Gotta sing, gotta dance: Keeping the arts alive in smalltown Saskatchewan

With regular productions, volunteer theatre group ‘sets the bar high for ourselves’ in Outlook

It’s a veritable smalltown institution—and after 25 years, everyone in Outlook, Saskatchewan knows a neighbor involved in the Equinox Theatre.

Or two. Or three.

“It’s a volunteer community theatre, and it’s built up a really loyal following,” says John McPhail, a longtime volunteer and regular director with Equinox Theatre. “When we were putting on Hilda’s Yard (by Canadian playwright Norm Foster) in the spring, I’d go to the post office to pick up the mail, and people would say: ‘Hey, I really enjoyed the play. Great costumes—and what a good set.’

“Everyone knows who’s involved.”

With a minimum of 30 volunteers per production, Equinox Theatre puts on two performances a year—Broadway musicals, Canadian plays, yukfests like John Cleese’s TV farce Fawlty Towers, whodunits like Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap—at the town of Outlook’s Civic Centre.

Every other year, Equinox Theatre also puts on a dinner theatre for community audiences.

In 2017, as part of Canada 150 celebrations, the Equinox Theatre and its dedicated group of volunteers is staging productions of:

  • Hilda’s Yard, which enjoyed a four-night run in March;
  • Don Harron’s Anne of Green Gables musical, set for three nights around Canada Day; and
  • An homage to Elvis, called All the King’s Women, in the fall, which will double as dinner theatre.

Preparations for each play begin months in advance, with twice-weekly rehearsals starting about 10 weeks out and building up to three or four a week once a temporary stage is set up in the Civic Centre.

“We set the bar high for ourselves,” says McPhail. “I’m biased in saying this, of course, but I believe our productions are every bit as good as professional touring productions that occasionally come through town.”

Enbridge works hard to be a good neighbor in the communities near our operations and projects. In 2016, we invested more than $740,000 in community-strengthening initiatives across Saskatchewan.

We’ve been the season sponsor for Equinox Theatre four times—including the 2017 season, which has been supported through a $3,500 Enbridge community investment grant.

“Through Enbridge sponsorship’s over the years, we’ve been able to purchase a modular stage that can be set up in half an hour, as well as a light bar,” says McPhail.

“Enbridge’s sponsorship has allowed us to stage some plays that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford.”

(TOP PHOTO: The cast for Equinox Theatre's most recent production, Hilda's Yard, written by Canadian playwright Norm Foster and set in 1956.)