Arts & Entertainment

Theatre GM takes his final Markham bow with the end of this season

This May not only marks the end of the 23/24 Diamond Season at the Flato Markham Theatre, but it also brings general manager Eric Lariviere’s 15 years of service to a close.

Since 2009, Lariviere’s guidance, wisdom, and influence have been both unmistakable and invaluable when it comes to the theatre’s stability and growth but it’s in his leadership and community building that his legacy will be felt as he moves on to new challenges at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square.

“I’m very grateful for what we’ve accomplished,” Lariviere says.”My wish is that our work here continues to grow.”

One way to consider the lasting impact of Lariviere on the theatre and the arts community in Markham is to look at the final two shows of his final season as GM. They span multiple demographics generationally and culturally while also being broadly entertaining shows with critical acclaim.

On May 4 at 4 p.m., the 360 All-Stars bring their Urban Jungle performance to town. The performance fuses performance artistry with street culture and manages to merge BMX, basketball, breakdancing, beatboxing, acrobatics,  and drumming. The cast is full of world champion and world record-holding athletes and artists. After 2000 shows worldwide, they still receive raves.

“It’s such a unique show that I hope will attract some folks who might not normally come to the theatre,” Lariviere says. “It’s quite spectacular.”

After proudly hosting the world premiere of Ballet Jorgen’s Anne of Green Gables The Ballet in 2019, the show has become a hit and a fresh take on the Canadian classic. The show succeeds by using the famous imagination and energy of its title character as a way of merging the story with the world of dance. This May 17 at 8 p.m. and May 18 at 2 p.m., the show returns home to thrill Markham audiences again.

“This show is such a good way to end the season…and my time in Markham,” Lariviere says. “Ballet Jorgen is such an important company, and they’ve managed to merge their art with one of the most beloved and classic Canadian stories out there. It’s wonderful to finish with a show where I know the whole community is coming.”

Much like these final two Diamond Season shows of his tenure, Lariviere has focused on engaging, discipline-merging, and demographic-breaking shows to help unite disparate parts of the arts community in his successful, 15-year quest to broaden the appeal of live professional performance in Markham.

“I tried to reposition the local or municipal operation at the theatre into a cultural hub and a leading performing arts centre in the province,” Lariviere says. “We did it by strategizing around the idea that live arts matter, potentially, to everyone, no matter the background.”

With Markham’s diversity index sitting around 82 per cent, this mission is still relevant.

“It’s more relevant than ever,” says Lariviere.

Another important and lasting aspect of Lariviere’s leadership is the team he built and maintained at the theatre.

“You know, it’s like a family,” acting GM Scott Hill says. “It’s been a privilege to work as part of the team that Eric built around him.”

“I’m telling you, the people you work with are what makes it happen,” Lariviere says. “You’re only as good as the team. We’ve been blessed.”

This attitude and ethic that pervade the theatre and its staff are not merely a nice thing that has happened. It’s by design and very much about how the building runs too.

“Whether it’s a rental client, a performer or any patron who comes to the theatre,” Hill explains, “Eric’s goal was to make every experience at the theatre a special one. It’s our belief that every single person that goes on our stage deserves everything we have to offer, always, whether you’re a legend or in your first dance recital.”

With multiple local dance recitals coming up this May, it’s a great time to think about the way this work ethic builds community around the theatre.

Of course, Lariviere himself has his own opinion about what his most important impact has been for these past 15 years.

“I think the Discovery Markham program has had the biggest impact,” adds Lariviere.

The Discovery program, pioneered by Lariviere, offers free school matinee performances for Markham elementary schools, specialized performing arts programming and camps for youth ages 4-16, masterclasses and workshops for youth and adults, and partnerships with community festivals and events.

“Making the theatre a familiar place for young people and artists has changed the face of the community here,” says Lariviere.

Even though his absence will be felt by all who worked with him, Lariviere leaves the theatre in capable hands. Hill has worked at the theatre for more than thirty years and has successfully done nearly every job imaginable in the building. To say he knows the place is an understatement.

“The 2024/25 season that we’re announcing this coming May 13 still has Eric’s fingerprints on it,” Hill says. “It’s going to be a wonderful mix of Canadian and international talent that will take our audience on any number of wonderful rides as always.”

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