MELANIE MINTY: Big issues linger for Surrey Little Theatre; ‘Stormy’ nights ahead for Royal Canadian co.

Theatre’s home remains threatened by growth and development along 184th Street

Jennifer Lane (as Olive) and Kay Lozada (as Dorothy) in Royal Canadian Theatre Company’s “It Was a Dark an Stormy Night

SURREY — It’s so nice to have a place to call home. Actually, it is more than nice, it is essential. Even our cybernetic connections, like websites, need a home page.  Community theatre clubs also need a home in order to thrive.

Surrey Little Theatre has called the little heritage building atop Clayton Hill home for more than 55 years. During that time, SLT has made a lot of history in one of the most important historical buildings in Surrey.

This small wood-constructed structure began life as a church. Times and population needs change, and the building was deconsecrated, and eventually a newly formed theatrical society took over the building. There have been ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, growing pains and repairs. Like any home, the building requires constant attention and installation of safety measures to prevent theft. Ah me, a home should always be safe. But that’s where we are today. You need outside lights, security systems and so many other things to keep the building safe.

Now, Surrey Little Theatre’s home is threatened by growth and development of the area. Sewers are going in and 184th Street will be widened when a developer is found to take down the rural houses on large lots and put in townhouses and shopping plazas. The little house on the hill is no longer way out in the country.

Once the street is widened, there will be no access to the current historic building. And even if the building could be set back, there would be no parking. At this point in time, I just don’t understand how the city planners do not understand how important SLT is to our city. We need alternate sites for our little theatre. It’s not good enough to say, “We’ll just wait and see what happens.”

And why should we care?  It is, after all, only a 76-seat theatre. How much impact would it have if it were gone? Some things, like cultural significance, are difficult to measure. Number of volunteer hours and economic impact are more easily attributed. And right now, SLT is on a high hill indeed. This last year, their Theatre BC production of “The Last Lifeboat” (pictured below) won the Fraser Valley zone competition, Theatre BC’s “Mainstage” event, and Community Theatre Coalition awards for best production and best director (Dale Kelly). This is the triple crown, and it is not the first time SLT has swept all awards.

Last season was a huge success, with most shows sold out. This season’s starter, “The Dixie Swim Club,” already has sold-out nights and it doesn’t open until the third week of October. Audiences are awed by the quality of the company’s performances, and are avid supporters. Please do not let this homey heritage get lost in the development frenzy. Yes, Surrey is growing. That’s great. City planners, take this message to heart. We want our little theatre to survive in a big community. Make it happen.

“The Dixie Swim Club” runs from Oct. 20 to Nov. 19, on Thursdays through Sundays. It is a fun, frolic of a comedy, and who doesn’t need a few laughs in life? Call 604-576-8451 to reserve seats, or email reservations@surreylittletheatre.com. CLICK HERE for more show info from Surrey Little Theatre’s website.

Royal Canadian Theatre Company is happy to have found a home base, thanks to the City of Surrey. See, I can give credit where credit is due. This dynamic professional theatre company will move into a refurbished building on City Parkway later this year, or perhaps next. This space will provide room to rehearse, store and create sets, store costumes and have office space. Royal Canadian is the only theatre company based in the Fraser Valley producing a full season of three plays at Surrey Arts Centre and ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge.

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” will be at Surrey Arts Centre on Oct. 7 and 8, with three performances. This delightful Halloween-perfect comedy is a sure hit. I saw it in 2001 at the now-defunct Burr Theatre in New Westminster. Yes, we lost that theatre and it hasn’t really been replaced by anything suitable. The city thinks so, but actually, no. Just believe me. So Surrey wins where New West didn’t have the foresight to keep its “home” theatre company alive.

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night” is not suitable for very young children, as there are some pretty spooky parts. For tickets and other details, call 604-501-5566 or visit Tickets.surrey.ca.

Now, just click your heels together and say repeatedly, “There’s no place like home.”

melminty@telus.net

 

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