SURREY — Virginia Bell is alive and well and living in Nanaimo. I have this on good authority from Virginia’s daughter, Ginny Stanley. Ginny commented on my recent column about the Surrey Festival of Dance that recognized Doreen Rowe as the only surviving founder. Virginia Bell was definitely one of the founding members, and her daughters participated in the festival right through their mid-teens. Virginia, you may be gone from Surrey but are not forgotten. Today, May 5, is significant to Mexico and now it will be an unofficial day of celebration in Surrey. Perhaps we should call it Remember the Founders of the Arts in Surrey Day.
Don and Virginia Bell were very involved in the early days of the performing arts community in Surrey. Not only Virginia with the Festival of Dance, but also Don, who passed away suddenly in 1995. They were major players at Surrey Little Theatre. They started an independent theatre company called Cue to Cue Players and put on productions at the Clova Theatre. They were a driving force in the Arts Council of Surrey. The dance festival is still running, and the arts council and Surrey Little Theatre are thriving. Alas, Cue to Cue Players is no more, and the Clova is now owned and operated by Crossridge Church.
Someone has to take the lead, establish programs and put heart and soul – and savings accounts – into the community. Don and Virginia Bell were not, of course, alone, but they persevered – as did many others we shouldn’t forget. They were mentors to me, and I have never forgotten their big presence and contributions to the performing arts.
I can still picture Don Bell at Surrey Little Theatre. A murder-mystery game and drama was staged at the theatre as a fundraiser. Don called out from the kitchen. “Rats! Where is the rat poison? There are rats in here!” There were no rats, and no poison. It was part of the plot. Now the theatre has been renovated, there is no kitchen with a leaky sink. No comment on mice or rats – I don’t know. It is an old building. Drama, however, is alive and well at SLT.
The final play of the season is “The Last Lifeboat.” This Canadian premiere is the untold story of J. Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Shipping Line when the “Titanic” sank. His decision to save himself rather than go down with the ship made him the scapegoat for one of the greatest disasters of all time. This epic tale explores not only the tragedy itself, but the sensationalized trials and aftermath of the night that changed the world forever.
You might want to see this play. It runs until May 14, and May 7 is sold out. Gosh, time to reserve a ticket now! Sorry, I haven’t seen it yet, but I was sort of busy with the other Bell legacy, the dance festival, at Surrey Arts Centre. No excuses. I am booking my tickets today. You can too, via Brownpapertickets.com/event/1691821, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604 576-8451. Tickets are $15, cash at the door. Shows run Thursday through Saturday starting at 8 p.m. It’s a stellar cast and crew.