Journey to Hometown, Epilogue

This behind-the-scenes look at the Journey to Hometown has largely been from my perspective.  For the final post, as our crew begins the strike of the set and our ensemble members, volunteers, staff and artistic team carry on to their next project, it felt right to leave the last word to those who were interested in sharing what this theatrical adventure has meant to them.  I'm sure reflections will trickle in over the next couple of days.  I'll keep adding them, so check back in often.

"I have been dreaming of doing a musical ever since I moved here but could never get the courage to even go to an audition and always felt I was not good enough to do something like that. I want to thank Michael for helping me get over that hurdle and follow my dream. I realized that I really enjoy making people laugh more than anything and this show has been a great opportunity for me to do that!! on stage and off. I love all the little backstage laughs we all have together and I especially love the Shakespearean moment I have every time I hold that piece of Kleenex up into the light and yell "AND FINISH MY BUSINESS!" I will truly miss all my Hometown family, it has been an amazing experience to travel this path with each and every one of you."  - Michelle Ploughman (Mom)

"When I dreamed about what this show would be like and how it would turn out I never in my mind imagined it would be as transformative as it has been…For myself, Michael, the staff at Keyano Theatre Company, The entire cast, crew and perhaps most importantly our audiences. It makes me want to move back to Fort McMurray and do it all over again!"  - Claude Giroux (co-director/co-creator)

Hometown exceeded all of my expectations and then some. I’ve never worked on a show where the sense of community and pride was so strong. That love of community shone through each and every performance causing audiences to respond with cheers and celebration. Hometown will forever be a magical show for me and I’m proud to have been a part of this historic event.”  - Michael Beamish (co-director/co-creator)

"Hometown has given me the opportunity to meet such a diverse group of people, all of which look out for each other even if you've never had a conversation before. It has shown me how quickly such a big group of people can all feel like family. Not only has this experience allowed me to meet so many people but the numerous shows have made me feel totally at home on stage and proved to me how much fun it really is too perform in front of so many people! The audiences energy gives you such an amazing feeling and puts a smile on your face!"  - Shani Bouwer (GDS dancer - Hometown ensemble)

"Being a part of Hometown at first was a very dreaded, stressful,busy thought. But now that we're at the end of our journey, I have realized that this musical has given me a more positive outlook on fort McMurray . Who knew a group of over 100 actors and singers could become such a huge part of my heart in such a short period of time. I love all of my hometown family, I will miss you all very much!"  - Haley Beech (GDS dancer - Hometown ensemble)

"The point I keep making, and it's a testament to getting involved in theatre, is that there is so much talent and so much dedication deeply entrenched in Fort McMurray, and it's talent I would never have gotten the privilege of discovering and truly understanding it's scope, without being involved in this production. My mind has been blown."  - Ben McCully (Doug)

"This experience has made me feel like Fort McMurray could be my home, just after 7 months of moving here. I feel privileged to have met so many talented people and feel like this is a place where I can not only work, but pursue my hobbies." - Karla Swansburg (Mary)

"Soul ... 60 years I have been around and in my profession I have witnessed the worst of the worst and in the past 3 months I have witnessed the best of the best. Truly I am thankful for the opportunity to be involved with something that has touched my soul and obviously the soul of many many others. Thank you."  - Greg Scarborough (Dad)

"The older you get, the harder it is to make friends and to keep in touch with friends as life always seems to get in the way. However I think the bond that has developed and blossomed with this group over the past couple of months will last a long time. I now have 125 new friends and I feel very connected to all of you. (Especially during our side stage right 'No Place Like Home' dance parties)

My favourite moments have come from seeing all of you flourish and become the stars you are. Every night I smile at the way you deliver your lines a little different, a little better, a little funnier, a little more realistic. Tiny mannerisms that make all the difference to the audience are becoming more and more common.

Many of you went into this without any experience and now I can see, and more importantly the audience can see your journey come full circle on that stage.

This experience has been revelatory and transformative and is one of the best things I have done in my life, let alone my eight years in Fort McMurray."  - Nolan Haukeness (himself)

"So this is the first time I have ever written something on my smart phone that is more than a Tweet or status. I really wanted to let you know how this whole process has affected me, my life and my attitude. As you know my whole attitude has changed and positive is my focus for this year, and nothing has been more positive in all aspects of my life.

When I was first asked if they could write me into a play I was blown away! I have never had a speaking part in a play before, let alone being written into the play! As soon as I knew Claude G. was involved it was a no brainer and I was in, with the promise of having to go to a couple of rehearsals and then the show. Although the time commitment was much more than I thought, the practices were longer than expected, and sleep deprived became a way of life, I wouldn't have changed any of it for one minute of sleep.

When I first walked into rehearsal I felt kinda out of place, every time I was referred to was radio announcer, but as the process went on the cast and crew treated me like a friend and not some sort of local celeb.  As a matter of fact the cast of this play are now more Fort McMurray famous than I am! Michelle will forever be know as the 'Hand Sanitizer lady', Julien will never be able to go to the airport without someone asking him to tap dance, nor will you be able to be in a conversation about Fort McMurray and not be expected to know the whole historical story!

I can't speak more highly of the kids involved in this play. I thought I had energy until I met the Generation dancers! These kids are so awesome, and they have given up a huge part of their lives. In this day and age where technology rules, it is so good to see these kids into the arts. Not just are they being active, exploring the arts and expressing themselves but they are in a play that is about community and the unity that we have here.

I could go into all the little experiences that have made this special, things like the secret fist pumps, the rock and roll horns with the kids on 'I Wanna Be Sedated', and the relationships that will carry on into the community and be something I keep in my heart. It's the entire play, the cast, crew, dancers, kids, audience members and Keyano support team. I have done theatre before and I know the cast and crew grow close, but nothing like the experience of this play.

Hometown...The Musical! not only was a play, it was a rallying point for the community, a chance to change attitudes, to see the positive in a community that sees so much negative said about it. The only negative thing I can say about this is that we could not record this and show it to everyone in Canada so they know that Fort McMurray is a great place to have a family and make a great living. Thanks for the privilege of being in this play!"  - Jerry Neville (himself)

"Hometown = Magical. So many moments, so many memories, new friends, vivid experiences, exploring skills, developing new interests, connecting in new ways, labour of love; started as part of a production ending as part of a A huge new family; sense of pride; coming together and playing, laughing, singing, dancing, sharing, celebrating; refilling the spirit, nourishing the soul, sparking the creativity for new adventures that lie ahead - Hometown = My town = The only place I want to be." - Sherry Duncan (Maggie)

"Hometown has been such a great experience for me.  I got to meet so many great people.  I am so proud of my hometown."  - Karlie Boostrom (Narrator)

"It was thrilling to participate in and get a view of the creative process: to see the directorial and script decisions made by Michael and Claude, to see the costume choices made by Tiffany, and seeing the choreography come together. I haven't discovered anything more effective than being in a theatrical production to turn your brain completely off from work and other daily worries. The other great thing is that with such a large cast, one is bound to make some new friends. I'm so happy to know so many talented people in the community now!"  - Gwen May (Hometown ensemble)

"Although I had missed the opportunity to actually audition for Hometown... the Musical, once I had heard about the number of people from the community that they were looking for, I quickly sent a message to Claude Giroux.. I wanted to know more about this production and what it was all about.

I still remember clearly the day Stage Manager, Steph Link called me and asked whether or not I wanted to be a part of the play. We discussed the schedule, time commitment, etc. I was hesitant and asked if I could get back to her. After pondering for about five minutes, I emailed her and said yes, I was in!

The time commitment has been a bit surprising (and I would never recommend to anyone that they attempt moving while being involved in a production, added stress is not something we should give ourselves) but as we wrapped up our final rehearsals everything just clicked and it all made sense of why we were required to do what we did.... it was like an "ah ha" moment... You see I had never been involved in something like this and the process didn't make sense until I was through it. After each rehearsal, being someone who has been in many productions, Russell Thomas would offer pointers, tips, and give reasons of how and why he may do certain things, I found it very helpful, as again, I was so new to the process.

I was lucky enough to be casted as a secondary character, the bartender, and although I had no lines, there was still quite a few tasks that I needed to help with. At first I felt extremely awkward on stage as a lot of "the bar boys" scenes were rehearsed at different times then the regular rehearsals and I would be standing there all by myself awkwardly trying to move this bar on and off stage... Even once they joined rehearsals I was still hesitant on what to do... This is where Assistant Stage Manger Teresa Goulding came in... I asked her a few things and she assured me that if I was doing something wrong, the Directors would definitely tell me... As they incorporated props, and of course The Bar Boys, things started to make more sense, and after doing a few full run throughs I felt a bit more comfortable.

After our first show, preview night, I finally realized why people love being involved in shows, the feeling you get knowing you've helped entertain so many people is amazing! Now as we wrap up our final shows I just can't believe it is over.

I've gained such an appreciation for people that act... I find myself paying so much more attention to the action happening behind the main scenes of a movie, looking at the props, special effects, etc. and thinking "wow!"

