Play about 'corporate mess Target made' set in closed, empty Hamilton Target store

The former Target location in The Centre on Barton will welcome a stage reading of a play about Target Canada's collapse in 2015 on Dec. 3.

‘It’s a big story to pick apart,’ says playwright

Robert Motum spent two years researching and producing a play about Target Canada's collapse and how it affected people who lost their jobs when they closed stores across Canada. (Left: The Canadian Press/Darren Calabrese, Right: Robert Motum)

Two years have passed and memories of the Target stores with its white shelves and red labels may be faint for some of us, but not for Robert Motum.

When Target first announced it will be closing all stores across Canada in 2015, he felt there needed to be more focus on how employees would be affected.

After speaking with staff and lawyers, he was on a mission to learn what happened.

Over the next two years, he interviewed about 60 people to produce a two-act play titled "A Community Target."

Motum was on CBC Radio's As It Happens in 2016 talking about the play.

Ontario's Robert Motum is writing a play about the demise of Target in Canada. He's focusing his production on the effect this had on the thousands of employees who lost their jobs. 6:10

Motum learned there were issues with how Target rolled out in Quebec dealing with French languages in their software. Then there were big costs to buy the Zellers locations.

"It's a big story to pick apart," he said, "But there is a lot more to the story than just that for sure."

"A lot of people I spoke to had young families and had sort of had left other jobs to come to Target, and felt that this was going to be a sure thing for quite some time, then found themselves back at square one."

Employees walk through the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario, March 4, 2013, on the eve of the store's opening. The U.S. retailer pulled out of Canada in 2015, affecting 17,600 employees. (Geoff Robins/Reuters)

Reenacting reality

Motum calls his piece a "documentary play," where all the words in his script are "verbatim" through his conversations with people who lost their jobs and all the characters were real people.

The story will start with events that led to the closure announcement, then jump forward in time to study shifting retail climate in Canada in present day. While the play will mention Sears, it won't spent much time on it.

During Target Canada's liquidation sales in 2015, some customers also complained of price hikes like those seen in the Sears liquidation.

Motum said the play will end on a more hopeful note.

"As much as this play is about this corporate mess that Target made and how it impacted these people, it really is about this community of former employees coming together and making their way through this mess."

Return to Target

On Sunday Dec. 3, a stage reading will take place in a former Target store in The Centre on Barton.

He said while it's not a full-scale production at this point, there will be some interested staging aspects to the performance on Sunday. And he feels he owes it to the people told him about their experiences, to show them what has come out of those interviews.

"I think the opportunity to actually be in a Target space is getting rarer and rarer," Motum said, "I think it's an opportunity to invite them to come see this show and we're recording it for those who can't make it."

In August 2016, there was a workshop production of the play where actual Target employees played the characters. The stage reading on Sunday will feature a cast of six actors.