Moose Jaw: Sans RuBarb
I’ve been spoiled by theatre. When I was in university I took a semester abroad in the U.K. where a major part of the program required seeing a lot of plays. So I’ve seen shows in just about all of London’s most esteemed theatres and more than a few throughout England as well. I’d been a fan of
the theatre for much of my adolescence, but here I was seeing shows regularly at the utmost level of professionalism, ingenuity, and discipline, and it changed my perception of the art.
So when I came to Moose Jaw I was initially a little dismissive of the local theatre scene,
dominated by RuBarb Productions, then a young company. I assumed it was just another small town amateur company performing mostly shows of widespread popularity and broad appeal. It was
snobbish and unfair, and I underestimated just how enthusiastic and dedicated the artistic community in Moose Jaw was and RuBarb’s similar commitment to not only putting on shows, but putting quality effort into them. There was passion on stage, a fervent desire to entertain, and real belief in the intrinsic power of theatre. The RuBarb School of Performing Arts was likewise evidence of that, nurturing the city’s young talent. As I started going to the live performances I came to realize first-hand the importance of having a theatre company in Moose Jaw, and especially how lucky the city was to have one of this level of consistency and merit. It wasn’t the West End, but it had its own
charm and unique ability to impress and inspire. And Moose Jaw, with its art-loving community, needed it. Which is why it’s a little tragedy that RuBarb had to close its doors on October 2nd. The reasons for this and the finger pointing drama I won’t get into, but their official statement indicated it was no longer financially sustainable to keep a professional theatre company operating. This means there will be no more Summer Theatre Fest, no more Performing Arts School, and no more musicals or plays to look forward to at the Mae Wilson Theatre, which for all the other performances and events it hosts, will be poorer for no longer being a venue of quality theatre to mirror its eloquent design.
It can't be emphasized enough how much of a loss this is. Moose Jaw deserves a good
professional theatre company as a focal point for its artistic community. RuBarb has been a central part of that local identity and its absence will leave a gaping hole in Moose Jaw's cultural scene. RuBarb’s statement reminds the public of the great professional theatre at the Globe in Regina, the Persephone in Saskatoon, and amateur productions in and around Moose Jaw, but it’s small
comfort for local theatre fans (plus, RuBarb was never quite as expensive as those Regina and Saskatoon companies). RuBarb offered something special, something Moose Jaw could take real pride in that other cities its size perhaps couldn’t.
Less than a year after it lost its newspaper, Moose Jaw is down another important local
institution. And I hope it’s not permanent. I hope someone can bring good, strong theatre to the friendly city again. I would urge anyone with the power to try. The Arts have never had a lot of luck with getting the investment they need, they’ve often been a low priority. But if the public of Moose Jaw, and especially the imaginative, curious, exceptional kids, can see a musical or play and be moved or inspired by it to express themselves, discover things, or just be better people, isn’t that worth it?