Michael K. Potter, Joey Ouellette, and Fay LynnMichael K. Potter, Joey Ouellette, and Fay Lynn are principals in the eight-episode comedy series (up)Staged, set to begin filming next month.

Project aims to demonstrate value of local artists

Art is labour and artists need to be paid for doing it, says Michael K. Potter.

A learning specialist in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, he is heading up a project to demonstrate the value of investing in local talent.

Potter is the executive producer of (up)Staged, an eight-episode mockumentary-style comedy series about the trials and tribulations of an independent regional theatre company. The production will employ a cast and crew of more than 50 people and is slated to start principal photography in June.

“When I first arrived in Windsor, I was amazed at the creative community here,” Potter says. “But there is this cultural assumption in Windsor that artists should work for free. If we want to realize the potential of the arts, we need to treat it as an industry worth investing in.”

He points to the graduates of arts programs in secondary schools as well as the University and St. Clair College, so many of whom feel they must relocate to make a living.

“We have to give our young people reasons to stay here,” says Potter. “There are economic benefits across the board. When we build up the arts, there are all sorts of ancillary industries that grow up around them.”

(up)Staged follows a fictionalized version of the Windsor-based theatre company Post Productions and its venue the Shadowbox Theatre, managed by Potter with partner Fay Lynn. The two created and wrote the series with Joey Ouellette, artistic director of the Purple Theatre Company, in 2021. The trio has spent the intervening three years strategizing, organizing, and networking.

Potter is especially pleased to have developed a partnership with the Windsor Centre for Film, Digital Media, and the Creative Arts and its president Amanda Gellman, who served as UWindsor vice-president for university advancement from 2004 to 2008.

“It represents an enormous vote of confidence in the project and a lot of trust from someone we greatly respect,” he says.

In addition to his behind-the-scenes roles, Potter plays a fictionalized version of himself: a blind double-amputee who directs, produces, and acts.

“Disabled people are human subjects, not objects of pity or inspiration,” he says. “Using disabled people for inspiration is just as dehumanizing and offensive because it also ignores the fact that disabled people are just trying to live their lives.”

Ultimately, he hopes that the show makes audiences laugh.

“First and foremost, we want to be funny,” says Potter. “We cram in every kind of comedy one can imagine — from the zany and silly to the whimsical, from slapstick and pratfalls to irony and wit, from situation comedy to sheer absurdism.”

And finally, he wants (up)Staged to jumpstart some investment.

“It’s showcasing what people in Windsor can do, demonstrating the potential for growth in this industry, and showing proof of concept for taking creative endeavour seriously.”

The company has launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign to solicit public support, and is actively seeking grants, sponsorships, and investments from local business leaders. Learn more on the project website.

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