT) performance space seats 40 people, which proved to be a barrier for conducting shows during the pandemic. “It is almost impossible to provide quality shows with social distancing, meaning little or no revenue for community theatres but they still have their overheads,” explained Marion Bays, Director of Fundraising and Sponsorship. “To put on a production usually means royalty payments exceed what would be taken in at the door.” So, when the Board of Directors considered hosting theatre events, they knew they would have to get creative. Enter, the Pie Eyed Monk, which forged an amazing relationship with LLT. 

Finding a community partner was a key factor into re-opening for Lindsay Little Theatre. Local restaurant The Pie Eyed Monk was unable to continue catering for larger scale events like weddings. Joining forces to hold a COVID-19 safe dinner theatre experience in their second-floor event space was a win/win for both companies. What resulted was a successful 3 show run of Norm Foster one-acts, which left the audience wanting more. The theatre is excited to announce that another murder mystery dinner theatre event is currently in rehearsals. 

a script is on a table, the title of the golden coloured script is One Actmanship. A mask in a clear plastic bag and a paper sit above the script

Photo from Kathryn Woolridge-Condon from Lindsay Little Theatre


The Case for Rural Arts Spaces

We have seen that over the course of the year, many industries have taken a hit. For anyone wondering why the arts is so important, or why the members of performing art spaces work tirelessly to keep the doors stay open, the answer is simple: the community needs the arts. When asked why Globus Theatre chose to re-open during these unprecedented times, Sarah was quick to say: “our community looks to us to find out what to do. Not only could we answer the social needs of our patrons, but we also hired artists who had their livelihoods put on hold. It was amazing to offer work to performers who didn’t think they would be on a stage for some time.” A similar feeling was echoed from the board members of LLT. “We have loads of ways to see movies and TV shows these days, but really nothing beats the magic of a live show,” stated Logan Geryzmisch. LLT’s President Shannon Peters Bain agreed. “Our human heritage is storytelling, and where there are people there should be theatre. There are always actors and artists among a community and a need to explore society and history through dialogue.” Through the ingenuity of many passionate people, Globus Theatre and Lindsay Little Theatre were able to provide the Kawartha Lakes community and beyond what they desperately needed – hope.

Hello and Bonjour from Carousel Players!

close up photo of the face of a white woman. She wears large sunglasses, earmuffs and a scarf. She is smiling Hi there. My name is Samantha and I’m writing from St Catharines, Ontario, the traditional land of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe, the Neutral and Wendat peoples. I am very grateful to the original caretakers of this land. In Niagara, I grew up in Welland, Ontario frequently walking along the Welland Canal and having picnics at Merritt Island. Now a resident of St Catharines I frequently visit Rotary Park, a beautiful place with paths surrounding a big open field, and trails that lead to the Four Mile Creek. I thrive on the healing properties of this land and water, and I wish to ask, how will you connect with the land today? By writing this, I hope to create a safe space for all. Welcome!


I’m so excited for this guest blogging opportunity, and even more excited to represent the organization I work for, Carousel Players. Founded in 1972, it is one of Canada’s oldest and most respected professional theatre for young audience companies with roots in the Niagara Region. To learn more about Carousel, visit us h e r e : w​ w w . c a r o u s e l p l a y e r s . c o m . ​

I am the Outreach Coordinator for Carousel, which means under normal circumstances I participate in local events and help facilitate our own. I get the wonderful opportunity to interact with children and families in all corners of the region, from Fort Erie to Grimsby, and everywhere in between. My favourite part about my job is meeting people from all walks of life and engaging with them. I love when I meet a parent who tells me of their fond memories of seeing a Carousel Players performance when they were in school, or speaking with a child who has recently watched a performance. I joined the company in 2019 back when in-person events were allowed, and I miss interacting with people terribly.

We all love theatre here, am I right?! And of course, none of us can gather in person, anxiously waiting to take our seats and share in an experience together, and that hurts. So many arts organizations have had to grieve the loss of live performances, feverishly try to cope, and quickly come up with ways to engage with our audiences.

