Rainbow Stage injects a heightened pulse into the arts scene each summer, thanks in large part to seasonal employees across many industries.
“We worked with 250 employees last year,” says Executive Director Julie Eccles – including everything from stagehands to concessions. “As a seasonal employer, we’re very large.
This year, “out of 198 total artists, artisans and tradespeople, 161 contracts are going to Winnipeggers.”
The talent onstage is no exception – Rainbow Stage’s three shows this summer, West Side Story, Les Miserables, and Sister Act – will be headed by a mostly Manitoban cast. Peter Huck, an accomplished Winnipeg performer, has a deep-running history with Rainbow Stage, even working as the choreographer-in-residence for last year’s 60th anniversary season. As fate would have it, he is reprising his role as Bernardo in West Side Story, which he played in Rainbow Stage’s 2002 production.
She didn’t win the talent search in CBC’s Over the Rainbow, but exposure from the show did help Colleen Furlan land big-time roles at Rainbow Stage. The local actress placed in the top four during the reality show’s cross-country search for a talent to play Dorothy in the Canadian production of The Wizard of Oz.
Though she didn’t nab the top position then, she was chosen to play Ariel in Rainbow Stage’s The Little Mermaid last season.
This year, she’ll return to Rainbow Stage as Les Miserables’ Cosette and the shy but ultra-talented vocal powerhouse Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act.
In her sixteenth season at Rainbow Stage, Winnipegger Donna Fletcher will tackle the role of the stern and devoted Mother Superior in the holy comedy (played by the legendary Dame Maggie Smith in the film version).
Open casting calls
Alongside these accomplished performers, there are many newcomers welcomed to Rainbow Stage each year. “We have a general audition call in August, and that’s for anyone who wants to come,” says Eccles.
People who want to “audition to get experience in the audition process or who just want to be seen by people in Winnipeg” are all encouraged to attend. “We love getting new people on the stage,” she adds.
Nurturing young artists
In addition to its open calls, Rainbow Stage helps with the development of artists within their high school programs as well as through its own special shows and free workshops.
Over 1,700 students are already signed up for a new opportunity for a student matinee along with outdoor activities in the park prior to the show. Rainbow Stage is going to make clever use of the rival “Jets” and “Sharks” names in West Side Story to encourage some healthy competition. “That’s really our first foray into anything that large with school groups,” says Eccles.
Rainbow Stage offers scholarships to students who go on to further their education in music, acting or general theatre, and it also has a committee that attends school performances, offers some constructive critique, and then three high school and two middle school arts programs are awarded with a funding boost for their top honours.
Rainbow Stage’s free workshops cover instruction in everything from preparing for auditions; singing, dancing and acting lessons; and tips for building a resume.
Mentorships are even extended to developing artists, in which some are actually paid to learn from industry experts. Apprenticeship programs are also dominant in the many specialized trades represented in the theatre, like props, set design, electrics and sound.
“There’s such a need here in Winnipeg to help people hone their skills so that they can move up to the next level,” says Eccles. “Our veteran staff has embraced this with open arms.”
To stay updated on its career opportunities or to purchase tickets to Rainbow Stage, visit http://www.rainbowstage.ca.
West Side Story
June 4 – June 19, 2015
July 9 – July 24, 2015
August 13 – September 1, 2015