After 26 years in business, it’s safe to say that the community is very familiar with the plays performed at the 4th Line Theatre.
Located in an idyllic, rural, and quintessentially Canadian setting, this theatre company presents original Canadian plays featuring small towns like ours as well as plays about large stories that affect us all. Most of us have seen a few of their plays, where we see ourselves, our neighbours or our ancestors reflected in the narrative which is both original and familiar.
Rob Winslow’s dream of creating a cultural institution to record, reflect and share our local culture and history has been recognized at the national level, and perhaps more significantly, by other theatre companies who marvel at this successful model based on original research, artistic excellence, innovative staging and community involvement. He has set the bar quite high, but each year the company continues to break new ground and gain new audiences.
While the cultural contribution is apparent, other contributions by the 4th Line Theatre to the community may be underappreciated.
4th Line Theatre is also an economic driver in our community, and is a large not-for-profit, charitable theatre mixing theatre professionals with wide community involvement. It consistently brings more than 14,000 patrons to their summer program each season, and almost 1500 to their off-season events. A 2016 TREIM Survey (Ontario’s Tourism Regional Economic Impact Model) quantified the company’s economic impact to the community, attributing 4th Line Theatre with contributing $4,130,980.00 to the local economy per year as a key tourist attraction. The company estimates that almost half of their patrons come from beyond a 40 kilometer radius of the farm, with 13% originating from the GTA, with some travelling from the U.S. and abroad to attend their shows.
It is also a large seasonal employer for the region. The 2017 season includes 50 actors, designers and technicians working alongside local and community actors. Including 4th Line Theatre’s full-time staff, the company will be employing 105 people between May and September of this year.
Many local residents have also provided volunteer service to the 4th Line Theatre in a variety of roles, from acting, administrative duties to ticket sales and stage management duties. Parents like Peter and Renate Spasov appreciate the profound impact the theatre has had on their three daughters.
The summer months have always included the 4th Line at the Spasov home. In the organization’s second year of programming, Renate and her infant daughter Emilie performed in Cavan Blazers portraying persecuted local Catholic residents. Since then, all five family members have spent summer months working at the company, with Emilie ending her volunteer career last year as Assistant Stage Manager. The experience of working beside professionals each summer, performing in front of live audiences and working as a team to deliver consistent, professional theatre performances has been instrumental in their character development. According to Renate, the Spasov children developed confidence, poise and discipline during the summers at the 4th Line. They also learned that while acting is fun, working as a professional is a hard life, with employment uncertainty and economic hardship. Their love of acting will remain a hobby instead of a career, but they will miss their summers on the farm having now graduated from university. So will their parents!
4th Line Theatre delivers on its mission to preserve and promote our Canadian cultural heritage through the development and presentation of regionally-based, environmentally staged historical dramas, but they do much more for the community. The theatre company is a significant economic driver for the area, providing entertainment and educational opportunities for community members young and old, while developing a permanent record of who we were, and reflecting who we might become. KG