This year, one of the ways we ​pivoted​- one of my least favourite words now as it is no longer used as a fun dance move – is that we were still able to create some phenomenal experiences, one of which wan outdoor scene, three larger than life puppets (puppeteer by at least two people) are in a filed. Audience is dispersed between the puppetsas our Giant Puppet Party. There we were in September of 2020, prepared to welcome families to our large-space event featuring a 12 foot puppet, and not two days before, the government announced new restrictions that only 25 people could gather outdoors. Talk about a let-down! With this news I sadly informed some of the families that we could only accept the first few who registered. Fortunately, people were very understanding, and the event wasn’t cancelled altogether! The few families who could attend brought their amazing homemade puppets, we did some funky moves together, a little dance, and we all went home!

Then in the fall, our incredible team madefabric overlaying a box. The fabric has a glittering effect theatre magic happen again when they created Halloween Happening, an indoor large-space event that allowed families to walk through different “rooms” inside the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. Kind of like a haunted house, but no jump scares, and we kept the creepiness factor to a minimum. It included a fairy room, a pumpkin patch, a giant witch puppet and her cauldron, among others. The selected entry slots filled up so quickly and before we knew it, we were sold out! I was elated! Not only would I get to see more families in person again, but this time they would all be in costume!


Winterworld was another unique event that came out of last year. In the atrium at the St Catharines Public Library, our team created a beautiful snow queen installation with multiple dioramas surrounding her, including a bunny hill with tiny little bunnies on skies. It was magical.

a large snow queen stands on a pedestal

Even though we experienced the disappointment over and over again of plans that didn’t come to fruition, we were still able to
make magic possible, and that gives me the warm and fuzzies. Was it the same? Of course not! But experiencing the joy and excitement of others as they danced with our giant puppet Nadine the Ondine, or entered the Dragon room in Halloween Happening, or set eyes on the tall majestic snow queen still put a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.

One of my favourite moments of last year was the bravery of a little boy who got frightened while inside the Halloween Happening and immediately rushed to get out, only to tell his parents that he wanted to go back in, and try to go through the experience slowly so he could face his fear. What a hero! I think we can all take a cue from this little boy and find ways to be adaptable and face what scares us, even in the midst of a pandemic, especially at a time where the need for support and connection is so great.

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to connect, please email​ and I will gladly chat with you. Stay safe, and until next time!



Bonjour! Je m’appelle Samantha et je vous écris aujourd’hui de St Catharines, Ontario, le territoire traditionnel des peuples Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, Neutral et Wendat. Je suis très reconnaissante aux pclose up photo of the face of a white woman. She wears large sunglasses, earmuffs and a scarf. She is smilingremiers habitants et gardiens des terres. Je viens de Welland, Ontario au centre de la région de Niagara. Pendant ma jeunesse j’ai rendu visite au canal Welland et à l’île Merritt fréquemment. Maintenant une résidente de St Catharines, je vais souvent au parc Rotary pour une promenade. C’est un très bel endroit avec des sentiers, des bois, et des chemins qui vont jusqu’au bord de l’eau du ruisseau Four Mile. Je prospère quand je suis dehors grâce aux propriétés curatives de l’air et de l’eau, et je voudrais vous demander, comment allez-vous connecter avec la terre aujourd’hui? En vous écrivant, j’espère pouvoir créer un espace sûr pour tous. Bienvenue!

Je suis excitée d’avoir l’occasion de vous écrire, et même plus excitée de représenter l’organisation pour laquelle je travaille, Carousel Players. Fondée en 1972, elle s’agit d’une des plus vieilles compagnies de théâtre pour jeunes publics au Canada, et elle se trouve ici à St Catharines. Si vous voulez en savoir plus, visitez​.

