DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: For most, retirement offers the chance to relax, but for Uxbridge's Conrad Boyce it has brought a flurry of activity over the past year that is showing no signs of slowing down in the months ahead.
A mainstay of the local arts community for almost two decades, Conrad has been involved in many projects as an actor, director, producer, teacher, playwright, conductor, singer, set designer/builder, lighting/sound technician, editor, publisher and writer.
With four theatre projects either on the go or upcoming, Conrad has further broadened his portfolio by recently declaring as a candidate for Ward 4 Councillor in this fall's municipal election.
Originally from Edmonton, Conrad moved to the area from the Yukon in 1995, and it didn't take long for him to establish connections in the Uxbridge community.
"I had just moved from the Yukon with a friend. We were living over near Sutton and our landlord mentioned that if we wanted a true taste of small-town, rural Ontario, we should check out the Uxbridge Fall Fair," Conrad recalled sitting on the sun-drenched deck behind his home in Uxbridge. "In the fair book, there were audition notices for the Uxbridge Chamber Choir and a play with the Uxbridge Players, so I auditioned for both and got in the following week. Then, Donna van Veghel mentioned that she was looking to take a year off from conducting the youth choir, so I took that on as well. So, within two weeks of arriving, I was in a play, in a choir and conducting a choir."
In the summer of 1997, Conrad married his wife Lisa. That year, Conrad also founded the Uxbridge Musical Theatre Company, which would later merge with the Uxbridge Players to form OnStage Uxbridge, the premier community theatre company in the township. Since arriving in Uxbridge, Conrad has been involved in some capacity with more than 60 different stage productions.
In 1998, Conrad expanded his theatrical endeavours, and took on the job of putting together a summer theatre program at the Academy Theatre in Lindsay.
"I basically lost my shirt on that one, so I spent the next two-and-a-half years working in the communication department for the Ontario College of Nurses in Toronto until my debts were paid off from the summer theatre. And by that point, I'd had enough of the big city, so for the next four years I worked as a supply teacher and freelance journalist."
Then, in 2005, Conrad was at the forefront of the group that brought the Uxbridge Cosmos to the community, drawing inspiration from The Standard in launching the community newspaper.
"The Standard was definitely an inspiration for the Cosmos, and it started with a lot of help. Myself and others felt that the Times-Journal had become estranged from the community and was no longer a community newspaper. We knew right from the start that we would only distribute in Uxbridge and our stories would only focus on Uxbridge and its residents," Conrad explained.
After eight years of sharing Uxbridge stories with the community, Conrad sold the paper to its current publisher last year and embarked on a new literary venture as he penned his first book: Jewel on the Hill, the story of Uxbridge's Foster Memorial.
"Retiring from the Cosmos let me explore a lot of things I'd had on the back burner such as my book on the Foster," said Conrad. "I learned an awful lot and it was a great pleasure to work on."
Over the past year, Conrad has performed two different one-man plays based on the works of Robert Service - 'El Dorado' in the fall of 2013, and 'The Bohemian' which began its run at the Firth Line Church at the Uxbridge Historical Centre on Friday, July 11.
Based on "Ballads of a Bohemian" by Robert Service, the play was written by Conrad in 1980 while living in the Yukon in collaboration with Bonnie Lawrence, who contributed the music. The play tells the story of a fictional American poet named Stephen Poore, struggling to make a living in Paris in the years 1913 and 1914, who joins up as an ambulance driver when the First World War breaks out, and will run alongside the 'Uxbridge at War' display at the museum on select weekends throughout the summer.
Performances of 'The Bohemian' are scheduled for July 18, 19, 22, 26 and 29, continuing the next month with shows on Aug. 5, 12, 16, 22, 23, 26 and 29. Tickets for the show are $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors, and can be purchased at Blue Heron Books, which is located at 62 Brock St. West in downtown Uxbridge.
"The show kind of went to the bottom of my desk drawer for more than three decades," Conrad admitted, "since Bonnie left the Yukon shortly after we wrote it. But now a couple of factors - the centennial of the Great War, and the availability of a collaborator as excellent as she was - seem to make it an ideal time for its revival."
While Conrad admits that many of the plays he has written were for him to perform, one notable exception is 'Maud of Leaskdale' which he penned in 2011 specifically for the centennial conference in Leaskdale to commemorate Lucy Maud Montgomery's arrival in the community, and stars Jennifer Carroll as the beloved Canadian author.
The show, which runs on Thursday evenings at the Historic Leaskdale Church throughout July and August is now in its third season, and has been performed in Toronto and Charlottetown.
"Nobody tells Maud's stories like Maud herself, so I decided to make it a one-woman show," Conrad explained. "It's wonderful to be able to bring it back for a third season and have it performed outside of the community. Local heritage is the thing that drives me. In fact, most of the shows I've written have been history-based"
Rounding out Conrad's impressive list of current theatre projects, he is slated to direct the play 'Miracle Worker' at the Oshawa Little Theatre in February of 2015.
A passionate supporter of all things Uxbridge, Conrad recently decided to take on another challenge when he declared as a candidate for the job of Ward 4 Councillor. Conrad does have past experience on municipal council, as he served on City Council in Whitehorse from 1982 to 1983. As well, he feels that his experience covering council as a member of the press will give him a head start should be elected in October.
Bringing additional tourism to the municipality is one of the key issues he would like to address if he is successful in defeating current challengers Fred Bryan and Dave Granic in the election on Oct. 27.
"I want to correct the impression that Uxbridge is just the Trail Capital of Canada, because it's so much more. We've got so much to offer in Uxbridge Township to the travelling public, but no one seems to know about it. I'm really passionate about this community and want to give back."