The PARC Company Profile for March is Live Bait Theatre (NB)!

Mar 7, 2024


Live Bait Theatre, located in Sackville, New Brunswick, has the unique responsibility of being the only professional theatre company operating in English in the region, and one of only a few fully professional companies operating in New Brunswick. The company was founded in 1988 by Mount Allison graduates, Randy White, Ann Rowley and Charlie Rhindress. Karen Valanne worked with the company that first year, and she and Rhindress took over the artistic leadership in 1993. Over the next 20+ years they developed Live Bait into a theatre company with a reputation for excellence, for fostering new works, developing regional theatre artists, and strong community involvement. Lee J Campbell, Andrea Boyd and Ron Kelly Spurles have also served as Artistic Directors of Live Bait.

Over the years, the company has nurtured playwrights, actors, directors and designers from the Atlantic region, while also introducing audiences to plays from elsewhere in Canada and the international repertoire. Live Bait’s history of producing original and established plays, musicals and revues has significantly enhanced the cultural life of this central maritime region.


Live Bait would like to acknowledge, honour, and pay respect to the traditional owners and custodians (from all four directions), of the land on which Live Bait works. It is upon the unceded ancestral lands of the Mi’kmaw people, that our operations take place. While this area is known as Sackville, NB, the territory is part of the greater territory of Mi’kma’ki.

Live Bait Theatre is committed to enhancing the cultural life of the central Maritime region by providing entertaining and innovative professional theatre as well as a variety of other live performances including dinner theatre, comedy and live music. Live Bait Theatre tells entertaining, thought-provoking stories with an emphasis on new Canadian scripts and plays that are new to the central Maritime region. Live Bait is committed to contributing to the canon of Canadian theatre by nurturing new plays and visionary artists. Live Bait Theatre is a registered non-profit charitable organization.

We asked some questions to the Artistic Director, Ron Kelly Spurles, for our members to get to know Live Bait Theatre better.

Artistic directors play a pivotal role in shaping a company’s artistic vision. What is the driving force behind your company’s mission? How do you select the plays and projects that align with this vision, and what impact do you hope to have on your audience and the artistic community?

“We have been focusing almost exclusively on new work since I (Ron Kelly Spurles) became Artistic Director. This happened for a number of reasons – a major one being that it’s part of our mandate. But also I am a creator/writer, and I had a few things I wanted to do that I thought were really interesting and that I thought would interest our audience. Some local-ish history stories that were really compelling and exciting to explore. Then we began to do more outreach and to put energy and focus into fostering the creation of new work by people in the community. We saw there was a real interest in that, and people with real passion and talent to bring to the table. We’ve had some great success and wonderful experiences working with people from all around the Maritimes really, but I saw an opportunity to develop some of our local playwrights and to really expand the theatre community here. Both for artists and for audiences. So that’s what we did. As we’re in a very small town, and a bit isolated artistically because of that, I also wanted to see if we could leverage some of our resources and explore some partnerships where everyone could benefit. We’ve had really outstanding collaboration with probably a half-dozen organizations in the Maritimes, bringing in work, co-producing work, taking our work there. It just makes so much sense and gives our local audience the opportunity to experience some great high quality theatre they might not have otherwise had the chance to. Finally, we also realized we needed to go more stuff in general to raise our profile and to reestablish our place in the community. So we started doing a lot more outreach, and programs for young people, and things like the New Works Festival . . . were artists and audiences can learn together and can stretch their creative wings!”

Every theatre company has its standout productions that linger in the hearts of the audience. Could you share a memorable Atlantic Canadian production from your company’s repertoire? What made it special, and how did it resonate with both the team and the audience?

“There are so many. I’ve been in Sackville for about 20 years now, so I saw about 12 years of Live Bait shows before I became Artistic Director. But I wasn’t that involved before, so I guess I’ll have to focus on something that happened during my tenure. But I can’t stress enough that Live Bait developed to be the company it is because of the tremendously hard work of Charlie Rhindress, Karen Valanne and the other Artistic Directors, plus literally hundreds of other theatre workers, audience members, volunteers, etc.

So my heart lingering production would have to be “Cole”, which I wrote. It was the first major show we did after I became Artistic Director (in 2017). The show came about because of the walk I take on my way to work everyday. It passes by a baseball field called “The Chester Cole Memorial Ball Field”. My son also played baseball there. There is a memorial there that reads, IN MEMORY OF CHESTER COLE, 1926 WORLD JUNIOR SPEED SKATING CHAMPION, WHO DIED IN 1930 AS A RESULT OF AN INJURY RECEIVED WHILE RACING AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN IN NEW YORK.

I looked at this memorial countless times . . . and I always wondered what had happened to him. What was he doing in New York? At Madison Square Gardens? How was he injured? How did it kill him? And how had he, hailing from little Town of Sackville New Brunswick, become the 1926 world junior speed skating champion?