Je suis Coordinatrice Communautaire pour Carousel Players. Je participe et aide à organiser des événements qui se déroulent directement ici chez nous ou des activités dans la communauté. D’habitude, j’ai l’occasion d’interagir avec des familles en personne dans tous les coins de Niagara. Ce que j’aime le plus c’est de rencontrer et parler avec toutes sortes de personnes. J’aime beaucoup rencontrer des parents qui partagent souvent leurs expériences et bons souvenirs de nos spectacles lorsqu’ils étaient jeunes. J’aime aussi m’engager avec les enfants lorsqu’ils regardent une pièce de théâtre. J’ai commencé à travailler avec la compagnie en 2019 quand les événements en personne étaient possibles, et rencontrer des gens me manque énormément.

Tout le monde ici adore le théâtre, n’est-ce pas? Et malheureusement, ce n’est pas possible de se rassembler et de participer à une pièce de théâtre ensemble. Ça me fait mal au cœur et je suis certaine que je ne suis pas la seule personne qui ressente la même chose. Beaucoup d’organisations artistiques ont dû naviguer des moments difficiles et trouver des solutions créatives pour leurs auditoires.

an outdoor scene, three larger than life puppets (puppeteer by at least two people) are in a filed. Audience is dispersed between the puppetsL’année passée il a fallu que l’on pivote nos activités. (Pivote est un mot que je déteste maintenant car quand j’entends le mot “pivoter”, je pense à la danse, et maintenant il est rarement associé à la danse). Nous avons créé des expériences théâtrales non conventionnelles, dont l’une était la Fête de Marionnettes Géantes en Septembre, un événement dans un champ incluant notre propre marionnette à douze pieds, Nadine. On était près à accueillir tout un certain nombre de familles, lorsque tout à coup, le gouvernement a annoncé que seulement 25 personnes pouvaient se rassembler dehors. J’étais tellement déçue! Regrettablement, j’ai contacté plusieurs familles pour annuler leur inscription, et seulement les cinq premières familles ont pu participer. Heureusement la fête n’a pas été annulée complètement et quelques familles sont venues pour célébrer avec leurs marionnettes! Ensemble nous avons chanté et dansé et c’était vraiment amusant.


fabric overlaying a box. The fabric has a glittering effectA l’automne notre incroyable équipe a créé de la magie théâtrale de nouveau quand on conçu Halloween Happening. Cette Fois situé dans un grand espace à l’intérieur du FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, l’événement a permis aux familles de se promener une à la fois parmi plusieurs scènes avec des thèmes différents. C’était un petit peu comme une maison hantée, mais pas aussi effrayante. Quelques exemples de scènes: une chambre de fées, un champ de citrouille et une sorcière gigantesque avec son grand chaudron. L’événement était présenté à guichet fermé! J’étais tellement contente! J’aurais l’occasion de revoir plusieurs familles en personne ET toutes en costume!


Ensuite c’était le temps pour Winterworld. Dans la cour intérieure de la Bibliothèque Public de St Catharines, on a construit une installation comprenant une reine de neige dans une robe blanche élégante, et plusieurs dioramas qui l’entouraient. Par exemple, une petite piste de neige avec des tout petits lapins qui faisait du ski. C’était très beau, adorable et magique!

a large snow queen stands on a pedestal

Même si rien ne s’est passé comme prévu l’année dernière, on a été capable de créer quelques expériences pour nos communautés. Est-ce que cela a évoqué les mêmes sentiments en moi que l’an 2019? Absolument pas! Mais au moins j’ai eu la chance de voir des familles et des enfants qui riaient avec notre marionnette géante, ou qui s’amusaient avec le dragon à Halloween Happening, ou qui étonnaient la reine de neige majestueuse au centre du lobby. Même si ce n’était pas la même chose, ça m’a mis un gros sourire et de la chaleur dans mon cœur.

Un de mes moments préférés de l’an dernier était le courage d’un petit garçon qui a eu peur dans le H​ alloween Happening​ et s’est précipité dehors sur le coup. Tout de suite après, il a dit à ses parents qu’il voulait réessayer de refaire l’expérience au complet une autre fois afin d’affronter sa peur. Quel héros! Je pense qu’on peut tous apprendre de sa bravoure. C’est possible d’être adaptables et de faire face à ce qui nous fait peur, même en pleine pandémie, et surtout à un moment où le besoin de connexion humaine est tellement fort.

