1 of 2
2 of 2
Rain fell heavily on the stage at Moose Jaw’s Mae Wilson Theatre. That had to happen at some point during the performance. It was, after all, Singin’ in the Rain, the classic Hollywood musical that climaxes with a riotous tap dance in a downpour. The question for the audience was not if it would rain but how. It could have been bits of silver paper or a clever backdrop. Maybe an ingenious combination of an umbrella and lights. But this was real water, sheets of it, and it drenched the famous character, Don Lockwood, as he sang out his delirious, love-induced happiness.
The reaction from the audience was itself a delirious, love-induced happiness in the form of applause for Broadway-quality performing and audacious set design. This is the kind of moment for which RuBarb Productions, the show’s producer, strives.
At the heart of RuBarb is the vision held by the company’s artistic director, Evie Koop Sawatsky. The best place to catch a glimpse of that vision is on an average weeknight at the company’s Moose Jaw studio. A jumble of boots, sneakers, and jackets clearly indicates the presence of children. Upraised voices, familiar tunes from Disney musicals, and the thunder of dancing feet on a wooden floor confirm that the RuBarb School of Performing Arts is in session.
“When you are the spark of excitement in the youth,” says Koop Sawatzky of her teaching role, “you are taken back to when you first experienced theatre and dance and you loved it!”
Koop Sawatzky’s career as a vocalist and directing theatre started while at Briercrest College in Caronport. Her work on the College’s Christmas shows engaged her in the full spectrum of theatre production, from brainstorming new plays to the final polishing and performance. “I love the energy,” she says.
RuBarb Productions was founded in 2006 as a private organization. The company successfully undertook six productions in its first year. That’s ambitious by any standard. While the company grew, Koop Sawatsky took time to study and perform in Ontario. She also sustained her role as a teacher. “A few students have been with me since they were nine or 10 years old, and they are now performing on Broadway. You want to be there for that whole journey,” she observes.
Being a spark of excitement about live theatre is what RuBarb has always intended to be for all its audiences: student dancers, people attending performances, civic leaders and, indeed, the entire community of Moose Jaw. In 2013, both the city and RuBarb seemed perfectly set to formalize that role for the company.
The move from being a private corporation to a non-profit, community-based organization was a logical step. “We had considered it before,” says Koop Sawatzky, “but 2013 just seemed to be the right time. There was a perfect set of board members ready to go. Parents in the city wanted to create a future for local theatre performers. And we were aware of a desire for wholesome, family entertainment and a very inclusive environment.”
RuBarb had a most eager supporter ready to spur a newly minted non-profit into a place of community prominence. Glenn Hagel, MLA for the Moose Jaw area for 21 years and the city’s mayor between 2009 and 2012, was a supporter of the theatre company since 2007. It was a natural fit for him to step in as the non-profit’s first president. His obvious delight at theatre (he watched Singin’ in the Rain four times, possibly more), combines nicely with his political sense of how communities work.
“The exciting thing about RuBarb is how it is not only bringing professional theatre to Moose Jaw, but it is providing training for a whole new generation of artists,” he says.
Note: Comments are moderated so once you make your comment, allow 24 hrs for your feedback to show up on our website. If you have any questions email us at email@example.com.