The opportunity then to produce a play of my own creation, spurred by my curiosity on this subject, compelled me to begin the writing the play that would become “Cole”. Although I had a lot of theatre experience before becoming Live Bait’s AD, there was a still a fairly steep learning curve for the ins and outs of producing an original play in a remote-ish part of the Maritimes. At the same time, I was also looking to start rebuilding the company which had become less active in the few years previous. We had some resources, but there was a lot of scrambling to assemble a production and administrative team to mount a professional show.

I was lucky, as I have been through all my tenure at Live Bait, to have a friendship and working relationship with Founding Artistic Director Charlie Rhindress. As it turned out, Charlie had moved back to the area after an absence of some years, and he was possibly interested in directing the as yet unwritten show. And direct it he did . . . but actually, he did much more than that. He also dramaturged the show (and even did a small amount of uncredited writing as we got close to rehearsal and the script still needed work!). And he pulled together an excellent professional design and production team which included Garrett Barker’s terrific lighting and set design. And over a few months, he turned an ensemble comprised of some professional actors and some young people from the community into a sold cast. And he created a truly thoughtful and innovative production that was a strong start to my tenure at Live Bait.

I wish I could end the story there. But I can’t. Part of the stars that aligned to make the show so special was the availability of an amazing venue just outside of Town. ”The Music Barn” is a century old building that is used for some concerts and other events, but mainly as a wedding venue. As we were searching for possible places to do the show, I happened to connect with the owner who told me that there had been cancellations of two bookings at the barn for the exact dates we were looking for (It’s generally booked at least two years in advance!). Perhaps it was the fate of the star-crossed lovers who had had to cancel their plans on such short notice, that caused what subsequently happened to us. We knew when we booked the Music Barn that it was unheated, but usually Sackville is fairly pleasant at the end of May. And since we were doing a play about a speedskater, we kind of thought a little chill might add to the atmosphere of the play. After the dress rehearsal though, where actors sat huddled covered in blankets between scenes, we finally had to admit defeat and cancel opening night due to an unexpected Artic chill that had descended on Southeast New Brunswick. We were able to salvage the rest of the run, but attendance was less than we had hoped for. As our audiences tend to be older, we think the chilly weather probably scared them away even from the later performances.

On a more positive note – we are hoping to able to present an except from the show during the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame presentations that are happening in Sackville this summer. And 2026 actually marks the 100th anniversary of Chester Cole winning his title. Does anyone hear the word “remount” echoing in the wind?

And to answer the questions about Chester Cole above – What was he doing in New York? He was training hoping to eventually qualify for the Olympics. – At Madison Square Gardens? – He was racing in a heat. – How was he injured? – just a run of the mill collision with another skater where he cut his knee. – How did it kill him? He got sepsis and it eventually killed him. And how had he, hailing from little Town of Sackville New Brunswick, become the 1926 world junior speed skating champion? – it was the under 14-year-old division, and it was held in Saint John New Brunswick that year.”

Tell us about the significance of PARC for the development of your company. What was the importance/ impact of our services for your organization?

“In all the work I have done, and Live Bait has done (including well before I started), PARC has been a guiding light and invaluable partner. Going back to the superbly talented Jenny Munday, through Pam Halstead’s incredibly supportive tenure, and now in the nurturing hands of Santiago Guzman, PARC has strengthened, challenged, and nurtured countless artists of all ages connected to Live Bait, and of course well beyond us. A one-of-a-kind organization, that makes the often challenging process of birthing a new play not only less terrifying, but even a soul affirming experience. Thank you, PARC, from the bottom of my heart!”

Learn more about Live Bait Theatre:





Live Bait Theatre is pleased to present its 6th annual New Works Festival running March 21 to 28 in Sackville, New Brunswick. This year’s festival features the reading and presentation of new plays by Morgan Grant, Sue Rose, Devin Rockwell and Michael Warren, and the presentation of award winning plays by young people from the Atlantic Provinces (in conjunction with Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre). It also features a concert with Caged Animals and Tess Poirier (in collaboration with Sappyfest and CHMA Radio), and workshops in Panto with CJ Norris and Improvisation (for adults and children) with Hannah Lucas. There will also be a workshop and presentation on beading by Indigenous artist Paul Brisk Jr. As part of the Festival, best-selling author, Charlie Rhindress, will read from his upcoming book, Nova Scotia’s Women of Song, which will be released this Fall. The book features profiles of six trailblazing artists, including Portia White, Anne Murray, and Sarah McLachlan. All events at the New Works Festival are pay what you can, and where possible they will also be live streamed.

Please visit Live Bait Theatre Website for all the details and to reserve your place at a Festival event.