Arkady Spivak, an Artistic Producer, founded Talk Is Free Theatre in 2003 while he was working at another theatre in Barrie and saw an opportunity to do bigger things.

“I realised that there was an opportunity to start something new and interesting, do things that are typically more associated with a bigger urban centre – and do them in the context of the development of a smaller community”

If their lineup this September is any indication, they are definitely attracting bigger name artist to the city.

Next Generation Leahy is happening Sept. 15 and bringing “a new musical generation and a new sort of Gaelic music dynasty of the Leahy’s. Many people will remember their predecessors, the adults,” says Spivak.

Jann Arden is “one of the most iconic Canadian artists,” says Spivak. The show takes place Sept. 23.

“We are principally known as a theatre company, we produce, and we create our own theatre pieces, whether plays or musicals, we do it through the Mady Centre for the arts through a conventional season,” explains Spivak.

In the last four years, the theatre group started new things in the community like touring the Annual Barrie International Comedy Festival.

“(We are) sending a message out there that Barrie has a burgeoning arts community that not only attracts great artists and projects here but also sends them out,” says Spivak.

One of these is Tales of an Urban Indian that has been touring the country since it started in Barrie in 2009.

“It has been a fascinating success. The first time we did it, it ran for almost three months and then we brought it back a year and a half later and then we took it to the United States and we took it to Iqaluit and Nunavut,” he explains.

They first staged it on a moving city bus that drove around, visiting locations while describing their stories.

“We basically just took an audience to different location – a real life location that would have been depicted in a story as close to the plot as possible and so basically, patrons board a (special designated) city bus and they drive around the city and they pick up an actor at some point – and so it takes place on a bus as it drives around.”

It will be brought to Barrie for a third time this year, before launching a national tour in celebration of Canada 150.

“We are going to be going particularly to destinations that are not served by culture right now. The idea, though, is that we are going to be touring from coast to coast,” says Spivak.
Other items on their agenda include a Russian Gala Fundraiser on Sept 13, “we’re doing an evening of Russian food and culture, sort of a cultural gala,” says Spivak.

They kick off their new season in November with a musical called Candide featuring Leonard Bernstein’s music from West Side Story. There are also lots of ways the community can get involved with TIFT.

“We do a lot of youth outreach so they can come to a camp with someone – we do march break camp, we do summer camp, we also have free youth programs,” says Spivak. Coming to see their shows, whether they are theatre pieces, concerts etc. is a great way to get involved.

“We love volunteers – if you express an interest in coming to the theatre we’ll meet with them, we’ll find them a good way of getting involved,” says Spivak.

For information, visit www.tift.ca/support/volunteer/

(Pictured: photo of Craig Lauzon by Sam Rose from Tales of an Urban Indian in Iqaluit, July 2016)