SURREY — Community theatre is a wonderful thing. I know this because Fran Gebhard reiterated her passion for community theatre at the closing gala and awards presentation for Fraser Valley Zone Festival last weekend at White Rock’s Coast Capital Playhouse. Gebhard has an MFA from UBC and has adjudicated many zone festivals for Theatre BC over many years. She admits that she is addicted to live theatre, and applauded the amiable atmosphere and friendly feeling among the competing clubs. The winner of best production is now off to Theatre BC Mainstage to compete against the winners in the other zones throughout the province. Fraser Valley Zone Festival winner for 2017 was Stage 43 Theatrical Society’s production of Daniel MacIvor’s Bingo! Congrats to them and also everyone else who participated in the zone festival.
This year, all the plays in the competition had to be Canadian. It was a great showcase for Canadian talent, and set the stage – so to speak – for more Canadian content in the future. That’s a win. Community theatre consists of people who love theatre. Long ago, this type of theatre was termed “amateur,” but zone chair Raymond Hatton, with Langley Players drama club, is not alone in preferring the term “community theatre,” rather than “amateur.” “We are all lovers of theatre,” he told us, and have fun participating. But there is also a lot of hard work, time commitment and not-so-fun jobs that must be done to get an amateur production to the stage.
Most people sitting in an average audience of a live performance are probably not aware that what they are seeing is almost entirely done by volunteer power. Community theatre is not a paying gig. And it always surprises me how many people devote so much time and effort to the product. It’s overwhelming. Often the only way you can tell it is community theatre show, rather than a professional production, is the price of the ticket. Next time you go to a community theatre production, give an extra round of applause to all the dedicated “amateurs” who make it possible.
White Rock Players Club owns and operates the Coast Capital Playhouse in White Rock. This is a rather expensive place to operate for a community theatre group. Again, volunteers are needed. As this playhouse was the site of the Fraser Valley Zone Festival, construction for the next play, Leading Ladies, could not begin until the festival was finished last Saturday evening. Up early and on the job Sunday morning were White Rock Players crew starting on the set for Leading Ladies.
My theatre buddy Gord Mantle says he just doesn’t know how they will get everything done in 17 days. Gord is a longtime member of White Rock Players and is often found as stage manager or producer. So of course we chatted at the Zone gala. We agreed that the show will go on, because it always does. Even if Gord has to warn the actors on preview night to not touch the sets because the paint is still wet. True story. Ah, the glamour of live theatre!
Leading Ladies runs from June 14 to July 1 at the Coast Capital Playhouse; call the box office for tickets (604-536-7535), or visit whiterockplayers.ca. This hilarious comedy is by Ken Ludwig, who also wrote Lend Me a Tenor and Moon Over Buffalo. The tickets are under $25, and just $10 for preview night. Affordable. This promises to be another great showing for community theatre. You might even get to witness paint drying as an added attraction.
For some groups who love theatre and performing in a live venue, there just isn’t time, money or materials to create costumes and sets for a truly full-on live performance. Enter Naked Stage Productions Society (nakedstage.net). This newly formed group performs what is called “reader’s theatre.” The actors sit on a “naked” stage, with no costuming, and read from a script. Note that the actors are fully clothed; the “naked” part just refers to the stage. Yes, there are rehearsals. I was actually quite surprised at how much I have enjoyed these performances. It is akin the musicals in concert.
Naked Stage’s next presentation is Love, Loss and What I Wore, to be performed with an all-female cast and an all-female theme, featuring actors Colleen McGoff Dean, Patti Palm, Lois Piro, Judy McLellan and Heather Jane Robertson. Three performances only at Newton Cultural Centre (13530 72nd Ave., Surrey) on June 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 11. Tickets are only $15 at brownpapertickets.com/event/2913808, and at the door.
One last community theatre event for you: New Westminster’s Vagabond Players presents an all-time favorite British farce, Charley’s Aunt, by Brandon Thomas. This classic comedy, first staged in 1892, opened this week at Bernie Legge Theatre, located in Queen’s Park, and runs from Thursday through Saturday (8 p.m. shows, plus Sundays at 2 p.m.) until June 25. Reservations can be done by email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the box office at 604-521-0412.
Please remember that although community theatre runs on volunteers who love what they do, a paying audience is essential. Support the arts. Buy a few tickets, for the love of theatre.