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Beckie Morris’ Mural wins the space on the Wall

September 16, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

A beautiful new mural has been installed on the west facing wall of the Chocolate Shop at Broadway and Second Street. The winning designer and artist of this recent addition to Orangeville’s outdoor gallery of murals, Beckie Morris, chatted to the Citizen earlier this week about the mural and the thinking that went into creating it. Ms. Morris is Theatre Orangeville’s Production Manager.

She said, “There was an open call for artists for submit designs for this mural. It needs to be interactive, one that people will want to take photos in front of it and to celebrate the theatre. I was a bit concerned that my image was a bit a dark, not in content but in colour.”

Creating images from two shows, she told the Citizen, “From when Theatre Orangeville Young Company did Just This Once Upon a Time. For that, I did a pop-up book, a functioning life size book and the other part of the piece is the curtain from Queen Milli of Galt [a Theatre Orangeville professional production on the main stage]. As a commercial artist, I was trying to meet the brief – I thought the curtain was the frame to show that you’re at the theatre and that would be all that’s needed.”

As well as the artistic submission, the town also asked that Theatre Orangeville provide the text.

“I thought it was just the image when I submitted and they asked Theatre Orangeville to provide the text,” Ms. Morris remarked and, of course, she went on to do the most brilliant thing, explaining, “I was a week thinking about it and then I did the Norman Bray [the play, Norman Bray in the Performance of his Life] like a big marquee. So, I did a Theatre Orangeville Presents text in that style.”


We digressed a little to talk about life with Theatre Orangeville and she was very happy to announce, “We are going into rehearsal next week…” for the first in-theatre production since the initial lockdown in March of 2020, with Same Time, Next Year, a classic two person play, written by Canadian playwright, Bernard Slade.

She said, “I have designed the new sets already,” and told us, “I am so grateful for the Board of Trade’s great program that keeps us safe. They provide rapid testing for our entire onsite staff once a week.”

The way time flies, it has been about 13 years since Beckie Morris joined the team at Theatre Orangeville.

“I only thought I’d only be here for a few years; I was used to doing contract to contract but I just fell in love here, with what they’re doing in the community and the talent that comes here. Being able to foster that sense of community and pride and that sense of inclusion, creating that safe space is kind-of like constantly trying to discover where the barriers are then trying to remove them or work around them.”

Improving on the paucity of activities during 2020, Theatre Orangeville was able to produce a show with Young Company, doing a version of Clue, in a tent by the Rehearsal Hall in the CLD building the theatre shares.

“Outdoor theatre has its own set of problems,” Ms. Morris commented, “For everything outdoors, we have a set supervisor who watches the weather. Only lightning actually shuts it down. Cassel [Miles, currently performing Josiah] said he does his warm ups and then just focusses all his attention to the performance.”

Enthusiastically, she admitted, “I cannot wait to be back in the theatre, to be able to put the technical side back into the shows but I appreciate every step that we’ve put into getting back.”

Of the call to artists that began her creating this mural, “I love to just get the wheels spinning – I have found it difficult to be creative. So, every time there is a call for artists, it’s like a push. I must have come up with 30 drafts; some I just deleted. To think about, then try again.”

The final result, “I got make a piece I was happy with in this style. I put it out there – this is my piece if you don’t like it, that’s okay.”

The way the mural went up, it was printed on vinyl and pasted to the wall, allowing the contours (only) of the bricks to be visible through the material. Once the install process happened, it was really quick “and it was really fun to watch.”

The other great advantage to using vinyl is there is no harm done to the wall and Ms. Morris observed, “It means there are no barriers to putting art up, bar the cost.”

Orangeville loves art; loves colour: the rainbow cross walk at Broadway and Mill Street. A person can like it for many reasons and she would love to see more of that everywhere – art everywhere.

“I was lucky enough to be selected from [another] of the town’s call for artists,” she recalled. “I did a story book. I contributed it as a utility box but they asked if they could make it a mural to show all the detail.”

In order to see Ms. Morris’ other art work, namely the sets she creates for the plays produced there, you have to go to the theatre but the public art outside is something a person can see just walking down the street.

Her comment: “I love being at the library and watching people touch those books and watching people getting their picture taken with it. What works well is if you crouch down to take the picture – whoever takes the photo, get them to crouch down.” 

Attending Fanshaw College for Theatre Production, as a first step to being involved in theatre, it was there she learned she likes to build things: ships, furniture, walls; how to use a drill and putting a set together collaboratively is really fun for her, plus learning “the thrill of working with a team of people.”

It was a great foundation and she said, “I was so eager to get out and this gave me my skills and let me get out and make stuff.”

Over the last seven years, Beckie Morris has designed most of the productions Theatre Orangeville has produced. She and the creative team work together to make it all happen and she acknowledges fully, “If there were not that great team, my drawings on paper wouldn’t mean anything.”

She gives her early childhood credit, saying, “I think this all comes because I was encouraged to read from an early age and the images that come from that, it’s how I see them now.”

Each new set design begins with a rough draft and then a meeting with Artistic Director and, very often the director of the play, David Nairn.

“Sometimes, we talk it out and make it work – others, he just says, ‘That works.’ We work well together but that first meeting with him, I’m always nervous.”

About the mural on the Chocolate Shop wall, “I’m so glad to be accepted and to win and I feel so glad to see this on the wall. It’s another way to promote the theatre for people who haven’t been there yet.”

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