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Multiple sclerosis forces retirement on STC artistic director

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Feb 06, 2014 - 8:37 AM |
Sudbury Theatre Centre artistic director David Savoy, seen here last year at the launch of the theatre's 2013-2014 season, announced his retirement from the theatre Feb. 5. File photo.

Sudbury Theatre Centre artistic director David Savoy, seen here last year at the launch of the theatre's 2013-2014 season, announced his retirement from the theatre Feb. 5. File photo.

David Savoy says he's loved working at Sudbury theatre

After more than four years with Sudbury Theatre Centre, artistic director David Savoy announced Feb. 5 he's stepping down in March due to the progression of his multiple sclerosis.

The 55-year-old went from using a walker to a wheelchair and mobility scooter two years ago, and is finding it increasingly difficult to get around. Savoy said he'll be moving to Toronto, where he owns a condo and has nearby family.

While he said he'd like to dabble in theatre in his retirement, he admits he's at a bit of a “tipping point” in his career because so many theatre spaces aren't easily accessible to his wheelchair.

“That's a bit frustrating and a bit demoralizing in a way,” Savoy said.

Savoy has been in the theatre business for more than 30 years, and has previously been the artistic director at Showboat Theatre in Port Colborne and St. Lawrence Stage Company in Brockville.

When asked what he's most proud of in his time at Sudbury Theatre Centre, Savoy said it's bringing a certain friendliness to the organization.

He said he's done his best to make everyone from audiences to actors to production workers feel welcome at the theatre.

If that means selling 50-50 tickets at shows himself — as Savoy's been known to do — than so be it. He also personally greets audiences before performances.

“You're coming into our house, and we will make sure you've had a good time,” he said.

Savoy said he thinks the theatre's friendly vibe might partly be because of his unique hiring technique.

When faced with candidates with equal qualifications, he always picks the person he'd most like to have dinner with, something he thinks translates into how theatre patrons are treated.

Savoy said he's also proud of bringing in Sudbury Theatre Centre's playwright-in-residence, Matt Heiti, who started the Playwrights' Junction.

The group provides training to aspiring playwrights and the chance to hear their work read on stage by actors.

“That's the most wonderful gift that you can give to a writer, is the opportunity for them to hear and see their work in front of an audience,” Savoy said.

Heiti's own play, "Mucking in the Drift," was featured on Sudbury Theatre Centre's main stage last fall — a first for a local playwright.

Savoy said his time at Sudbury Theatre Centre is definitely one of the highlights of his long career.

In particular, he recalls sitting in the theatre during Sudbury Theatre Centre's 2010 production of Vigil by playwright Morris Paynich, and thinking that to him, everything about it was just perfect.

“Looking at the stage, I just had this flash in my mind, that this is what I've always dreamed of,” Savoy said. “This is what the play would look like. This is what an audience would look like ... That was wonderful.”

In a press release put out by Sudbury Theatre Centre, the theatre's board chair, Brian Koivu, praised Savoy for the positive relationship he's built with audiences during his time at the theatre.

“David made it his business to greet every audience, every performance, for over four years,” said Koivu.

“His connection with the patrons was extraordinary; everyone visiting the theatre felt welcomed as if David was inviting them into his home.

“He has taken audiences on a wonderful journey through comedies, dramas, and musicals, and the entire board of directors wishes him well as he begins this new chapter in his life.”

A search committee has begun the task of finding Savoy's replacement.
Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer

@heidi_ulrichsen

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