New Huntsville Theatre Company theatre manager Mark Rodrigues is bringing years of experience in the performing arts to the role.
Rodrigues is taking over from the incomparable Jan Jacklin and, while acknowledging he has big shoes to fill, is palpably excited about the task at hand.
Rodrigues says it’s his duty to continue the Huntsville Theatre Company growth Jacklin had envisioned and was a driving force behind.
He says the first year will be about finding his footing and maintaining the excitement that is already in place.
Once he’s got a handle on being the theatre manager, Rodrigues would like to explore several growth options including a potential Shakespeare in the Park show in the summer season.
Rodrigues has been emotionally invested in the Huntsville Theatre Company since 2012 when his girlfriend moved to town and began performing with the theatre group.
“I would come up and visit and she would do shows for the Huntsville Theatre Company,” he says. “Over the years, I noticed just how close everyone in this theatre company was and just how much they put into every show.”
Although he was living in Brampton, Rodrigues kept visiting to support his girlfriend and eventually made friends with Jacklin and the rest of the theatre company.
“Jan would say things like ‘we need more guy actors, so why don’t you move here and be part of the theatre?’” he remembers. “She won me over and I did decide to move up here in the summer (2016).”
Rodrigues played Rocky in the Huntsville Theatre Company’s summer production of The Rocky Horror Show and the Ghost of Christmas Present/Fred/Fezziwig in A Christmas Carol.
“Then Jan was retiring and she needed someone to look after the theatre,” says Rodrigues. “And I said, ‘oh, yes.’ This was what it was all leading up to.”
RODRIGUES JOINS A THEATRE “FAMILY”
Having been with theatre companies in other places, Rodrigues says there’s a huge difference between what he witnessed over the years compared to his experience with the Huntsville Theatre Company.
He says the camaraderie in Huntsville is second to none.
“This wasn’t just some typical community theatre, this was their lives,” he says. “They were like a theatre family, they supported each other so, so well.”
Rodrigues recalls it being a hassle to organize a cast party after a performance with theatre’s in places like Brampton, but says it’s a much different attitude here in Huntsville.
“Here, there’s a cast part every show,” says Rodrigues. “And there are even rehearsal parties, where a rehearsal would end and everyone says ‘well, we’re not done seeing each other yet, let’s go out for a drink.’ That blew my mind. I did not see that anywhere else.”
Rodrigues says there’s a lack of tension or ‘drama’ amongst the cast and crew. He says any little issues that arise are quickly handled and the Huntsville Theatre Company ‘family’ will offer support to each other even when competing for the same roles.
“That’s the key to putting on a great show is being close friends, loving the people you work with and trusting the people you work with,” says Rodrigues. “I’ve been with a lot of theatre groups and this one is truly different . . . There’s a passion for theatre, it’s more than just something to do. From the actors on stage to the crew behind the scenes, the individuals throw themselves into each rehearsal and each production.”
TREMENDOUS GROWTH AT HUNTSVILLE THEATRE COMPANY
The theatre has grown exponentially over the years since its beginnings as the Huntsville Community Theatre Company in 2011.
Fast forward to 2016 and Rodrigues was awed by what the theatre company had done in such a short amount of time.
“Wow did it go somewhere,” exclaims Rodrigues. “I’m going to keep mentioning Rocky Horror because I was amazed by that show. That show brought so many people here from outside the community. It went from this little thing to selling out an entire week, bringing in people wearing costumes from outside the community. People came from Toronto and from up north.”
RODRIGUES BRINGS VAST THEATRE EXPERIENCE TO THE ROLE
Rodrigues had very early experiences performing, doing some commercial acting as a child, and despite his parents continuing to encourage acting, he eventually tired of going to auditions and not getting parts. Thus, he took a break from acting at the age of 10.
“Then I hit high school and I thought: You know what I miss?” laughs Rodrigues. “I joined this sketch comedy group in Grade 9 and that was so much fun . . . I will never forget the shows we did and the people in the group.”
With a zest for the performing arts alive and well, Rodrigues headed to Queen’s University to major in English and minor in drama. He also received a teaching degree and prior to landing in Huntsville, Rodrigues taught both English and drama.
At Queen’s, Rodrigues eventually got on with an Improv group where was given the sound advice of not giving up and always trying to learn more despite a bevy of unfruitful auditions for several productions.
In his third year at Queen’s, Rodrigues joined a Shakespeare group which did three shows during the school year. He says the year consisted of “rehearse, show, rehearse, show, rehearse, show” for its entirety.
Once out of school, Rodrigues joined some community theatre groups but the passion and drive he found amongst his university peers was nowhere to be found. Over the years, Rodrigues has accumulated a vast amount of experience in theatre arts through acting, directing, producing and teaching the craft.
While his love for the performing arts kept him involved, it was upon meeting the individuals at the Huntsville Theatre Company when Rodrigues discovered there were other adults doing community theatre who shared his passion.
“This reminded me of the camaraderie I had at Queen’s,” says Rodrigues. “And it’s people of all ages. In A Christmas Carol, I acted alongside people from 11-years-old all the way to whatever Steven Jacklin’s age is.”
Up next, Rodrigues is slated to be Conrad Wakowski in The Wakowski Brothers in March/April and will be leading this year’s Theatre is My Passion children’s program in a production of As You Like It.
For more information on the Huntsville Theatre Company and its upcoming productions, visit http://www.huntsvilletheatre.org
Rodrigues is excited about his new theatre manager role and the upcoming productions he is a part of.
“Even if I hit some bumps along the way because I’m new to this whole idea of managing a theatre company, I have this great support group and they’re not going to let me fall on my face,” he says.
“We’re going to work together and we’re going to make this awesome.”
Feature photo by Chris Occhiuzzi, inset photos courtesy of Huntsville Theatre Company