Fortune Falls Preview

Coming of age in an abandoned chocolate factory: Fortune Falls is the newest entry in Catalyst Theatre’s repertoire of adult fairy tales.

photography by David Cooper Photography


Making its Edmonton debut on the Citadel Theatre’s Maclab stage, Fortune Falls tells the tale of Everett Liddelman, a young security guard who has been hired to patrol the recently-closed Mercey Chocolate factory. Jonathan Christenson, Catalyst’s artistic director, was inspired by the story of Smiths Falls, Ontario, which went through an identity crisis after the Hershey Chocolate factory closed there in 2009.

“It just kind of spoke to me, on a very topical level, the way that we’re seeing — not just here in Alberta, but around the developed world — huge losses of jobs, especially around the industrial sector,” Christenson explains. “Also, it spoke to me about the way that we build our sense of who we are, sometimes, around other people’s dreams and ideas. That kind of felt like it resonated on the Canadian level too, neighbouring the States like we do and jumping on the bandwagon of the American Dream.”

Not wanting to tell a straight documentary, however, Christenson decided to fictionalize the tale. Produced by Alberta Theatre Projects, Fortune Falls debuted in Calgary in 2016 after an extensive workshop rehearsal process that cut 27 characters and over half the script. After that run, Christenson returned to the script with co-writer Beth Graham and further reworked it, focusing less on the town and more on Liddelman’s personal journey.

photography by David Cooper Photography


“It’s more of a coming of age story now: really letting go of these youthful dreams and starting to open the doors to build a more adult, individual dream,” Christenson says.

Music is the backbone of Catalyst shows. Christenson describes the score of Fortune Falls as its most fully realized aspect, the result of a process in which the music producer (Matthew Skopyk) was part of the rehearsal process from the beginning. This allowed the music to change and adapt as quickly as the actors responded to changes in the script and direction.

photography by David Cooper Photography


 “We’ve really worked on developing a very tight relationship between actors and music,” Christenson says. “There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cues in our shows so that the music can become really responsive to the live performance of the actor, and so the actors also feel like they’re in control. I always want the actors to feel like they’re the leader up on stage and everything else is responding and they can just trust that it will all happen when they need it to.”

Christenson describes Fortune Falls’ score as synthpop: a blend of updated 70s and 80s synth sounds with pop melodies. “Historically, we’ve had digital music for our shows but we’ve tended to create very orchestral sounding work,” he says. “We’ve tried to make it feel like it’s a live band as much as possible. As we were going into this project, we sort of said, ‘Let’s not hide it.’”

photography by David Cooper Photography


Fortune Falls will be immediately recognizable as a Catalyst show, Christenson acknowledges. He admits a certain sense of responsibility to be true to Catalyst’s established brand with his new works, but still feels that there’s lots of room for exploration and evolution.

“It’s not as dark as some of the other pieces; there is a certain lightness to it,” Christenson says. “It has a kind of younger vibe to it and it’s got a slightly more contemporary feel to it.” 

“When I first started working on it, my son — I’ve got an eight-year-old — he said, ‘Daddy, could you just for once write a play where everyone doesn’t die? Like maybe where no one dies?’” Christenson recalls with a chuckle. “So I kind of set out to do that this time. I didn’t quite succeed.”

Catalyst Theatre's Fortune Falls runs from January 17 until February 5, 2017 at the Maclab Theatre. Visit for tickets.

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