October 15, 2021 Mountain Living

Living the Dream: Creative Space with Banff Theatre Collective

By By Kate Barker with Timothy Eckmier, founder and Creative Director of Banff Theatre Collective

Living in the Bow Valley means embracing the mountain lifestyle. In this series, we uncover the recreational clubs, associations and organizations that encourage residents to get outside and get involved!

“If you have a space, you can create anything in it.”

The Banff Theatre Collective began 5 years ago when 5 newfound friends decided to share their passion for theatre in Banff. The project was spearheaded by Timothy Eckmier, a professionally trained actor who wanted to bring his passion for theatre to the mountains. “After working at the Banff Centre and being exposed to some of the art happening there, I wasn’t really seeing much theatre art being created in the Banff community,” says Eckmier. “So we created a collective, which allows everyone to come in and contribute in whatever way suits them, whether that be writing, directing, watching and being supportive, or being on stage.”

The Banff Theatre Collective started as a BanffLife program to encourage young adults to get involved in theatre. Now, the collective has migrated to the Town of Banff Recreational Programming, and is open to people of all ages, abilities, backgrounds, and comfort levels. Eckmier says, “A really incredible thing about doing theatre in Banff is you have people from all sorts of international identities and backgrounds from around the world who arrive in Banff who and are all looking for a way to meet new people. The more unique life experiences and backgrounds we have represented, the more plays we can do, the more stories we can tell, the more we can create our mutual experience of bringing together as a collective.”

The collective currently has two major productions in the works: The Ridge Theatre Festival October 23-25 at The Radiant and the annual Banff Buy and Sell sketch comedy in the spring. The spring production pokes fun at the various situations that happen to the residents of Banff. “Banff Buy and Sell is one of the biggest things we do. These are gut-splitting, laugh-until-your-cheeks-are-sore shows. It’s based on funny online posts and relatable situations that have happened in town.”

The Banff Theatre Collective has also done other productions including 24-hour theatre challenges, where you have 24 hours to create and perform a one act play, the 48-hour film challenge at the Banff Centre, improv nights, children’s theatre, Christmas sketch comedy shows, and so much more. As a collective group of friends, they also host things like Thanksgiving Dinner, Orphan Christmas, barbecues in the park, and other social events to connect the community. “We ended up creating really solid bonds and friendships in town. It’s very easy to find one industry here, so you might work in hotels, you might workup on the hill, or you might work in restaurants, but you find that crossover in sports and arts and community.” Eckmier says, “As a group, we are very supportive of each other. We’re a great network in a town where most of us don’t have families here checking in on us. We make sure we’re always supporting each other, both on and off stage.”

Theatre is also a great way to connect with the core of human nature. Eckmier likens theatre to being a child at play: “Kids believe whoever they are. They come into a room and they’re an astronaut one day, or they come into the room and they’re a detective. And no one can tell them they’re not. Nobody says no to them. To play theatre is going back to that stripping down and going back to what it was like to be young again and to have fun. And to be able to express yourself in a way that the world is pressuring you not to. They call it a play for a reason.”

So what’s the best way to get involved? The Banff Theatre Collective hosts regular drop-in theatre and improv workshops for anyone to attend.

Theatre drop-ins are Sunday nights at 7pm, above the Banff Public Library in the Catharine Robb Whyte building. These nights are easy going, often with refreshments, and last from 1.5 to 2 hours. These sessions are fun, informative, and open to everyone, regardless of background or experience. The group works on theatre exercises that fit the experience of the participants, whether that’s icebreakers, learning the basics of different theatre roles, script reading, embodying characters, learning how to audition, learning about movement, or whatever suites the evening. “It takes big guts to show up in a room where you don’t know anybody,” says Eckmier, “We love having new people come out to discover what creativity they can spark. What energy can they bring to a room that wasn’t there before they arrived?”

Improv jaams happen from 1-3pm every Tuesday at The Radiant, and they involve fun drop-in rehearsals used to prepare the team for shows. “Improv is often more light-hearted, and sometimes contains adult content.” Improv is excellent for experienced and inexperienced alike because unlike theatre, it offers a role for everyone. “Improv is magical. People meet in a space and agree as an audience and as performers that anything can happen, and we’re all along for the ride. And it’ll never happen again.” These sessions are fun for everyone. “We have a beer, we meet new people, and we have a public Improv Jaam.”

Interested in joining the Banff Theatre Collective? Check out their website for upcoming drop-ins, auditions, and more at banfftheatre.ca.

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