To Claude Giroux and Michael Beamish, thank you so much for letting me be part of this, your passion for this project has been nothing short of amazing. To Stage Manager Steph, and ASM Theresa, thanks for your guidance and patience, what you donis nothing short of amazing! To all the cast, a huge THANK YOU for putting up and helping me through this!"  - Tracy Morine (Hometown ensemble)

"Hometown has been special to me because I got the chance to sing and dance.  I loved meeting Janelle and Ben who became my parents on stage."  - Kelsea Boostrom (Hometown ensemble)

"Looking back at the beginning of the "Hometown" venture I can't help but be so proud of where we were and where we are as a team! The closing show will happen today and there will be a lot of tears as I watch all these actors, singers, and dancers say goodbye to a project that will touch all their lives forever!

As I was watching Friday show from back stage during the final "Fix You" scene, I mentioned to the backstage workers that this is a scene where the whole cast is on stage but myself. I watch this scene each and every show like a proud mother acknowledging their children's accomplishments. During the final take I will feel like I'm sending my love ones to college! Haha

This experience has seen me on my toes not only as the choreographer but also as an actor. A challenge but I have enjoyed the process. I would like to explore more opportunity to partake in acting in stage but with such a demanding job as director at GDS it's difficult. I look forward to the next time (usually every other year) that I get a chance to share the stage with Keyano theatre company as well as the dancers and I hope it's as successful as this experience has been! Thank you to everyone for everything!!" - Kim Hurley (choreographer and Security Guard)

"What is a hometown? Is it the place you were born? The place you grew up? Where you've always wanted to be? Is it the place where you know all of it's secrets and it knows all of yours? Of the four other cities I've lived in during different stages of my life, I have trouble calling any of them "home" even though I've only lived in Fort McMurray for six months. My home can't be on the other side of the country. I've always believed in living in the time and place where you find yourself, and when people ask 'Where's home for you?' to mean 'Where are you from?' I already feel like I'm lying to say 'Ontario'.

So Fort McMurray is my home now. I'm not sure when that happened, but this is where I live, work, and play. This is where I have met some great friends, where I relax when the plane lands and the taxi drops me off after time away. Does that make it my hometown? When I arrived in August I knew exactly no-one here, and less about the town itself. I still get lost and the town is not that big.

Is it weird to be in a play celebrating a town I know nothing about? At first, yes. The song 'Sweet Home Fort McMurray' was particularly strange for me when we started out. To get the right feel, Michael asked us to visualize something we loved about Fort McMurray or a great time we'd had here. He then rattled off a bunch of examples to get us started, and I had no idea what he was talking about for any of them. I ended up recalling my first weekend in town when I'd wandered into the August long weekend festivities at Heritage Park and had been entertained, glad to overhear as many different languages being spoken as on a typical busy street in downtown Toronto.

The first thing I could think of that I loved about this town is the people. The incredible diversity and community of Fort McMurray is fantastic. The second thing I love about Fort McMurray is also the people. Everyone has been so welcoming to myself and other new folks it's easy to forget that many of them haven't lived here all that long either. Thank you so much to the cast and crew of Hometown for everything you've done to introduce me to the community of Wood Buffalo.

From Hometown...The Musical!, I feel like I've met the town. I know a bit more of its history, learned a few of its 'everybody knows', met or heard of some of its legendary citizens, and most importantly, gotten to know some amazing people who make the town so unique.

 Quite simply, a hometown is where home is, but it can be so much more."  - Elizabeth Wells (Hometown ensemble)

"WOW! No other way to describe what has happened over the last 3 months. To those who came to the after party, please don't think I abandoned you, but when I am at work I am expected to work and would accept nothing less from myself. But I hurt lots today.  You are all aware I need a hip and knee replacement on my right side - had my left side done in July of 2012. Anyway, the pain was there and usually I can work through it but not tonight. The physical pain and the fact that this is over, was too much even for a machine like me. So I just needed to get away before the goodbyes started. I would have never suspected a group of strangers would have this effect on me, but god bless you each and every one. Thank you for the impact you have all made in my life."  - Bear (as himself)

"My experience with Hometown...The Musical! was one of the best experiences of my life. I met so many wonderful people during this production."  - Jack Bartlett (Jack Hawking)

