Y4M: What led you to found Lock and Keynote Productions?
SP: I’m from a small town called Cochrane, Ontario, population 5,321. I grew up loving music and theatre, but had very few artistic outlets beyond piano lessons. I always had a dream of starting a theatre company in Cochrane, but didn’t have the support or resources for it.
One day in early 2006, after I had moved to Toronto, my dad told me about a friend of his whose young daughter, an amazing singer, was wishing for performance opportunities in Cochrane. And then it clicked: I could still start that theatre company, in the form of a yearly summer camp. I turned to my boyfriend (now husband), Chris Jackman, and said, “What if we run a theatre camp in Cochrane?” Chris, who grew up in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, said, “Well, if we did it in Cochrane…” I finished his thought: “Then we might as well do it in Corner Brook, too.”
We formed the company with our three best friends from university: Liz Sheffield (who now works at Young People’s Theatre), Rhonda Zwingerman (former choreographer; now on the board of directors for The Musical Stage Company), and Vikki VanSickle (acclaimed children’s author).
Since then, we have expanded to Timmins and Sudbury, and also did two years in Kirkland Lake.
Y4M: What age group does LKP serve, and what kind of opportunities does it provide to youth?
SP: Our signature musical theatre camp is offered to ages 8-18, and mimics the format of a professional two-week rehearsal process. The process starts with auditions, and progresses through building skills in acting, singing and dancing. The two weeks culminate in a very high-quality musical, of which kids and parents are equally proud, and which is an anticipated event in the community.
We have also offered mini-camps for younger kids, and “advanced” camps which focus on building each performer’s audition repertoire of monologues and pieces.
Y4M: What kind of impact has Lock and Keynote had on the communities it serves in Northern Ontario & Newfoundland?
SP: In terms of the communities at large, Timmins, Sudbury and Corner Brook have all had much artistic growth in the past decade, and we’re proud to have been a part of that. Our growth in my own hometown, Cochrane, has been the most difficult. Even though the town has a dance studio, theatre performances are rare, and it’s not on people’s radar as being a valuable experience. I’m not sure parents understand the huge benefits young people get from being part of a theatrical troupe, in terms of learning cooperation, coordination, public speaking, and in terms of discovering new ways to express emotions. It is my hope to someday develop an artist in the schools program, and work directly with kids in Cochrane’s schools.
The impact this theatre company has had on the students attending our camps has been enormous: the kids FORM a community based on a shared love of the arts – a community that bridges the gap between the 8 year olds and the 16 year olds. It’s a kind of community they may not be able to build in their schools; I certainly wasn’t.