A message from BTT’s new artistic director and from its founder

October 10, 2017


From incoming artistic director Stephen Waldschmidt:

Warm autumn greetings to you!

Exciting things are afoot for our company. In 2007 James Popoff and I dreamed of a theatre company which would tell new stories created through the integration of spiritual and artistic practices. Living stories that would call people to respond actively with their lives.

In Hockey Dad: A Play in 3 Periods, audiences were invited to family reconciliation. In producing the She Has a Name cross-Canada tour (in partnership with Raise Their Voice), we moved people to join the work of abolishing modern-day slavery. With We Are the Body we called people to advocate for prisoners of conscience. Ten years later, following 5 world premiere productions with performances in 25 cities from Halifax to Victoria, we’re opening a new chapter in our Burnt Thicket story.

After a decade as founding artistic director, James Popoff, together with his wife Julie, made the difficult decision to resign from this position. Burnt Thicket Theatre [BTT] would not exist without Jamie’s dedication and years of service. Together with the BTT board of directors, I want to thank Jamie and his family for his committed, creative work over the last ten years. Please read his words at right.

I’m grateful to announce that I’ve accepted the BTT board’s invitation to step into a new role as the company’s artistic director. I have sought to be a supportive presence in the company from the beginning, serving as a volunteer artistic associate since 2007, and a contracted artist for multiple productions. My work with the company has included the scenic design and direction for She Has a Name and We Are the Body, along with co-creating and directing Hockey Dad.

Our company is moving to Saskatoon, where four of our shows have toured, and where I’ve lived since Kirsten and I moved here in 2013 for her work, together with our three children. Saskatoon is a vibrant arts centre and has become a base of significant support for our company over the past 3 years.

We continue under the same mandate as a company, with a goal of producing one play and developing one new script each year. We will continue touring our larger productions whenever possible, especially to central and southern Alberta. This year we’re producing Christmas Presence in Saskatoon, a unique mashup of stories and songs that explores the incarnation with a messy but joyful hope. We’re working towards a production in 2018 of Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan, with Jonny Donahoe. The New York Post describes this new play as, “the funniest show about depression you’ve ever seen… [It’s] about finding reasons to live… And those reasons can be as minute as wearing a cape and as big as falling in love.”

Since our last major production We Are the Body in 2015, seven new scripts by playwrights from Alberta and Saskatchewan have received development support. (Script development may include commissioning funds, assistance in refining the internal logic of a story, workshop readings with an audience, and advocacy for a playwright’s new work.)

It’s never been more urgent to work to restore life in our world – global events threaten human rights, Canada wrestles with how to follow the stirring call to reconciliation, and so many individuals in our communities are isolated, to name just a few realities. Our original performances offer a unique and powerful way to lead people “to live more engaged lives for the common good.” We believe this kind of theatre matters. Here’s one example: in 2012 a young woman saw She Has a Name in Kelowna and then disclosed to her mother that in watching the play she realized her supposed boyfriend was actually grooming her to be trafficked.

Would you partner with us in bringing these kind of stories to the stage? Burnt Thicket Theatre could not exist without the support of its donors.

Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to what’s in store for our audiences!

Grateful for your partnership,

Stephen Waldschmidt
artistic director


From founding artistic director James Popoff:

“Burnt Thicket Theatre began as an idea in 1991. I had just returned from a summer in South Africa where I was part of a team touring short sketches and puppet plays. There was, at that time, a desire birthed in me to tell stories that could enliven audiences. I am thankful, all these years later that this dream found legs and proud of the stories we have told.

“This past spring, together with my wife Julie, I made the very difficult decision to resign from my position as founding artistic director. I want to take a moment to thank those that supported Burnt Thicket Theatre over the past 10 years. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for all those that joined with us in enlivening audiences: for those who offered their artistic or administrative gifts, for those who offered financial support, for board members that offered guidance, for those who came to our shows, for those who offered encouragement and prayer. Thank you for being part of the journey.

“While I have stepped aside, Burnt Thicket Theatre will continue to tell enlivening stories. I am pleased that Stephen Waldschmidt, who has been an integral part of BTT’s history, has accepted the board’s invitation to become Burnt Thicket’s next A.D. Steve brings a passion, skill set, and desire to serve that will provide the kind of leadership needed to guide Burnt Thicket Theatre into the next chapter. I look forward to the stories to come.”

– James Popoff, October 11, 2017


Passing the Torch: Burnt Thicket’s Cycling Challenge

Jamie & Julie Popoff; Steve & Kirsten Waldschmidt and their kids, and a map from Calgary to Saskatoon
Jamie & Julie Popoff at left; Steve & Kirsten Waldschmidt and their kids at right.

On October 27-29 Jamie & Julie Popoff, together with friends of the company, will bike the total kilometers from Calgary to Saskatoon to pass the Burnt Thicket torch. They’ll be joined by our board president Andy Wilson, incoming artistic director Stephen Waldschmidt, his wife Kirsten and three kids, and a host of others to ride a minimum of 600km by Oct 29.

We invite you to sponsor the ride!

Sponsor the ride by becoming a monthly donor or make a special gift to ensure our enlivening stories are experienced by Canadians for another 10 years. Let’s write a new chapter in the Burnt Thicket story together! (All gifts over $10 will receive a charitable tax receipt from our office.)

Partner with us to reach our goal of raising $12,000! (that’s $20 per km cycled x 600km)


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Donate now to create more life-altering theatre.