Fond farewell for longtime artistic director Brent Roth
Brent Roth has spent 27 years steering the local theatre group toward bigger and better things
It’s the end of an era, with Brent Roth leaving The Community Players after 27 years.
This week’s “Mary Poppins” will be the last show with Roth lending his eye for detail and tireless work as artistic director.
Roth has been a big part of TCP for 27 years, including the past 17 as its artistic director. This summer he moves to London, England, where his partner has a new job opportunity. Roth expects he’ll be across the pond for the next three or four years.
Parting ways with the group of amateur theatre enthusiasts is bitter sweet, Roth said.
TCP has been big part of his life for nearly three decades now. Still, it’s a good time to go.
“The new leadership is going to take TCP on the next part of its journey,” he added. “It needs to change and evolve and it needs to have a different voice.”
As artistic director, Roth helps pick TCP’s show for each year, then design its entire look — the colour palette, the set design and the costumes.
“Brent’s kind of been this creative spark,” said Gary Goeree, TCP’s president. “He always taught TCP to think big, think grand.”
Roth designs the ship and sets its initial course, then hands it over to others to steer it into port, Goeree explained.
“Part of what I love doing is the creating and the visioning of the show. How we can push the boundaries,” Roth said. As part of TCP’s leadership team, he’s been keen to push the amateur volunteers beyond being a typical community theatre group.
“Brent has a passion for detail and style, that thing that we call ‘a professional look’,” Goeree said. “He’s always believed that our small community group could have that look and that style.”
“Putting on a show of this quality is really special to people,” Roth said. “I think it’s about [creating] something that everyone at the end is proud of.”
Roth has always shaped the shows from behind the scenes — he’s never once been onstage. “That’s not me,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in art, the design of theatre, how you build a show.”
He was just a teenager when he started with TCP, handing out programs for a Players’ show in the W-O cafeteria. That was 1990 and the group had only a handful of productions under their belt. In those early years, he stuck to doing odd jobs before eventually graduating to more responsibility.
Some things haven’t changed since those early days, he said, like creating a sense of family for everyone involved.
For Roth, three decades with TCP has been a chance to contribute back to the Wilmot community he grew up in.
“TCP is a group that is passionate about what they do, passionate about theatre, and passionate about the community they do it in,” he said.
“It’s really touching for me knowing those values we set out so long ago are as strong as they ever were, they’re being nurtured and supported and getting better every year.”
TCP is now set to perform “Mary Poppins” from May 11 to 14 for sold-out audiences at their revamped Trinity Theatre in the New Hamburg arena. Roth said he’s so grateful to see the TCP connecting again with the community, despite not performing a big musical since 2014.
Reaching the end of a show is always hard, he said. After the final curtain falls on Mary Poppins, “It’s going to be very satisfying, because we’ve been literally working on it for two years,” he said. “For me, it’s just going to be enjoying the moment, and then letting her go.”
TCP has picked Danielle Guistini-Crouse to be its next artistic director. She is this year’s “Mary Poppins” director and another veteran TCP contributor.
But everything Brent used to do will be split between a few new positions, Goeree said: “You will never find someone who wants to spend as many hours as Brent did. That will just burn a normal person out.”
That’s a testament to just how hard Roth worked, despite commuting from Toronto for many years, said the TCP president.
Roth said he’s excited to watch what The Community Players do next. But even from across the Atlantic, Roth plans to stay involved in some capacity. For his friends in Wilmot, his expertise is just an email or call away.
And he may also find ways to get involved with theatre in England, Roth said — who knows what the future holds?