A Timeless Tradition Continues to Flourish in Hastings County

Undeniably there is something special about experiencing live performance. Recent experience reminds us that sitting in close proximity among a large group of people, perhaps in a dimmed theatre, cannot be taken for granted.

And as an art form that’s existed since the turn of the 5th century, it was shocking to watch the world’s theatres closed by covid. Throughout its long history, performance art has developed new forms, from France’s hilarious Moliere, the grotesque Commedia Dell’arte of Italy, to the German revolutionary, Brecht. What’s clear is this: theatre, like the people who create it, is constantly evolving.

For a medium that is itself much older than the country, Canadian theatre is as vast as the natural landscapes and people who inspire it. Communities across the nation have developed and adapted their own theatres big and small, niche or broad in range, urban and rural. These theatres are doing what they do best, which is presenting an accurate reflection of the communities they serve.

And that is exactly what’s happening in rural Hastings County, just north of Belleville.


Small team, big plans

If theatres accurately represent their host communities, then the existence of Tweed & Company Theatre confirms that Hastings County is home to some of the most creative, vibrant, and generous people. Fifteen years ago a group of friends fresh out of theatre school were driven to create original Canadian musicals. Noticing a lack of performance opportunities in the area, they took matters into their own hands. Based on the response of the community, clearly there was a hunger for more live theatre.

Artistic Director, Tim Porter, leading one of the company’s earliest rehearsals.

Tweed & Company created many original musicals right in their hometown of Tweed, Ontario, like the rock musical Stalkyard Hurts, Tweed: A New Canadian Musical, Aleck Bell: The Musical, I’ll Fly Away, and Hastings! The Musical. These stories of love, hardship, and triumph were creatively inspired by and for the local community.

Becoming a community pillar

Over the years, some of the country’s greatest performers have taken the Tweed stage – but the company is still led by the same group of friends. Belleville-born Artistic Director Tim Porter can be found doing everything from directing a rehearsal to personally selling tickets. General Manager Emily Mewett fearlessly guides the team and keeps the company flourishing. Creative Director Tricia Black continues to create new and original works for the group despite having become a renowned TV actor and comedian.

When not putting on their own original work, the company stages existing material with which they have been highly successful. Hits such Godspell, Mamma Mia!, Salt Water Moon, and The Last Five Years, to name a few. Constantly they workshop new musical works through their incubation residency and site specific programs.

Since its humble beginnings, the company has grown tenfold, all while staying true to its roots. In fact, their growth has allowed them to expand further into Hastings County. Throughout the 2010s, their original musicals garnered critical and audience acclaim. Enduring partnerships with local businesses and associations allowed them to build a passionate board of directors and create a vibrant sponsorship program. With charitable status and some government funding, they have quickly became the revered community pillar they are today.

Growing fast

Even an international pandemic couldn’t stop Tweed & Co’s expansion. At the end of 2021, they were laying the groundwork for their next big step: taking over operations at the Bancroft Village Playhouse. Just forty five minutes north of Tweed, running this nearly two hundred seat theatre has been a long-time dream for the team.

We fell in love with the building the minute we set foot in the door in 2018,” Emily explains. And around the same time, they struck a deal with the Tweed & Area Arts Council to transfer ownership of Tweed & Co’s main performance venue, the Marble Arts Centre in Actinolite, to the company as well.


The team performing Hasting! The Musical in 2017

Needless to say, we were ecstatic about acquiring both these venues to kick off our 2022 season,” adds Tim. “It was our biggest season yet – until this year’s, of course.”

It’s difficult to imagine topping 2022: the theatre produced full seasons at both venues that brought in local and far-away talent alike, expanded their community sponsorship connections, started youth programming in Tweed and Bancroft, and so much more. And yet, they’ve managed to top it by introducing their third venue in under two years – one they’ve built from scratch.

Building an exciting legacy

Nestled in the heart of downtown Tweed at Memorial Park, the Tweed & Company Outdoor Stage hosted its inaugural show in May and already has concerts lined up for the rest of the season. This state-of-the-art facility stands just in front of Stoco Lake and is designed for acoustic excellence.

And as their company has grown, so has their ability to support other local, budding musical theatre artists. “It’s important to us that we uplift and promote the next generation of musical theatre writers,” says Tim. “If we want more local, Canadian musicals, we need to support them from the ground up.” The company has provided artist residencies and site-specific project opportunities that have led to new productions and creative partnerships.

The company is incredibly proud of how far they have come. “We were a group of friends that wanted to make original musicals together, and we did that,” Tim says. “We have strong roots in Tweed and are honoured to now be part of the Bancroft community, who have welcomed us with open arms.”

So, what does the success of this theatre company say about Hastings County? That it’s a place of ample opportunity where community and arts are highly valued. The theatre company will continue to evolve and change as the county does. Now on the other side of the pandemic, audiences can attend Tweed & Company’s shows and revel in the undeniable magic that comes with sitting among a group of people and watching a live performance together.

The 2023 Season

Here’s the lineup: the summer kicks off with a new original musical called Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now, which runs June 8-10th in Tweed, then June 14-18th in Bancroft. The story centres around the life and advocacy of the legendary Canadian music icon and features her greatest hits like River, Big Yellow Taxi, A Case of You, and more.

Then, Murder at Ackerton Manor, a new, hilarious, Agatha-Christie-style-whodunnit by nationally revered playwright Steven Gallagher is playing in Tweed from July 6-8th and in Bancroft from the 12-18th. From August 16-27th, the mega hit Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will rock the Bancroft Village Playhouse, and September 21-23rd, catch Janelle Hanna starring in Miss Caledonia at the Marble Arts Centre.

Spooky season will introduce The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: a new tradition at the Bancroft Village Playhouse, the first endeavour of the new BVP Community Theatre Project, October 26-28th. December will mark the return of the popular holiday pantomime that guarantees fun for the whole family, this year, The Lion of Oz will hit both stages, in Tweed from December 5-9th, and Bancroft from the 13-23rd. At the Outdoor Stage, catch the Hastings County Concert Band on August 5th and Music in the Park events throughout the summer. In between all these amazing shows, there’s many noteworthy concerts including the AC/DC Canada Show, Leisa Way’s Early Morning Rain, and much more.


Tickets prices range from $22.50 to $39.50. The company strives to keep pricing affordable, so there’s senior, youth/student, and arts worker ticket prices for most events, along with group and family ticket discounts from 10-15% off, and season passes that start at $59. To learn more about this year’s season and book tickets, check out https://www.tweedandcompany.com/home or call 613-478-6060.


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