“Live theatre is a co-creation between the actors and the audience, and when the audience is truly with us, immersed in the moment, hanging onto every word, nothing can beat it,” says veteran actor Kathleen Sheehy.
Kathleen has been on one stage or another for more than two decades and has been the Artistic Director of Kitchener’s Lost&Found Theatre since 2004.
Lost&Found wants to take its audiences on an artistic journey. The professional ensemble works together to bring great stories to life that will give audiences something to mull over and talk about long after they leave the theatre.
Their focus is to produce work written by Waterloo Region playwrights, and then look at other Canadian works before entertaining British or American plays. “Since we have decided to commit ourselves to this region, it’s a natural fit to work with writers who have made the same choice,” says Kathleen.
One such example Kathleen recalls fondly is Falling: A Wake by Cambridge playwright Gary Kirkham. “We worked with Gary to develop that play, and I have an almost maternal interest in it because of that,” she says. “But it’s also the most profoundly moving play I have done.”
The story features a couple, Harold and Elsie, played by Kathleen, who is dealing with an incredibly intense issue. One night a plane explodes over their farm and a young, deceased passenger, still strapped in his seat, falls into their backyard. Kathleen reminisces, “The transformation wrought by their night-long vigil with the young man is stunning and beautiful. I can only hope I’ll get to do this play again.”
The Lost&Found ensemble collectively decides what plays to produce. “A critical mass of the members has to be excited about a potential project and we also look at how a play fits in with our acting company,” Kathleen says. Can the play’s characters be cast from inside the ensemble, and if not, what other compelling quality does the play have to merit casting outside of the group? Does it give an emerging artist an opportunity; is it written by a local playwright; is it a story they feel just has to be told?
The company also offers regular youth theatre workshops, as the future of live theatre depends on young people becoming both theatre practitioners and thoughtful audience members. And building that regular audience is an ongoing struggle for Lost&Found. They, like many arts organizations, struggle with the “call of the couch,” where it’s too easy for patrons to stay home to watch Netflix. Option fatigue is also hard for the company to overcome. The region boasts a brilliant array of arts and culture activities so how do people choose where to spend their evening and their dollars?
Kathleen says, “Years ago we used to say, ‘Theatre is life, television is furniture.’ Ah, the simple days of yore.” She admits the virtual world is a fine place to be but it’s no substitute for being in an actual place, in real time with other living, breathing bodies. “There are things that can happen under those conditions that just can’t happen in a virtual space,” she says. “Community still relies on people gathering together to share an experience. Anything else is second best.”
To keep up to date on upcoming Lost&Found productions and events, sign up for their emails, or follow L&F on Twitter or like them on Facebook. And when you see an advertisement for an upcoming play that interests you, go see it. Both you and the actors will benefit from it.
P.S. Kathleen’s favourite topic of conversation: dogs. I love my Labrador Retriever and can talk dogs all day.