One of the themes central to Roomies, the latest production being put on by Moncton’s Hubcity Theatre Group, is something that is not terribly prevalent in modern theatre or television.
The production is inspired by the real life challenges faced by the production’s playwright and one of its stars, Paul Power. He is physically disabled, and requires leg braces and clutches for mobility issues stemming from a rare form of spina bifida.
In the time leading up to his writing of Roomies, he noted that there were few, if any, productions that dealt with the topic head-on.
“When I was writing Roomies, I had noticed there were not a lot of opportunities out there in terms of minority characters. There weren’t roles that called for disabled characters, and, for those that were available, it focused on the disability issue, which can make that population feel segregated,” Power says.
“With Roomies, my disability has been integrated into the piece, which makes for a more realistic portrayal on virtually all fronts. It demonstrates what it’s like to live with a disability but never overshadows the overarching theme of the production.”
Set in the 1960’s, Power plays David, a clean-cut scholarly student that lives with a disability, while the play’s other primary character, Nick – played by Steve Ryan – could be identified more as a James Dean, rebel type of character that is also rather selfish and manipulative.
“David and Nick are assigned to the same dorm room. The play chronicles a time period of one school year during which the audience gets to witness the friendship that blossoms between them,” Power continues.
A native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Power graduated from Memorial University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in theatre. It was there that he discovered his love of the theatre.
“The first time I participated in an acting class, I absolutely loved it. Following that, I routinely went after roles, and was actually fortunate that directors were willing to look past my disability and cast me in a number of productions.”
Power went on to attend Ryerson University in Toronto, eventually working as an associate producer with TVOntario before decided to return to his native Newfoundland. Following a three-year stint as the President of Calgary’s Liffey Players Drama Society. Power’s partner received a work transfer to Moncton in 2010.
It wasn’t long before Power became involved with Moncton’s Hubcity Theatre, landing significant roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Dracula, before moving on to assume the role of Artistic Director in 2013.
He credits the Hubcity Theatre as having made him feel welcomed right off the bat.
“In Moncton, I found a forward-thinking group that totally accepted my disability and never once hinted that it was a hindrance. That total acceptance isn’t as common as people might like to think it is. I had the opportunity to attend a conference at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa where disability issues were discussed at length. It is a sort of hot topic, but what I realized was that the Hubcity Theatre is really ahead of the game compared to a lot of their peer groups across the country.”
Roomies director Cody Bolton joined the Hubcity Theatre in 2010, in addition to having co-founded Crandall Spotlight Theatre at Crandall University in Moncton.
He notes the transition from stage actor to a behind the scenes role of director has been an interesting one, but is also something he feels fortunate to embrace.
“I have been acting for most of my life. Ever since I was a kid, I loved the stage; it was something I was naturally drawn to,” Bolton says. “Directing Roomies has been a great experience, however. Of course, much of that has to do with the great team I am overseeing. I just happen to be the glue that helps hold everything together.”
Bolton notes that those interested in trying out for Hubcity Theatre should not let a lack of experience deter them from doing so. Ultimately, it is the spirit that an individual brings to the role that matters.
“If someone steps through the door without experience, we don’t consider that a bad thing by any means. We are more interested in passion for the role and a genuine willingness to learn.”
Thus far, audiences in Fredericton and Halifax have warmly received Roomies, exceeding Power’s already modest expectations for how the production might connect with audiences.
“We’ve had great audiences in both Fredericton and Halifax, and have heard a lot of great comments after the show,” Power says. “Roomies is all about that big emotional pay off at the end. For many, there were a lot of tears, which tells us we are hitting the right comedic and dramatic notes with the audience.”
Providing musical entertainment at Sunday’s performance of Roomies will be local group Hone The Craft. The group has been cutting their teeth through many of Metro Moncton’s clubs, boasting a diverse repertoire of music from the Eagles, The Bangles, Blue Rodeo, Blind Melon and more, earning a devoted fan base every step of the way.
Their performance at Roomies will be special in the respect that the musical repertoire interspersed throughout the show will be suited to the era in which the show is set.
“We were thrilled when Hubcity Theatre came and asked us to participate in this special night,” says Hone the Craft vocalist Laura McPhee. “It’s a great show that also lends itself to incorporating live music. It’s a great opportunity for us to play for our fans in a unique setting and context.”
What: Hub City Theatre presents Roomies with special music guests Hone The Craft
Where: Beausejour Curling Club, 80 Lockhart Ave., Moncton
When: Sunday May 22, 8 p.m.
Tickets are $20, available online at roomiesmoncton.eventbrite.ca and at the door.