From rehearsing its first production in the living room of the company’s artistic director to performing in the 300 seat Norman Rothstein Theatre, Fighting Chance Productions has come a long way in ten years.
Having already provided opportunities for hundreds of emerging artists and presenting shows Vancouver audiences would not always have an opportunity to see, Fighting Chance continues that tradition with a production of the dark musical, Parade.
Finding its place
Originally created to fill a niche in 2007, the company’s inaugural year included two plays and a musical.
“At the time a lot of big companies were doing big shows, especially musicals, and I thought of doing smaller more intimate shows because not a lot were doing it at the time,” says artistic director Ryan Mooney, who has been at the helm of the company since its inception.
The creation of the company also became an opportunity for Mooney to do what he loved. “I was getting directing work, but not shows I wanted to direct,” he continues.
That first season saw the company tackle two straight plays, or non-musicals for those not up on their musical theatre lexicon: Neil Labute’s two-hander Autobahn, and the comedy Catholic School Girls. Sandwiched between them the company undertook its first musical, with a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Side by Side by Sondheim.
While Fighting Chance would continue to present straight plays in subsequent years, the company quickly gained a reputation of presenting musicals.
“It wasn’t until 2009 when we did Rent at Presentation House in North Van that the mindset sort of changed for us, and we realized there were other things we could do than just small cast musicals,” says Rooney.
Opportunities for both audience and artist
Along with providing opportunities for audiences to see some more obscure musical offerings and those not frequently performed, Mooney’s philosophy also extended to providing opportunities for emerging artists.
“The original idea was that half of the cast would always be new to the company,” says Mooney.
There is one caveat though, as Mooney insists on maintaining the integrity of a show.
“If two people on equal footing come forward I will go with someone who hasn’t been in one of our shows before,” he says. “Quality is more important than that ideal, so ultimately it will go to the best person.”
Providing opportunities to artists feeds directly into Mooney’s proudest accomplishment over the ten years.
“I’m really proud of the people who have done stuff with us and then gone onto to do other stuff, and people who are now working professionally,” he says. “That to me is worth it; I love that. I’ve always wanted the company to be a stepping stone. The goal has always been for people to come, do a couple of shows with us, and then go do amazing things elsewhere.”
Stubbornness helps keep it going
Mooney says it is his stubborn nature which keeps him going. Of course, it hasn’t always been easy, with the company falling on hard times on a couple of occasions over its ten-year history.
“I’m proud of what we have done and I don’t want to let it die,” he says. “You just dig yourself out and rely on the kindness of other theatre companies and our amazing volunteers to help.”
Celebrating ten years with Parade
Finding itself on firmer financial footing, Fighting Chance is taking a calculated risk in presenting the Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry musical Parade as part of its anniversary season.
Based on the true story of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who in 1913 was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old employee, Parade is not your typical stage musical fare.
“What is fascinating you didn’t get musicals like this; crazy true stories like this that deal with murder,” says Mooney. “I love shows like that, shows like this one and Sweeney Todd, that go deeper into the human psyche.”
The next ten
As for what the next ten years bring, Mooney remains hopeful the company will continue to grow and attract audiences enough to help move to the next level.
“A lot of what we do is volunteer based and I would like to get to a point where we can compensate everyone for their time. It certainly wouldn’t be at Equity levels, but it just seems like the next evolution,” he says.
Acknowledging it won’t be an easy task, Mooney is content to see the company continue doing what it does best.
“I want to see us continue to give opportunities not just for artists, but for audiences to see shows that don’t get done all the time.”
Mooney will begin to see that wish come true as Parade will be followed by A Chorus Line, the final show in Fighting Chance’s tenth anniversary season, and an eclectic mix of six shows for its eleventh.
Parade plays the Norman Rothstein Theatre (950 West 41st Ave, Vancouver) from April 14-29. Visit http://fightingchanceproductions.com for tickets and information.