I’ve previously blogged about PL1422 and how much I love rehearsing in that space. This past year a number of my rehearsals have been in the newest space in town – Playwrights Theatre Centre (PTC)’s Test Kitchen and I have also fallen in love with that space for some of the same reasons I love PL1422. I sat down with PTC’s Artistic Director Heidi Taylor to talk about their new space and what they see happening with it in the future.
When PTC was trying to come up with a name for their new rehearsal space last fall, inspiration wasn’t far away. “Prior to our tenancy, the space was a commercial pork roastery and warehouse. It had been planned to be turned into a restaurant a number of years prior, but those plans weren’t completed,” Heidi told me. “So the shell of the interior walls existed, and there were four huge commercial coolers, and a whole lot of grease.”
In its first nine months, The Test Kitchen has been home to over 35 projects and companies beginning with the workshop of The Concessions by Briana Brown and rehearsals for Except in the Unlikely Event of War by Sean Devine (which I stage managed and was my first exposure to the space). “You guys really helped us figure out the space, besides living through the cold snap before we got our additional heaters in,” Heidi joked as we laughed about days wearing multiple sweaters and blankets. But heaters were added and plans are in the works for new insulation before the next winter hits.
There are still big plans for the space. “We’re going to put a new floor in the studio that will make it movement-friendly,” Heidi told me, “and add a layer of insulation to keep us all warm this winter, and reduce the heat gain in the summer, and do some more improvements to the electrical for the studio.”
One thing I love about the space is the sense of community that is built by the neighbouring Hub – a shared office space for nine users. Heidi explains, “Rather than a hot desk set up, each renter gets their own desk that they share with one other HUBster – they work out their own schedules, and can leave their script charts up, decorate, and have a workspace that they don’t have to reset every time they come in.” Currently the space is about 50% writers and 50% theatre companies, but it means there is always some sort of creative activity happening in the building and familiar faces lurk around every corner. Add to that the PTC Associates & the Pi Theatre Staff whose office is already in the window and meal breaks become visits and collaborations all their own.
Another great thing about the space is its Chinatown location – close to lots of funky little restaurants that you can run out to on a meal break or swing over to New Town Bakery for sweet buns to bring back to rehearsal.
PTC has already begun experimenting with resident companies to make sure there is optimal space use (the current resident company Rice & Beans opened a show last week), but when I asked Heidi where she saw the space going in the next couple of years she said, “With more rehearsal spaces coming online in the next few years, I think we’ll find emerging companies and physical practice will be a higher proportion of our renters.”
For PTC the ability to rehearse and workshop their writers’ work on site was a huge benefit, but as a community we get to reap the benefits of it.
They are currently taking bookings of 2 weeks or longer and will open up shorter-term rentals on August 1st for fall availability. To submit a booking request or check the online calendar, visit www.playwrightstheatre.com/space.