Bright Lights, Big Cities have no allure for four creative young people who have returned to Sudbury and are making an impact here with their passion for the arts.
Matt Heiti, playwright-in-residence at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, is happy to be home. His first stop was Toronto after leaving Sudbury Secondary School. He completed the Fine Arts in Acting program at Ryerson University, then headed east to the University of New Brunswick, where he got an MA in creative writing. While many of his friends headed to major centres across North America, Heiti wanted to come back home. He even settled back into his old neighbourhood.
“I had many friends who left Sudbury and couldn’t wait to get out. I always wanted to come back and figure out how we can make this work. Is there still a way to keep writing, acting and being involved in all the things I love doing?” said Heiti.
Heiti and his brother Warren, who is a writer and university professor, were home schooled until Grade 9.
“The early years allowed us a lot of time to play and our creative impulses were encouraged,” said Heiti.
He was the co-writer of the film Son of the Sunshine, which was nominated for a 2012 Genie Award in the Best Original Screenplay category. His first novel will be published by Coach House Press in the fall of 2014.
Last fall he was one of eight young writers invited to take place in the Playwrights Retreat in Stratford.
Since his return home, he has led a playwriting workshop, The Junction, to inspire the growth of playwriting in the city. He is also a founding director of Encore Theatre.
“I feel like the right people are here and there is a desire to create a vibrant arts community,” he said.
In October 2012 Dawn Cattapan, who is still in her 20s, assumed the position of executive director for the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra.
Cattapan is another graduate from Sudbury Secondary School who was inspired by her experience and went on to study arts management and musicology at the University of Toronto.
While living in Toronto, she had multiple opportunities to learn from some of the premier arts organizations such as the National Ballet of Canada and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
“My job at the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra allows my interests to come together and marry all my experiences. I feel so lucky. We have a great board, and great musicians, and Sudbury is hungry for classical music,” said Cattapan.
Although Toronto provided plenty of opportunity and experience, she jumped at the chance to return home to be with her family.
“I went down without much of a plan and found I was working a lot more then I wanted just to make a living. It was a great experience but not what I was looking for,” said Rodya.
He enrolled at Thorneloe University to study theatre. Once completed, he was faced with the dilemma again, where could he work in theatre? His solution was to create the opportunity.
Rodya and four other theatre professionals, Nicolas Barbeau, Richard Barlow, Jocelyn Dotta and Jenny Hazelton found Encore Theatre, the first, and only, alternative professional theatre in Sudbury.
“I have no experience with a theatre company, but it does come naturally because I’ve spent my life immersed in it,” Rodya said.
His mother is Valerie Senyk, a theatre professor at Thorneloe.
“We have the same taste in theatre and I can bounce ideas off of her. I really trust her opinion,” he said.
Encore Theatre is about supporting emerging artists who are fresh out of school and who don’t have opportunities for professional development. It produces Canadian plays and develops the work of its members.
According the its website, “Encore’s mandate is to produce edgy, exciting, and gritty theatrical work for the local and regional audience and to foster, promote, and create professional opportunities for local theatre artists.”
Megan Kolppanen returned to Sudbury after venturing across the world to Australia to obtain a teacher’s degree. She describes herself as a homebody. In fact, her dream job is to teach at Sudbury Secondary School where she graduated.
Obtaining a teaching position in Sudbury has been a challenge though. She has worked a few days in area high schools but recently took a full-time position with Cinéfest Sudbury. She dedicates her downtime to work on Up Theatre.
“Up stands for un-pretentious theatre,” explained Kolppanen. “It’s all based on giving back to the community.”
The 27-year-old has been singing since she was able to walk. She decided musical theatre was her passion while at Sudbury Secondary and went on to study vocal training at Laurentian University before heading off to Australia.
“In the beginning, I was using my own money to fund the productions, but now we put on cabaret shows at Little Montreal’s and have a few sponsors,” she said.
Proceeds from Up Theatre performances have gone to MADD Sudbury, The Samaritan Centre and Sudbury Breast Cancer Foundation.
Now in their fourth season, Kolppanen and her volunteer team are working on their next original musical, a satire of Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls.