ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Showcases Singers From Past Productions

(Arts Collective Theatre Artistic Director Chris Rabideau speaking during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)

To celebrate a significant milestone in its history, Thursday night (Nov. 7) Arts Collective Theatre filled Windsor’s Fogolar Furlan Club with their ACT 5 Year Anniversary Celebration laced with some of the best music from its growing repertoire of leading-edge plays. Since its founding five years ago, ACT has been the region’s most progressive and socially cognizant theatre company. Showcasing some of its best hits from some of its most ambitious productions created an outstanding evening of entertainment.

Avonlea Smith and Ian Smith

Avonlea Smith singing and her father Ian Smith playing piano to welcome guests to the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

But there was more. The event was part fundraiser and part acknowledgement of the many who have helped the once fledgling organization build strength to further its purpose. Leslie McCurdy, honoured with ACT’s Mentorship Award, related her own first impressions of the company. She cited its incredible creative force, President and Creative Director, Chris Rabideau, as a truly brilliant director who was able to produce plays she didn’t think were possible.

Leslie McCurdy, Chris Rabideau and Moya McAlister, ACT Windsor

Leslie McCurdy, Chris Rabideau and Moya McAlister during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

ACT’s underlying raison d’être is to produce theatre to purposely change lives by the stories it depicts and its adherence to one of its own tenets, non-traditional casting. The results are plays able to shoot higher and bring awareness to a wide range of social issues.

Rabideau himself told the audience about how he sees ACT as a vehicle to show, “the social justice journey.”

He was considerable gracious in his praise of all those who have helped ACT reach its current milestone including Walkerville’s Sho, Art, Spirit and Performance, an organization he admired for “tearing down the walls of theatre by taking old buildings to make them new again.”

His greatest accomplishment remains that of bringing shows to Windsor with cast members representing diversity, often giving them their all-important first chance and to trust them all the way. This was evident in one of ACT’s successful initiatives, its 30 Under 30 youth program and the seven woman who ran the operation this year.

Arts Collective Theatre board members Robert Swainson and Pam Hartford

Arts Collective Theatre board members Robert Swainson and Pam Hartford welcoming guests to the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

ACT, however, continues to blossom with new ways to enliven local theatre. Rabideau was particularly excited about its New Works project, a way to seek out and help scriptwriters and composers turn their dreams into reality while further developing Windsor talent.

Amanda Orr, honoured with an award for Leadership and Service for her work in designing ACT’s promotional materials told Eyes On Windsor the greatest accomplishment of the organization is the opportunities it gives under-represented groups.

In his role as Master of Ceremonies, Albert Sharp kept the pace moving with its mix of memory lane music from past plays augmented with special recognition. Awardees for Leadership and Service also included Linda Lord, Deana Johnson, Rachel Olivero and the Greater Essex County District School Board, Motor City Credit Union and All Saints’ Anglican Church.

Albert Sharp with and Moya McAlister

Event emcee Albert Sharp with and Moya McAlister during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

The hits which kept on coming consisted of Kianna Porter singing Aquarius from Hair, Avonlea Smith’s rendition of America from West Side Story, Patricia Arndt singing Waiting for Life from Once On This Island The Musical and Ease on Down the Road by the team of Rochelle Day, Verzell, Michael Rice and Joshua Davis. Michael Rice then wowed the audience with Mean Ole Lion from the Wiz while Kyle Cloutier, the popular hillbilly from Footloose, enthralled those in attendance with the whimsical Mama Says.

Kiana Porter ACT Windsor

Kiana Porter singing Aquarius from Hair The Musical during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Gilliam Marshall performed two numbers, Nothing, from a Chorus Line, and Almost There from the musical A Girl Like Me. To wrap it all up the stage was filled with a multiple voice ensemble backing Tony Coates delivering a bring the house down rendition of I’ll Cover You from Act’s 2015 performance of Rent.

Actress Gillian Marshall

Actress Gillian Marshall singing Almost There from the Arts Collective Theatre original play A Girl Like Me during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Michael Rice from ACT Windsor's production of The Wiz singing Mean Ole Lion

Michael Rice singing Mean Ole Lion from The Wiz during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

ACT Windsor Alumni Joshua Davis, Rochelle Day and Verzell

Actors Joshua Davis, Rochelle Day and Verzell singing Ease on Down the Road from The Wiz during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Patricia Arndt ACT Windsor

Patricia Arndt singing Waiting for Life from Once On This Island The Musical during the ACT Windsor 5 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Fogolar Furlan Club in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, November 7, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

ACT remains a not for profit organization committed to enhancing the well-being of the Windsor Essex community through theatre-based practices which includes creating and nurturing new partnerships and the creation of new pathways of learning.

Mentorship and learning opportunities are so rooted in its artistic processes that Rabideau announced his plan to step back a bit and let others take on more responsible roles in the company. He talked of seeing incredible talent arriving on its doorstep and the responsibility of fully developing each individual.

Next up on the Arts Collective Theatre schedule is its Home for the Holidays – A Celebration of Christmas, slated for December 13 and 14 followed on April 17 to 26 with Elton John and Tim Rice’s AIDA, The Timeless Love Story.

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.