Merci d’avoir lu mon premier blog. Si vous voulez communiquer avec moi, envoie-moi un email ​et ça me fera plaisir de vous répondre. A la prochaine!



The final blog in a series by SPARC Guest Blogger Denise Lysak.


I will start my last blog, by raising a glass to writers everywhere. storytellers playwrights songwriters

i am simply taking on a role that was not assigned to me
I am the raconteur and in this, my last blog, for SPARC, I will share with you my observations from the Northern Ontario Touring Conference (NOTC) that took place in November

over the course of three consecutive Thursdays.

It was led by amazing facilitators and the host organization was Pat the Dog. If you are curious about their mission and mandate, I encourage you to google Pat the Dog.

Here is the Link: Pat the Dog

this last blog is intended to ignite          to spark          to be deeply personal

For so many of us, COVID-19 is challenging our very existence. Touring is cancelled. Theatres remain closed. Arts spaces are shuttered. we as a community are confronting more than one

a health crisis      an economic crisis          and, dare I say. An Identity Crisis.

So many people in so many communities

Are desperate. For RELIEF. For HOPE. For the Seuss-like world

we are living in

to be OVER. No offense to theodor seuss geisel

The Grinch is peeking out from a green face mask. The words 'Six Feet People" are to the left of his face. Only his eyes, part of his nose and one hand are shown.

Friends are out of work. Projects on hold. people have been uprooted. missions and mandates collect dust just like


Elf on a Shelf

An Elf on the Shelf toy sits inside a glass jar, a countdown calendar sits belies the jar - counting down the days until the elf is out of quarantine

participants in the conference, yes a virtual conference, online, with no doughnuts in the morning, no drinks in the evening, no hugs in green rooms or rehearsal halls or lobby bars

were asked to share BIG IDEAS, to reference the past to talk about the present to look at the

f             u            t                u                 r            e

If this is hard to read

Know that is intentional

If this is uncomfortable


Yes. The breakout rooms were aspirational. Yes. The icebreakers were fun and I might even steal a game or two to use in future zoomESQUE meetings. Yes. The gym classes gave new meaning to

Yogis everywhere. And, if you ever wondered what clowning is like for the uninitiated; make new friends.Look for Aga Boom, run-away Cirque clowns when they return to the stage.Take your kids to theatre school and enroll them in a clowning class. Go to an outdoor festival and say “hello” to a clown.

ARTS and culture

Like Trade, like agriculture, like the sciences

are tools to harness the power of people to be better, to elevate

the humanities for the

common good.

We need to fight like hell to be here, to get to the other side, to be relevant once again.How do we forge opportunity out of crisis, out of a convergences of crises?I have no illusions about the long road ahead of us. About the difficulties and obstacles in our way.

We can do anything!
We can be anything.
With confidence. With boldness. And, above all with a new agenda.

So that artists can shape

our landscapes and skylines

for audiences everywhere

in 2021 and BEYOND

It is not lost on me that we






And, here we are with a different kind of holiday season before us.Who will go                                                                                                                                                            caroling?

Who will deck the halls?

Who will serve up figgy puddings?

So as we continue to #shelterinplace and #stayhome, please watch

Snoopy’s Christmas vs The Red Baron by The Royal Guardsmen

Attending the conference was a gift. Being a guest blogger for SPARC was a gift. You have given my words space to fly.

And, in the spirit of giving as people across the globe celebrate


Snoopy sits in front of a red kennel. It has snow on the roof, gifts and Christmas lights. The Title is Snoopy's ChristmasHanukkah                                                                                                                                             Kwanzaa                                                                                                                                        Christmas,





I will end where I started. With a toast to the writers. In this case, songwriters.

Daniel, Daniel, and Sheena.

Yes, there are



This is my wish for all of you…

A SIMPLE KIND OF CHRISTMAS in a complicated time by

Red Moon Road