"It's hard to believe that only a couple months ago all of these amazing people were strangers. A couple of months ago we had no idea what we were doing and half of us had never even been on a stage before. I remember walking into our first rehearsal and looking around at all of the strangers that I can now, happily, call my friends. I'm really shy and I don't like to get out of my comfort zone but hometown has really helped me come out of my shell and gain some confidence. Hometown was such a great experience that i never want to end. I'm going to miss all of the amazing people I've met and friends I've made. I'm going to miss the laughs, the smiles and all the jokes. I'm going to miss the 'good lucks', the 'good jobs' and the high fives after every dance number. I'm going to miss the spontaneous break outs in song and the dance parties before every show. I'm going to miss the 'zigga mamas' and tongue trills (that I still can't do). I'll miss cue-cue, the endless hours of rehearsal and tech week. I'm going to miss everything and everyone. I never want this journey to end. We've come so far, I'm so proud to be a part if this amazing cast."  - Ali Lalonde (GDS dancer, Hometown ensemble)

"First of all I have to say WOW!!!! What an amazing show! What an amazing cast! What an amazing community!! Being part of Hometown was truly an opportunity I will cherish forever.  I was honored to be an Aboriginal drummer for this show.  I have just recently started my journey to discovering my aboriginal background an culture, and what a way to begin!!! Thank you to everyone for making this such a wonderful experience.   I have lived in Fort McMurray for 11 years and I have never before felt as proud of my community as do today!!"  - Samantha Patey-Butt (Aboriginal drummer)

"Even though my drumming part was very brief, the entire cast and crew made this journey for me a wonderful experience that I will cherish and take with me forever. It was amazing how so many people came together in a few short months to produce such an awesome show. I was telling a friend just today that it is almost as if I am mesmerized by how and why I was chosen for this part. I guess the creator has other plans for the continuation of my life's journey and I will now have the friends I've met through this production to help me follow this path.

Thanks to everyone for giving me this excellent opportunity to take part in one of Keyano College's largest productions and to hear the stories that really happen here in Fort McMurray, my home away from home of St.George's, Newfoundland." - Eileen Lucas (Aboriginal drummer)

"When my mom got a part in Hometown...The Musical!, she was absolutely thrilled. Day after day, I would hear about the wonderful cast members, things that made her laugh at rehearsal, and listen to her as she'd give me a sneak peek into what the play is about. She's been gone early in the morning, home late at night, and she's been a shadow on the weekends - saying 'hi' and 'bye' in the same sentence.

I got tickets for opening night, and felt excited as I sat in my chair, and the lights were dimmed and the audience became silent.

I've never been one who complains about Fort McMurray.  OK, maybe the occasional traffic rant as I head downtown in the morning, but I've always been proud to call Fort McMurray home. As I sat in the audience, I almost forgot I was watching a play - I felt like I was able to connect with the cast.

I am proud of my mom. I am proud of the cast, and everybody involved in Hometown...The Musical!. After watching the play three times, I've never been more proud of my hometown - Fort McMurray."  - Shea Duncan (daughter of Sherry Duncan)

"I've always been a performer. I started in my backyard with shows written, produced, directed by and starring me. But when I was ten, I was in my first real play, and I fell in love. I fell in love with the process, the performance and (though I couldn't have named it at the time) with the synergistic relationship between performer and audience, each feeding the other with energy and mutual approbation.

Theatre isn't my life, as i once dreamed it would be, but it's still my first love. I've been on several stages, performed many roles, and every time I fall in love again.

I love Hometown. I love the dream of it. I love the ambition, drive and determination that made it a reality. I love the community cast for showing up and showing off; for the generosity of spirit that characterizes amateur theatre, requiring so many hours and so much hard work, for a reward so intangible that I don't have a word for it. I love the incredible tech crew at Keyano for making this show look so unbelievably amazing. I love the dancers who have worked with us, their dedication, their enviable grace and flexibility and their amazing talent. I love my new friends, the energy and excitement backstage of being part of something so gloriously enormous and ambitious. I love theatre, the passion and the magic of it. And with so many people doing this wonderful thing called 'theatre' for the first time, I have loved watching others fall in love.

I'm not an effusive person. I'm unlikely to gush to your face about how great I thought you were. By the doesn't mean I don't feel it. This project has been unlike anything in my previous experience, and I would like to take this moment to tell each and every person involved: you did a fantastic, amazing job. I have more wonderful memories to treasure, more friends to treasure, because of this marvelous journey. I hope to journey with you again."  - Crystal Milburn (Hometown ensemble)

"I'm one of those guys: a person he thought he knew what Fort McMurray was about: rednecks and whores: troglodytes... A cloudy town, smelling faintly of bitumen.

