A fan-favourite for theatre-goers in the Strait region has taken a curtain call – at least, for now – as he embarks on a new role.
Jeremy Webb, a mainstay performer with Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre (FAST) for most of the past decade-and-a-half, will be the new artistic director of Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
“I sat down with myself and had a little meeting – worked out what I wanted to do with my life and my career,” he said, reflecting on that moment that took place about 10 years ago.
Webb described securing that prestigious theatre position as “a long-standing career goal.”
“I thought – I have to get sensible about this and make a plan as to how to achieve it,” he said.
Webb decided he needed to spend three or four years “increasing my profile and producing shows of my own.”
“Showing theatre-goers and theatres that I can do this myself,” he said.
Describing it as phase two, Webb added, the next step was running a mid-sized theatre company.
“And getting a pay cheque for doing that,” he noted.
That opportunity came with Eastern Front Theatre Company.
“I jumped at it,” Webb said of the opportunity to serve as artistic producer.
Coincidentally, he noted, a short time later FAST announced the departure of long-time artistic producer Ed Thomason.
“I kicked myself for about an hour – that I didn’t hang on for a few months – but life moves on,” Webb said of that potential opportunity.
When word came about the Neptune Theatre opening, he didn’t hesitate.
“I was able to apply and then – the crazy part is – they actually gave me the job – my dream job,” Webb quipped.
He talked about why it is his ‘dream job.’
“I love producing, creating and directing theatre,” Webb said.
“I really enjoy being on stage but, in the last five or six years, I have moved away from that, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it, if you had been in Antigonish this summer (laughing).
“I really enjoy the, sort of, behind-the-scenes creative process,” he added.
Webb also loves living in Nova Scotia.
“So, when you put the two things together, for me, what is the job that I can apply for here that will help me reach that ultimate goal,” he said.
That’s artistic director of Neptune Theatre.
“That building and I have had a 19-year relationship. Ever since, literally, the day after I arrived in the country, permanently, back in 1998,” Webb said of the Argyle Street location.
“I got off the plane and then, the next day, I was in rehearsal for Blood Brothers, a British musical.
“So, as long as I have been in Canada, I have been in that building – pretty regularly – so I have a great love for it,” he added.
As for his time with FAST over the years, Webb called it “amazing,” and expressing his affection for the Bauer Theatre stage on the St. F.X. campus.
“Antigonish has long been, sort of, a regular gig for me and it has become – I know it sounds so cliché – a summer home away from home,” he said.
Webb also praised the Bauer audiences.
“When I bring my shows there – like Christmas Carol over the last number of years – it has always been great to see those shows, sort of, spark some interest because people, maybe, know me from the summer,” he noted.
And, this summer was no exception, with Webb taking the stage for two Main Stage productions with FAST.
“Essentially, I knew that the last performance of The Hounds of the Baskervilles was going to be my last on-stage performance for, potentially, the next five years,” he said.
“Although there is nothing in my contract with Neptune that says I cannot go on stage, again, but I am going to be a little busy (laughing).
“So, going into that last performance was quite emotional for me – I didn’t really mention that to anyone,” Webb added.
He started thinking about his last performance a couple weeks earlier.
“It is going to be sweating on the Bauer stage, doing a zany comedy – multiple role playing – and being absolutely physically exhausted,” Webb remembered thinking.
“Proving the point that a 49-year-old man should not be running around, like an idiot, because it is unhealthy (laughing); acting is hard work.”
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean it is the end for Bauer audiences.
“Hopefully, with [FAST artistic director] Andrea’s [Boyd] permission, this won’t be the end of my relationship with Festival Antigonish,” he added.
“I have plays that can come up and be performed, I have the opportunity to direct for other companies, so I am sure I will be back.
“It is not goodbye,” he added.
Webb begins his five-year tenure Jan. 1.
“I hope that folks will come down and see what I am doing there,” he said.
For more information about Neptune Theatre, visit neptunetheatre.com