Essential Collective Theatre Statement  

 February 2020  Production of Stephanie Jones’ John School

January 16. 2020 – This February, Essential Collective Theatre planned to bring the world premiere of Niagara playwright, and ECT founder, Stephanie Jones’ John School to our core and growing audiences. This poignant new play gives particular focus to local sociopolitical issues and examines the power relations around sex work in Canada as the legalities surrounding it begin to change in 2014. Tackling the Niagara sex trade industry and the gender dynamics within it, this provocative work follows the lives of sex trade workers and johns as they intersect with the bureaucratic world of today’s Canada – where prostitution is legal and paying for sex is a crime. With a primarily female, diverse cast of five Niagara based actors, John School was presented as a reading in its first draft of development at In the Soil Arts Festival in 2018 and further developed with ECT through a residency in 2019. Our mandate is to support local artists while telling engaging stories that hold a mirror up to Niagara and John School is all that and more! 

Sadly, this mandate has become difficult to meet recently, as one-third of ECT’s production budget for our 2019/2020 season has been slashed due to cuts to funding both on the provincial and municipal levels. As a direct result of these unexpected cuts we face the reality that the only way ECT will continue to be true to our mandate and be fiscally responsible is to scale down our productions significantly this season.

We are deeply committed to bringing a stellar production of John School to Niagara audiences at this time but due to the above mentioned budget cuts, ECT can no longer afford to quality of production John School deserves and look forward to it’s future staging next season.

“We appreciate your support in helping us retain Niagara’s vibrant talent and allowing us to build local, sustainable culture along with the measurable benefits it brings to our community. Support for ECT is also support for cultural jobs and tourism, enriching the standard of living in the region, encouraging thriving economic development, and giving a voice to the artistic expression of our citizens. It is undoubtedly time that Stephanie Jones’ deeply relevant John School comes into the light on a Niagara stage. We look forward to bringing the quality production value our unique local stories deserve, to our unique audiences on our unique stages.”  – Rebecca Walsh (Managing Director)

“It is hard to separate these ‘cuts to the arts’ from ‘cuts to communities’. In order to keep the company financially safe, we have first had to reduce the amount of relevant programming we are undertaking. The ripple effect, however, is of course greater: we are employing fewer skilled artists locally, making it less tenable for those people to build their homes, do their work, and spend their money in our community. This in turn makes Niagara a less dynamic and vibrant place for many citizens beyond our company. We hope to be able to return to full programming in the near future, not just to get these important voices on the stage, but to have the whole community around that material reaching a fuller potential.” Colin Bruce Anthes (Artistic Director)

About ECT

Essential Collective Theatre (ECT) is a St. Catharines-based professional non-profit theatre company uniquely focused on new Niagara work and contemporary Canadian plays relevant to our region. ECT prides itself on mentoring local emerging artists, supporting playwrights, and paying industry standard professional fees to production cast and crew to retain, reward, and develop Niagara artists. Founded in 1998, we have proudly presented two main stage productions in the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre’s Robertson Theatre since it opened.


March: Don’t Do it, Don’t Do it, DO IT! By Zuma Puma 

May: Wine & Reading – Readings of two new Niagara plays 

June & July: Senior Stories 2020 – An intergenerational production telling the stories of our older adult community by emerging artists.

To Support us please consider a tax deductible donation to Essential Collective Theatre

For questions, images or for interview requests, please contact: Rebecca Walsh,

Essential Collective Theatre at 289 990 7095