More than any other single factor, this play changed that.  More than changed: revolutionized.  For, the truth is here, and I have had the very great privilege of hanging with the 130 of the finest people I've ever known.

I should be ashamed of what I imagined, before... but I'm too busy being grateful for what I've been taught.

This really is my hometown."  - Nathan Berube (The Poet)

"I am sitting back reflecting on my Hometown experience and I am overwhelmed with emotion. I feel so sad knowing this journey has come to an end. I feel so blessed to have been part of something so amazing. I have made so many friendships and have reconnected with friends I hadn't seen in awhile! To have shared the stage with so many talented dancers, actors and musicians was such a privilege! It was a long road to get to preview night but when that night came every late night, morning rehearsal, and Que to Que was so worth it! To have been able to share this experience with my two precious daughters and my husband is one of greatest feelings in the world. 

To see little Kelsea dance on stage every night and to hear Karlie's beautiful voice open the show with her narrating and first line 'I Love my Hometown', her singing of 'Folsom Prison', belting out 'Rolling in the deep' and ending every night with her last powerful line 'It's the only place I want to be' was nothing short of TOTALLY AMAZING.

I have called Fort McMurray my home for almost 33 years and I am so happy to have had the opportunity to be involved in this musical to show people the way I feel about this wonderful city I call home. To all my family and friends who attended the show - some who even traveled from out of town to see it - thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am overjoyed with all the text messages, emails and Facebook messages I received from family and friends who attended the show saying how much they enjoyed the play and how proud they are of me and my family for being involved in this production. (The tears stream down your face song from the play sure suits me right now!!!!!) To my on stage family: Thank you so much for the beautiful memories, memories that I will treasure forever. A special thanks to Russell Thomas for having so much patience with an amateur actress like me. Thank you for taking me under your wing. I have learned so much. Thanks also to Claude and Michael for giving us the gift of Hometown...The Musical! and thank you for believing in Karlie, Kelsea, Mel and the band, and Me. We will all be forever grateful! To Steph our amazing Stage Manager, all the tech guys, wardrobe ladies, and the rest of the amazing Hometown crew THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR SUCH FOR SUCH AN AMAZING JOB! A special shout out also to Kim for all your patience and wonderful choreography and Susan for your guidance and vocal coaching. This experience has been one of the best moments in my life and I will never be the same because of it. I will really really miss all of you but I will see you around 'OUR HOMETOWN'.  - Deanna Boostrom (Mom Hawking)

"It was amazing to see everyone, whether they are veterans or newbies completely open up and show their true personalities. I have learned something about every single one of these people and I appreciate getting to know each and every one of them." - Janelle Leask (Jen)

"I can still remember when everyone came in on that first day and when had to do the name circle. I remember thinking: Oh no! I am NEVER going to get everyones' names. There are just too many. I also remember when the 'Fix You' ending came together in the rehearsal hall, and even without all the lights or full band, I still got shivers down my spine. I loved how at any given time, people who were complete strangers a month ago could talk to each other as if they had been friends for years. I loved it when we finished cue to cue. Although we are no longer running the show, and everyone will be missed, I don't think of it as a 'good bye' but rather as a 'see you later' because there is no way we won't all see each other again somehow. I am proud to say "Hometown...The Musical!?  Yes, I was a part of that."  - Teresa Goulding (Assistant Stage Manager)

"Hometown...The Musical! was a journey of a lifetime, way more than I remotely imagined it to be. I mean this literally, as the people I met and worked with in this project will stay in my heart for a lifetime. When I auditioned, it was not out of confidence that I could do it but out of my curiosity as to how huge this production was going to be.  It was also out of my trust of Michael’s great work as I had seen a number of his plays and I loved them.

As rehearsal days rolled by, the 'Hometowners' slowly moved into my heart. I started bringing home cooked food among other things to the set. They asked, 'Where did I get the time to do it?' I said, 'I made time'.  It’s easy with how much love and care I see in everyone. I get these warm fuzzy feelings back, too, from everyone, especially from the warm hugs and kind gestures kids and adults give all the time.

