Kingston’s Cultural Gems: The Grand Theatre

By Sara Smith

If you’re in search of an evening of entertainment and exhilaration, look no further than The Grand Theatre. Kingston’s premiere venue for all things related to music, comedy, and performance, this intimate theatre plays host to some of the world’s most exciting acts. We spoke to performing arts manager Jayson Duggan to learn more about this year’s most buzz-worthy shows, and why top talents keep flocking to The Grand.

Visit Kingston: What is your role at the Kingston Grand?

Jayson Duggan: As performing arts manager for the City of Kingston, part of my job is to curate the Grand Theatre Presents season, which is a multi-discipline performing arts series that runs between September and April each year. It features over 40 national and international performances, and typically covers everything from comedy, to blues, to dance, jazz, and everything in between.

VK: What’s your favourite thing about your job?

JD: Ultimately, the most enjoyable part of my job is when the artist steps onstage, the audience reacts, and the reviews of everyone’s experience are positive. But as a presenter, my job changes every day. I’m working with different artists on a daily basis, learning constantly about new talent, and becoming better informed about the different art forms.

VK: What have been some of your favourite shows from recent years? Any standout memories from your time at the Grand?

JD: One standout show was Jon Batiste, performing with his band Stay Human. Batiste is now the bandleader for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. It was an unbelievable night of jazz music for those lucky enough to see it – it was just before his big break.
Certainly Burton Cummings this year was a big deal for me – only because Burton really hasn’t done smaller venues, like our 775 seat hall, in a very long time. So when I had the chance to book that performance, I knew it was going to be very successful, and popular for our community – and it was! It sold out incredibly fast.
Another one that stood out for me was when we were fortunate enough to present Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and their performance of Truth and Reconciliation. That particular work was their nationally-recognized collaboration addressing the impact of the residential school system. It acted as an important catalyst in our community leading to discussions around the issue. It was one of those special moments that combined fabulous art with a very relevant, poignant, and deeply impactful social issue.

VK: What exciting things do you have lined up for 2017?

JD: First we’re excited that it’s the 10th anniversary of the Presenting program. 2008 was the first time the City of Kingston decided that it was important that the diversity of the programming represents our community, and offered new and really interesting programs. So we’re going into our 10th season, and we’re really excited about all of the shows lined up for the upcoming year. (Tanya Tagaq, acclaimed Juno and Polaris prize winning throat singer, is just one of the exciting acts lined up for next season).
For the rest of this season, we have shows right through until May 4th. We’re very fortunate in Kingston, because of the geography of the city. With shows that typically wouldn’t come and play a smaller city on their own, we can take advantage of those off-nights between playing the major centres like Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal. This is one of those shows – it’s an international touring spectacle playing major cities, but we were able to get a date on their way into Toronto. It’s a live show featuring Brazilian dancers, musicians, and singers, and I am definitely looking forward to it.

Photo via The Kingston Grand

Tanya Tagaq, photo via The Kingston Grand

VK: What makes the Grand one of Kingston’s “must-visit” venues?

JD: Something that’s always very important to us is the total patron experience. So coming to The Grand is more than just coming to see a performance: it’s the experience of being in a world-class, intimate facility with outstanding acoustics and friendly staff that’s located downtown in the heart of the city, it’s readily accessible, it’s surrounded by great restaurants, and you can make a whole night of it.
For me, I feel that is is fantastic to be able to buy a ticket to a Grand Theatre Presents performance and know that you are guaranteed to see something that is world-class, and yet so close to home.