Only a stump remains

The Calithumpian theatre troupe are left with nothing but a stump after more than a decade of performing under one of the biggest trees in Officers’ Square.

Early morning Sept. 3, the city removed the wooden stage the group had built 15 years ago and chopped down the tree that provided them and their audience shade during each performance.

This year, eight St. Thomas University students acted in the Calithumpian theatre troupe.

Many other former STU students and grads have been or are involved with the troupe, like Will Pacey, the troupe’s director, who graduated from STU in 2011.

Pacey is saddened by the loss of the tree.

“Disbelief is a really good way to put it. I was pretty hopeful that this was not going to be the fate of our tree.”

Calithumpians, like Will Pacey (above), feel the weight of losing an important landmark to both their company and community. (Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

According to Pacey, the City of Fredericton did not give the group any warning prior to removing the tree. It was cut down less than 24 hours after their last performance of the season along with 10 other trees in the square.

“We got an email [the] morning after the fact,” said Pacey.

“It said that the tree was removed and that going forward they are going to provide a temporary stage for us.”

According to a statement on their website, the City of Fredericton said they “removed the trees [on Tuesday] in order to rebuild the wall along Queen Street and prepare for the new stage and chilled skating surface.”

After the city announced plans to renovate Officers’ Square which included the removal of 19 out of 23 trees in the park, the city faced a petition and public backlash. The revised plan now protects a total of eight trees, but the Calithumpian tree was not one of them.

Pacey knew what the plans were regarding the tree but didn’t know when it was going to happen. He is grateful it didn’t happen during their season.

“During my time as a performer with the Calithumpians, before [the stage] we just performed on grass every day. So, we beat down the grass and it became dust and there are some funny memories of [us] dancing and the dust just going over the audience,” said Pacey.

The morning after the removal of the tree, word circulated fast on social media. By the afternoon, both current and former Calithumpians organized a gathering around the remaining stump to mourn the loss of their beloved performance spot.

STU third-year philosophy and criminology major Jason McIntyre has been with the Calithumpians for more than five years. He first heard the tree would be cut down last summer. 

Word spread quickly to members of the Calithumpains like Jason McIntyre (above) who found what happened shortly after the tree was cut down Sept. 3. (Alex Dascalu/AQ)

“That tree that has been there for 38 years just got snatched up at 6 am that [morning],” said McIntyre.

“As soon as I woke up, [I] checked all the group chats and people were pretty distraught about it.”

Since the tree was cut down McIntyre said he feels “a little grief [but] a lot of annoyance.” 

Travis Flynn, a third-year STU student, acted with the Calithumpians during their 2018 season.

Third-year STU student, and former Calithumpian, Travis Flynn wants more notice from the City of Fredericton in advance of decisions like the removal of their tree. (Alex Dascalu/AQ)

Flynn said performances in Officers’ Square will feel different now.

“It was very surreal, I was very shocked to see that [the tree] was gone,” said Flynn.

“Not only is it important for us as a symbol of the company but it was important to so many people because the spirit of that tree offered so much to the community,” said Flynn.

Flynn wants the city to understand that if major changes are going to be made, there must be more advance notice and open discussions. Not just to city council, but to the public as well.

“Listen to constituents, because what might be best for municipal capital gain might not be best for the people who live here.”

With files from Caitlin Dutt

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