This is the magic that did it for me. We looked out for each other- at least that’s what I feel. Some may say, the magic of Hometown...The Musical! happened on stage. I dare say, it happened first in the back stage. Right where the parents entrusted all their kids to be with us. As a parent myself, I feel privileged to have been able to share the joys of being with these wonderful children. As for the Hometown...The Musical! , to me it wasn’t only a play, it was a time in my life that I’ll pass through only but once, and I made the most of it. For the audience, our journey has ended but for us cast members, our journey as a family continues as talks of visiting, collaborating in the future and following on Facebook already have began. Thank you to every single one of my fellow 'Hometowners'! - Reinalie Jorolan (Patience)

"Hometown has been such an amazing experience for me in the past couple months. I have gained so much more confidence in myself, its incredible. Being in Hometown has taught me to be a better person.  In many many ways. it has given me a better point of view, about others and mostly this town. I can finally say that I am proud of my hometown."  - Victoria Naud (GDS dancers and Hometown Ensemble)

"Hometown…The Musical! has been an incredible experience for me. They say in life that you get out of something what you put in. I did put in a lot, rehearsal time, personal sacrifices, passion, etc, and so did many many others. But in reality, I got out of it way more than I put into it. From the new friends, the memories, and moments, and most importantly, being able to be part of a show that has changed so many lives. I will forever be grateful to Michael Beamish and Claude Giroux for this experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life."  - Krista Balsom (Reporter)

"Well, Hometown is almost done and for me it can be compared to a roller coaster ride. I have made so many incredible discoveries to numerous to list but the most have been about myself and the power of story telling. I never gave much thought before at what being authentic really means till getting up these past two weeks to bare my soul. It has been the scariest ride I have ever been on and to be truthful without the power and support of my fellow performers I would of never made it. The synergy that comes with performing for an audience can't really be described other then empowering. I have watched so many people rise, embrace, succeed and accomplish so much and all for love of a story. Tomorrow our journey ends as Hometown but I believe we walk out with so much that the story will be a continuing journey about our place called home. I think we all have fallen in love more with our community and certainly have fallen in love with all the cast. I feel so rich from this opportunity and know I am stronger then I was walking in. Live your life fearlessly, beautiful experiences friendships are waiting for you! Fort McMurray has a place for you!"  - Sonia Burke-Smith (herself)

"Going back to day one, I remember looking around the room and being surrounded by an enormous group of 'strangers'. It's crazy how much things have changed since then. Thanks to Hometown...The Musical!, I now have 120+ new friends, a whole new outlook on theatre and all the work that goes into creating a show like this, and of course all the great memories we made together. Everyone stood by each other no matter what, and supported one another in their times of need. Whether it be a forgotten line, a sickness, a stressful Q-Q, a lost voice, or just plain stage fright, our new family was always there to back us up. If I were to sum up Hometown in one word, it would have to be... Magic. This show transformed from being a simple script in a red duo-tang, to a magnificent Broadway-like production. One of Keyano's best yet! With sold out performances every single night, we rocked the stage and showed everyone that Fort McMurray is WAY more than just some money making oil town. It's our Hometown, the only place we want to be."  - Jennifer Lynch (Kate)

“When I first arrived at Keyano Theatre for the first day (for the tech team) of Hometown…The Musical! I didn’t know what to expect. When I met the rest of the tech team I was so excited to get to work. Everyone on the production team was so great to work with, as was everyone else. When I have a chance to be in a KTC production in any way I would do it in a heartbeat!" - Dylan Thomas-Bouchier (follow spot operator)

"My Journey with Fort Mac began in August of 2012. I came on board as Music Director for a new work called Hometown...The Musical! at the Keyano Theatre in Fort McMurray. Claude had shared with me his thoughts, vision and what he wanted this piece to represent. Together, Claude, Michael and I looked at the early drafts of the script, created the song list, made notes, fine tuned and soon we had a first draft of a script. My duty then was to create the score. For the next 2 months I spent time creating the score, downloading music to listen to arrangements, finding songs, finding sheet music on line, finding music in the right keys for the cast to sing, thinking about choral arrangements, composing, underscoring, thinking about the layering of instruments in some of the songs....and soon I had a score created. Then came rehearsing and learning the songs on the piano, a two-month project. It was a very busy fall for me. After we auditioned in November, and had decided on the cast, the vocal residency began in December. The cast was excited as was I - we were venturing into the unknown, but what we had was a love of music and singing and we were gonna have fun! I wanted to teach the cast about energy, what are you singing about, who are you talking to, communicating text, diction, breathing, vocal warm-ups.  It is a great passion of mine, and I was very keen on sharing my knowledge and experience. I was very impressed with the energy and the excitement by the cast, and by the end of the vocal residency the cast had learned the songs and I was hoping that over the holidays they wouldn’t forget!

Rehearsals started soon after in January, and I was impressed at how the cast remembered their material. I knew that once choreography would be introduced it would be a challenge. The cast did a wonderful job in combining both disciplines and I was very proud of them. All were very excited as this was a piece about their hometown, and I was constantly verklempt, by the stories, the passion, the connection - the energy and passion these folks displayed were beyond my imagination. When show time came, they performed and behaved like professionals. It is hard not shed a tear when recalling all these moments.

Fort Mac, made me feel welcomed and I was happy to be here. I was away from my family for two months, and it was difficult. But everyone here made me feel good. I am thrilled that the project was so successful, and it deserves all of its success. A great community of talent, dedication and hard work. I love it here!

Also, my band mates were the the most incredible musicians you could possibly imagine. We all gelled as a team, and supported each other endlessly. They were respectful and let me guide them in this world of the unknown for them - the world of musical theatre. It was a great pleasure and they are my music family away from home.  - Susan Lexa (Musical Director)

"At 68 years of age I never thought I would be involved in a major production such as Hometown.  After this experience the theatre is something I wish I had participated in years ago.  Everyone involved was inspirational and enthusiastic and I hope they continue to follow their dreams; and remember, this is our 'Hometown'.  Thank you all, I feel ten years younger."  - Dave "Coach" Martin (himself)

"I was one of the first students that went to Dickinsfield school and got to meet Punch Dickins so when he was talked about in the play it brought back many great memories of my youth and growing up in Fort McMurray. As the play went on and being in the band for the play, it was a stellar moment realizing what an impact the music had on the audience and the cast. I am so blessed being able to play on such a great stage from such a young age so THANK YOU KEYANO THEATRE and all of the people who support local talent."  - Jay Chinn (drummer in the Shantelle Davidson Band)

"I'm a bit late writing - had to switch gears to get ready for the new job - and I don't tend to be very open with my feelings in a broad way. However, some of the best things about this play that I take away are not only the great experience of being involved, but all the people I now get to say hi to.

And it was a great experience - and learning curve to watch and be part of the development and morphing of a script and songs into characters, interplay and song. I loved it. The acting school, singing, dancing, re-visits over and over, even the time spent waiting as the technical requirements were worked out. So many professionals, including those who'd never been on stage before - so many people to learn from in so many ways.

The dancers were a great addition and a big help to the rest of us as well as so fun, youthful and spirited. It was wonderful to see them grow and learn from this experience as well.

Claude and Michael and Steph and Kim - professional, patient, helpful and knowledgeable. To take such a crowd as 'us' and to turn it into a cohesive, marked presentation. To observe and be part of the process from its beginning to its performance was fantastic. And I can't thank the ASM's and dressers enough. Without them, we would not have been able to be and do as we needed to.

Overall, this was such a well-rounded, grounding and growth experience. I certainly hope to be able to participate again and look forward seeing and 'bumping into' my new friends and acquaintances."  - Mary Scogland (Hometown ensemble)

Hometown...The Musical! was like an awakening for me. Not only did it cement my love for musicals, but it also opened my eyes to how wonderful this town really is. I'll be the first to admit that I was not overly excited about moving to Fort McMurray (All the negative stereotypes weighed heavily on my mind). Now that I've lived here for four years and gotten to see what a great town this is, filled with many diverse, hard working, caring people, I have grown to love and appreciate this place. Hometown represents all of that diversity and hard work. I was so happy to be a part of it.

The love I feel for Fort McMurray and Hometown can only be eclipsed by the love I felt for the amazing cast and crew. They were like a family and I enjoyed and cherished every moment spent with them. I want to thank all those involved for making me a part of their family for just a short time. I know in my heart that it will not stop here. Hometown has also given me the confidence to move on and do more work with theatre. I'm sure you will see me sing, dance and act on stage again real soon. Although Hometown is over, it will live on in our hearts and I will be in touch with all those involved. For me this play was about finding out who I am and where I want to be. My Hometown family helped me discover that this place is here, in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, North America, The World. God Bless all of you."  - Russ Hancock (Hometown ensemble)

"Hometown...The Musical! can be easily described as something magical , a blessing in disguise if you will. Fort McMurray is my hometown , my brother and I were both born in the hospital here and this town has been all we know. People say I'm "sheltered" because I grew up in the "bubble" that is Fort McMurray. I don't care. It's my hometown and I'm proud.

Doing this musical was a big step for me. I did drama and dance in high school , but I was always the girl who spent more time caring about taekwondo or photography than theatre; even though it was always something I really enjoyed watching, I never saw myself having the courage to audition for a Keyano main stage.

Booking my audition was a fluke (to be completely honest). I had been talking to Laura Conibear about it and when I was at work I got a text saying "I booked your audition for Sunday ! I'm at 2 and you're at 2:20!". Pretty spontaneous..I never would have thought I would get in , let alone have any lines. But being in 'Burlesque' was insane for me.

