photo: submitted/WRPC Dann Wilhelm (left) and Bryce Mills in “Leading Ladies,” a comedy play staged by White Rock Players’ Club at Coast Capital Playhouse starting tonight (Friday, June 16) and closing on July 1.

MINTY: Big laughs promised in ‘Leading Ladies,’ which features some of my fave theatre people

Also, it’s not too late to take part in city’s Park, Recreation and Culture Strategic Plan survey

White Rock Players’s Club this week opens its final show of the season, Leading Ladies. I have missed a few plays at Coast Capital Playhouse this season, but I am sure not going to miss this one! Some of my favourite theatre people are involved. This “delightful comedy” is directed by Helen Embury, a Theatre BC Lifetime Achievement award winner, and features actors Bryce Mills and Dann Wilhelm as Leo and Jack. Mills is the well-known dame in the company’s annual pantomime, and Wilhelm is usually the heartthrob hero in musicals. The show also features actors Michelle Collier, Nicolas Dyke, Dianna Harvey, Jamie Ives, Pat McDermott and Samantha Silver (as Meg).

Leading Ladies, written by Ken Ludwig, runs from Friday, June 16 until Saturday, July 1. For tickets, email the box office at boxoffice@whiterockplayers.ca, visit whiterockplayers.ca or call 604-536-7535.

White Rock Players’ Club is lucky, in a sense, that they have their own theatre space for set building, costume storage, performances and rehearsals. I say “lucky, in a sense” because Coast Capital Playhouse is not a civic theatre. Yes, they do get some financial assistance in the form of grants, but basically the theatre is run and managed by the club members. It is expensive, and a huge task.

This comfortable-sized theatre space is rarely filled to capacity, but because of the active schedule of WRPC, it is difficult to squeeze in outside rentals for the space. Even though it could be a good moneymaker for the theatre club, the space is not always available for anything other than short runs. It’s a tight spot. To keep the theatre club solvent, we just have to attend their shows in larger numbers. Fill the house, Leading Ladies.

This problem and plight of affordable theatre space is front-and-centre right now. Many community theatre clubs, and other varied community performance groups, grovel for theatre space. What we have now is either too large a space, too expensive or simply not available. Please listen to me. We need a few more “neighborhood” theatres for chorus groups, BC Girls’ Choir, Surrey Symphony Society and the musical theatre society now known as FVGSS. I have recently chatted with people from these organizations – at a workshop hosted by the city. I was surprised to learn that the BC Girls’ Choir can’t afford to perform in Surrey, and the youth orchestra finds the available spaces too large, or too expensive, or just not available.

I know, and you know, we need a few more viable performances spaces. On the city website, it says “Surrey is a city abundant with parks, recreational facilities and a vibrant arts, cultural and heritage community. “ Yep, I agree with that. But it seems like there is a demand for more studio space for visual artists, rehearsal space for musicians and dancers, and it has to be something more than “multi-functional” spaces.

Good news: The city is developing a new Park, Recreation and Culture Strategic Plan to develop assets. The current 2008 plan expires at the end of the year. The new PRC Strategic Plan will identify the greatest needs and opportunities for our residents. It will help determine important funding and infrastructure decisions, including where and how money should be spent. Well, at least they are collecting and collating information and making every effort to find out what we need and want.

Readers, you can take part in this survey until June 23. Do it online at surrey.ca/culture-recreation/3096.aspx. The less complex way is by typing this into your web browser: surrey.ca/prcplan. It won’t get you to the exact spot for the survey, but keep clicking on tabs until you find the right survey. This is really important. We have parks, nicely maintained. We have pools, ice rinks and soccer fields. Of course, there could always be more of these wonderful recreation facilities. But now is the time for theatre people – and people who go to theatre events – to get online and take this survey. We need affordable performance space, period. I spoke up at this latest workshop and said I thought it was embarrassing that only 1,000-plus people had already taken this survey. It doesn’t sound like a very significant number, but apparently it is.

Not good enough. I know, this isn’t like an election where what we vote for will decide a government. We could get a petition of thousands and city council may still vote to put in another sheet of ice. There are no guarantees. But please take the time to do the survey. We do care. Here is your chance to let city planners know what we want. And yes, it is OK if you feel Surrey needs more parks or training facilities in the sports. It’s all about building a beautiful and culturally interactive community. Surrey is now a City of Parks. We can be known as a City of the Arts. It is a doable and achievable balance. We can make it happen.

melminty@telus.net