Actors Ashley Chodat (as Penny Lamb) and Christian Krushel (Ezra Lamb) are featured in “Legoland,” one of two one-act plays to be staged at Surrey Little Theatre from July 4 to 20. (submitted photo)

COLUMN ON THE ARTS

MINTY: It’s time to save Surrey Little Theatre before it’s squeezed out of Clayton

At the theatre on 184th Street, DebuTheatre will showcase two one-act plays in July

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Is anybody listening?

Let me rephrase those questions.

You might be out there and listening, but now it is time to pay attention and take some action before we lose the struggle for survival, and find we have lost Surrey Little Theatre, the city’s only arts organization that owns and operates its own space. Save Our Theatre. It’s SOT time for SLT, as the company is sometimes known.

For more than 50 years, SLT has brought the community live theatre productions. Maybe you don’t care about that. After all, there are lots of community theatre productions around now. But I care. Over the company’s history, SLT has given time and space to amateur thespians, contributed to the local economy, promoted and provided opportunities for youth in our city, and brought both drama and delight to patrons of the performances. The organization is run entirely on volunteer power.

It takes a whole lot of time, talent, energy and resources to stage any play. I sometimes wonder how so many people can actually give so much of their time to this tiny theatre and still manage a full-time job. But that is another story. This one is: City of Surrey, save SLT.

Here is the problem: Surrey is rapidly growing. People need places to live. Surrey has an avid, rabid development agenda. In the Clayton area, Surrey Little Theatre is in the way. Road widening along 184th and townhouse development has left this gem of a theatre with little parking space. There are solutions possible, but after years of negotiation, SLT is in the same situation – getting squeezed out.

Street parking restrictions are getting tougher and property developers would love that little plot of land owned by SLT, just north of Fraser Highway. But the offers aren’t big enough to pay for relocation. So, if no action is taken to provide a solution – and there are one or two – then the developers will win. The theatre will be gone, condos will rise. Do you care? Maybe not.

People are losing their homes to make way for new condos. Compensation offered is not enough to relocate. I know, because I am among those people losing a home to development. I don’t want to lose my theatre as well. It’s important. The time is now. SOT (Save Our Theatre) for SLT (Surrey Little Theatre). It’s a campaign. Don’t make me run for mayor. Yes, I can tap dance – but only in the artistic arena, not a political one. I don’t want sympathy for the situation, I want action! Whew.

In the meantime – while we await a solution – Surrey Little Theatre is alive and well. The youth programs are so successful that they are filled very quickly. There is still space available for the Teen Theatre/Improv Boot Camp that runs from Aug. 12 to 16, for those aged 12 to 17. The cost is only $140 (info at surreylittletheatre.com, under Youth Programs), and teens will learn all the roles that make community theatre tick. Life’s lessons can be learned in a positive, safe environment. It’s important.

One of the super volunteers for SLT is Margaret Shearman. As artistic director, she has a vision to involve younger people in community theatre. As a result, SLT is presenting a summer show for the first time in many years. DebuTheatre will showcase two one-act plays by Victoria’s Jacob Richmond and Abbotsford playwright Jennifer Peters, from July 4 to 20 – Thursday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 7 and also 14th at 2 p.m. Tickets for all performances are $15 at surreylittletheatre.com/tickets, or call 1 800 838 3006.

The two one-act plays are Legoland and For Never Not Always. Each play has an experienced mentor and gives young adults the opportunity to produce, direct, stage-manage, costume and also design sets, lighting and sound. Yes, this is a gang. It’s the kind we want to encourage and promote in our community. It wouldn’t happen without the physical presence of SLT.

So, your first step in the SOT/SLT campaign is twofold: come to a DebuTheatre performance and secondly, volunteer for one of the many jobs “behind the scenes.” You could actually enjoy being part of the “gang.”

Richmond’s Legoland is coming-of-age tale with some mature content that chronicles the misadventures of two precocious teens on their odyssey from a hippie commune to the big-city world they call “Legoland.” This play is directed by Sargil Tongol.

Peters, playwright of For Never Not Always, is making her directorial debut with this love-triangle story, which brings drama and comedy to the stage.

There it is, the play’s the thing – but the theatre is everything.

White Rock Players is another community theatre club that also owns and operates its own space. This somewhat larger theatre space is fully used by many theatre and performance groups other than White Rock Players. Like SLT, this theatre company is run by volunteer power. The Players have had their struggles, just like SLT, but at least they haven’t been overrun by development – yet.

• RELATED STORY: White Rock Players Club comedy salutes the ‘write’ stuff.

Running now at the Playhouse until June 29 is Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Director Lance Peverley loves Neil Simon and wanted to direct a Simon play. “The Odd Couple is done so many times – I looked around to find something different,” he says. Well, congrats Lance. Laughter is a hit. Great sets, costumes and, of course, the actors. Well done, everyone – a good show to see. Tickets at the box office, 604-536-7535, or visit whiterockplayers.ca.

What you see on stage may not be real life, but it is real.

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. Email: melminty@telus.net.

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