Never in my life have I felt so out of my element , but so safe to be in that place in my life.
THANK YOU Michael and Claude for showing this town why I am proud to be Fort McMurray Born and Raised !!"  - Sara Morrison (Clerk)

"I moved to Fort McMurray with my family in 1994 (back when there was something like 35,000 people living here) and have called McMurray home ever since. Before Fort Mac we had lived in many small towns all over northern Alberta and Northern Saskatchewan. Everywhere from Meadow Lake to Buffalo Narrows to Fort Chip – this was a GIANT city to me back in ’94.

The city has obviously tripled since I’ve been here. I remember Timberlea being real small, with lots of trees, and just getting into the new developments. I remember before we had a 'flourishing' downtown: before Safeway, Save on Foods, Superstore. I remember when they built the Borealis waterpark, Bob lLmb Bandstand and what is now the Dugout. I remember when there was a comic book store in Plaza II – in the far corner, and still get a nostalgic feeling going into the Plaza. I remember having to go to Gregoire to go to McDonald's and I remember no traffic jams!

I’ve never hated it here, like some kids/teens do, nor was I anxious to move right after high school. I didn’t really think much of Fort McMurray, as this city has always felt like a second home. I had no plans to stay here in my adult years though. Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Vancouver, Nashville - these were all places I could have seen myself residing and where I would travel to and get 'inspired' to move. I did leave for a couple years to finish my music schooling in Edmonton, thinking that I had left Fort Mac behind me as a 'nostalgic place that was sort of like home (born in Saskatoon).'

After my wife and I got married, we ended up getting pregnant very quickly and we thought the best decision was to surround ourselves with family and move back to Fort McMurray. Turns out, after we moved back, almost everyone slowly moved on to another city (and 3 of our 4 parents moved back to EUROPE!). So here we were: newly married, young family, having moved 8 times in our first 3 1/2 years back in Fort Mac (living with parents, house sitting) - and losing the family network we moved back for! We’ve been looking at moving ever since (to Calgary usually… 'the promised land') and we’ve made connections, had job opportunities, etc., but something keeps pulling us back here – and it isn’t the money (musician!).

Listening to the stories (and watching the video clips) about the history of our hometown brought me back to my childhood. As I said before, we moved all around northern Saskatchewan and Alberta, staying in reserves and towns with minimal infrastructure and shopping centers. The stories of Fort McMurray are also the stories of many northern towns in these provinces where I grew up. These stories made me proud that I am literally a 'Northern Man' and that I know so much about life up here. Float planes, cold winters, small town hockey, underdeveloped northern towns, going to the ONLY store in town to get EVERYTHING you need (ie: the Northern Store in Fort Chip)… everything!

I love the north: the smells, the forests, sport fishing, the people that have live much of their life up here, our first nation brothers – lake Athabasca! All of it! Hometown renewed a deep love for northern Alberta and stirred up feelings of pride and contentment about being in Fort McMurray. We’re not at a place where we have to move or we want to move, but we’re even thinking about (somehow) getting a house here. That thought has hardly crossed our minds before!

Aside from the experience of working together and performing for so many people - and all of the nuances of the show (LOVED the Generation dancers… my daughters are going into dance!) – what I got from this experience was the fact that it was a show that reflected who I am and where I’m from. Regardless of whether we’re here for 2 more years, or 20, this will ALWAYS be home."  - Daniel Gillies (lead guitar, Shantelle Davidson Band)

I feel very honoured and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such an incredible group of people.  The amount of time, effort, heart, and soul that was put into this project, can only be measured by the overwhelming amount of positive support and feedback we have received throughout the creation of this production from our friends and family, all our audiences, and community members alike.  As a cast member you get caught up in the busy, fast paced world that exists behind the curtain.  At times it was easy to overlook the message that we were sending to the audience.  Once on stage however, I was instantly reminded that this is a community rich in culture and history.  A community filled with talented, ambitious, passionate, and proud individuals of all ages and diversity.  Proud of where they are from and proud of where they call home.  We were able to come together and celebrate our community, while successfully portraying that message. This is an amazing place.  It's a place where you can dream and think big and have the opportunity to make it happen.  I'm very proud to call Fort McMurray my home and honoured to have had the opportunity to be a part of this historic production.

To all the cast, crew, management team, directors Claude and Michael, Keyano college, and especially our audiences, I would like to say thank you for allowing me to be a part of such a great and memorable experience.  - Mackenzie Walas (John)  


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