Welcome to midtown’s newest theatre facility

Forest Hill residents started the Fort Studios on St. Clair to address the city's lack of affordable rehearsal space

It may be a hot, sunny Labour Day, but that isn’t stopping the performers of Comic Shop Productions from descending into midtown’s newest theatre rehearsal space, the Fort Studios on St. Clair.

They’re practising their remount of Shevil the Musical, a recent Toronto Fringe production about a female supervillain trying to destroy a city called “Peril.”

“Metropolis and Gotham/We’re not that kind of place,” the six-person chorus sings, their bodies dancing in sync with the music. “We only have one hero here/And he always keeps us safe.”

In the play, which satirizes comic book sexism, Shevil’s primary opponents turn out to be a misogynist mayor and an impotent superhero. But in real life, the toughest challenge facing producer/star Nadia Mear’s play was a lack of affordable rehearsal space.

“Paying for the rehearsal process basically takes money out of the artists’ pockets — where, as a producer, you want the money to go first,” the erstwhile Shevil says.

Her deliverance came from the three midtown-based co-owners of Fort Studios, who offered “a really good deal,” Mear says — $10 or $13 per hour, depending on the size of the room.

Forest Hill residents Alex Fairlie, Chanel McKinnon, and Robyn Ship, who co-run their own theatre company, Second Strike Productions, echo Mear’s frustration with Toronto’s lack of affordable rehearsal space. And so in August, they opened the Fort Studios, a two-room facility located behind St. Clair subway station at 1425 Yonge St., to do something about it.

“Me and Alex are in an improv company together, and we have members that are in Markham, members from downtown, and there’s nothing up here in that middle ground that’s easy for people to get to,” McKinnon says.

Nor was managing a rehearsal space foreign territory to Fairlie, who had been a board member for My Living Room, a rehearsal space in the Annex. He discussed the possibility of co-running a space with Ship while they were both students at York University, and again when they and McKinnon began sharing an apartment near St. Clair West station.

After Fairlie “stumbled across” the space on Kijiji, “he literally kicked our room down,” Ship says with a laugh. “We jumped on it as soon as we could.”

As artists, Fairlie, Ship and McKinnon are as excited as any of their customers to use the space. They’ve already plotted their next step: purchasing lighting and sound equipment so they can turn Fort Studios into a performance space.

The producers behind a Hamilton Fringe show, Rowing, have already booked it for an Oct. 6–19 run.

“We pride ourselves in being able to offer it for not a lot, so that starving theatre companies like ours, like many that we talk to or work with, have space to do their creating,” Fairlie says.

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Posted: Sep 11 2015 3:38 pm
Filed in: NEWS