Accomplished writer and performer Sara Tilley has decided to close her long-running feminist theatre company, She Said Yes!. Here, Tilley performs as Fruithead in her solo clown show of the same name, produced by She Said Yes!, in 2013.
©Submitted photo by Kyle Bustin
It was an announcement over which Sara Tilley admits she spent time procrastinating, but knew she’d be making sometime before 2016 was up. Late last week the acclaimed writer and performer dove in and made the post on her website without mincing words: She Said Yes!, her theatre company of almost 15 years, is no more.
I simply cannot put in the volunteer hours to run this company like I was once able to, and neither can the company expand to access better funding in order to grow without the sacrifice of a creative life to one that would, in effect, be mainly administrative. Sara Tilley
With a degree in acting from York University, Sara founded She Said Yes! in 2002, with a mandate to further the development of feminist theatre in Newfoundland and Labrador. Over the years the theatre company was instrumental in this regard, producing and workshopping dozens of shows, as well as co-founding the Women’s Work Theatre Festival with White Rooster Productions and RCA Theatre Company, and earning Tilley the Rhonda Payne Memorial Theatre Award for women in Newfoundland.
Through She Said Yes!, Tilley also ran a popular long-distance dramaturgy program, which saw playwrights with drafts of original scripts paired with professional dramaturges and given one-on-one support through e-mail and Skype.
Tilley made the decision to wind down She Said Yes! over time, saying the theatre company was no longer feasible.
“I simply cannot put in the volunteer hours to run this company like I was once able to, and neither can the company expand to access better funding in order to grow without the sacrifice of a creative life to one that would, in effect, be mainly administrative,” Tilley wrote. “As this company started as a way to create new work, I need to refocus on that goal. The machine itself has taken up so much energy and time that the creation part has been consumed, and I want desperately to get back to a place where making is the focus of my time.”
Tilley’s announcement was met with love and support from other local theatre companies and artists, and sparked a discussion about a lack of provincial funding and changes in access to it as an issue for many in the arts community. Tilley admits these things had a role to play in the closure of She Said Yes!.
The theatre company was just one of many facets of Tilley’s career. She’s a novelist, whose debut novel “Skin Room” won the Newfoundland and Labrador Percy Janes First Novel Award as well as the Fresh Fish Award for emerging writers and was shortlisted for the Winterset Award, among others. Her second novel, 2015’s “Duke,” won the BMO Winterset Award and the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage and History Award, and made the longlist for the prestigious Dublin International Literary Award.
Trained in the Pochinko method of clowning through mask, Tilley has created and performed as a number of characters (most notably Fruithead), and teaches clown and mask training. She’s also a puppeteer and puppet designer.
Tilley has no plans to stop any of her creative work or teaching, she just won’t be channeling it through She Said Yes! any more, she says.
Among other projects, Tilley’s currently working on a graphic novel collaboration with local visual artist Audrey Hurd, a new solo puppet show for all ages called “Hungry Little Shadow,” inspired by a Slovenian folktale, and a new script for a play. She told The Telegram she’s open to all kinds of collaborations and experiments.
“Onwards to new adventures in theatre, life and creativity,” she wrote to her supporters. “If you are looking for a collaborator, I might be available!”
Are you an artist who is finding it challenging to access project funding in this province? Do you have no problems with this issue at all? Share your comments by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.