The Theatre on King celebrates 10 years of ‘independent, black-box, theatre’ in Peterborough

Artistic director of TTOK Ryan Kerr on stage at the 10th anniversary party.
Artistic Director Ryan Kerr during his opening remarks at the 10th anniversary party. Photo by Andy Carroll.
Edward Sweeney - CFFF - PeterboroughON | 26-07-2023
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Editor’s note: Eddy Sweeney is involved in The Theatre on King community, having performed in multiple shows with the company in the past. Despite his personal connection to this arts organization, he has chosen to report on the story because CFFF feels the story is valuable to its listeners and Sweeney is the sole journalist working at CFFF.

The Theatre on King (TTOK), a theatre located in downtown Peterborough, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. They held an anniversary party and donor celebration at TTOK on July 14 to show their appreciation for their community.

TTOK is, as its name suggests, located on King Street and was opened by artistic director Ryan Kerr in 2013 after he identified a gap in the Peterborough arts community.

“I opened a small theatre hoping that I could rejuvenate the independent, art scene here in town,” says Kerr. “Peterborough hadn’t had an independent, black-box theatre since about ’97.”

Kerr has always been committed to making the space as welcoming for performances as possible, saying that part of his motto since the beginning is that TTOK is a place where “you can afford to fail,” an opportunity that is difficult to find elsewhere, as Kerr believes.

TTOK being a black-box theatre also aligns with Kerr’s intention for the space: "black-box" theatres often closely resemble a black box. In this case, it is a small theatre, with all of its surfaces painted black, with highly customizable stage layouts and seating orientations. They act as a physical blank canvas for performances, leaving as much room for creativity as possible.

Beyond celebrating 10 years in the community, the party was held to show appreciation for donors. These donations came from community members after TTOK faced financial difficulties earlier in 2023 when they did not receive a grant from the City of Peterborough, the community investment grant, that they have received in previous years.

“Last year, we got $15,000, which is the maximum you can apply for. This year we got zero,” said Kerr.

It was unclear whether TTOK would be able to remain open without this financial support from the city, but the community, through donations, was determined to keep the theatre open.

“It was overwhelming – the support that the theatre got,” said Kerr when describing the community’s response.

At the anniversary party, CFFF spoke with prominent TTOK community members about what the theatre means to them and to the Peterborough community as a whole. In this story, you can hear the voices of TTOK artistic administrator Kate Story, actor and TTOK tech assistance Dan Smith, and seasoned TTOK performers Naomi Duvall, Samuelle Weatherdon, Brad Brackenridge, and Lindsay Unterlander.

Since receiving financial support from the community, TTOK has renewed its lease for another two years.

Listen to the CFFF story below: