Surrey’s newest community theatre group has ambitious plans to create “a safer place to create” somewhere in Newton, to make up for what its founder calls a lack of places in the city where people “can express themselves and learn new things and just bond with people and be yourself.”
Pivot Theatre launches this month with a production of “My Blue Heaven” at Newton Cultural Centre, where three actors — Kevin Ibbotson, Leaminn Ma and Beck Marie — will star in Jane Chambers’ couple-focused play, set in 1975.
Margaret Shearman is the Pivot founder, artistic director and producer of its very first show, which opens on Thursday, March 17.
“It’s a really great, gentle comedy, which I thought was a good place to start because everyone seems to need something to distract themselves, something easy and fun, and it’s topical,” explained Shearman.
“And it’s along our mandate,” she added, “because it’s about two women who are partners in life, and it’s just normalizing people as people. It was nice to find a comedy that actually treated the subject of lesbianism as not this huge issue, you know, or that everything is happening to them because of that.”
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Pivot has become a post-pandemic project for a core group of close to 15 people, after the company’s launch plans were delayed by COVID.
“Rather than doing all that work to find out that we couldn’t do the play, due to changing restrictions, we decided to work more on the infrastructure of the theatre (company) and do it right the first time,” explained Shearman.
She lives in Newton and aims to make the town centre a key part of Pivot’s future, with help of others in various roles, including Kayt Roth, Maddy Stenstrom, Tesla Lively, Jarod Boots, Lyn Verra-Lay, Emily Wheeler, Makayla Leonard, Barb Eisinger and Heaven Lively, plus the three actors in “My Blue Heaven.” Right now they’re rehearsing at Shearman’s house, but hopefully not for future shows.
“We’re trying to find space right now, to start – a place we can use pretty much 24 hours a day, doing things like kids classes, a daycare for people who are volunteering, workshops, midnight shows, and I want to turn the concession into a little coffee shop so people can just be, and a thrift store as well, because we need to be self-sufficient so we can do the things we want to do.
“We want it to be more of a community place, for fashion shows and competitions and festivals, all kinds of things, rather than just a place to go when there’s a show on,” Shearman added. “Yes, these are grand plans, and I don’t want to sound egotistical but I could see us branching out to other areas of Surrey, bringing people together and creating – just a safer, fun place for people to go.”
The Pivot motto is “a safer place to create” because as Shearman says, some people just don’t feel safe, period. The company welcomes all to join, including those who are LGBTQ, BIPOC, two-spirited, white, cisgendered and differently-abled, to create theatre performances and other visual and performance art.
Back in August 2021, Pivot Theatre hosted a yard sale to fundraise for its first production. This followed the merger of Surrey Little Theatre and Langley Playhouse, ending the Surrey theatre’s 59-year history. A member of the company, Shearman says Surrey Little Theatres’s exit from Surrey created a vacuum of sorts.
“We aim to be a supportive place,” Shearman noted. “We feel that’s missing in Surrey, especially since Surrey Little Theatre folded. I think Surrey is big enough for probably five community theatres, and they wouldn’t even overlap – Surrey is huge. That’s the nice thing about theatre because it’s a place for people to go be themselves, no matter who they are. We need brains and quirkiness and talent and ideas, because it’s a creative place, right. It doesn’t matter about gender, orientation, economic status, none of that.”
Kayt Roth directs “My Blue Heaven,” staged March 17-19 and again March 24-26, with both matinee and evening performances Saturdays at the theatre, 13530 72 Ave. Show tickets are $25 on the Ticket Owl website, or visit pivottheatre.ca for details.
The script follows Molly and Josie, a long-term couple who have pulled up stakes and relocated from New York City to a dilapidated old farm upstate. Josie revels in her new life as a farmer; Molly tries to find her muse while still reeling from losing her job as a teacher due to publication of her book, “Living the Good Gay Life.” Their peace and quiet is interrupted by a pair of individuals who try to use their domesticity to advance their own agendas.
“In today’s cacophony of differing opinions, it’s more important than ever to portray the everyday,” Roth states. “Josie and Molly are a twosome just like any other, with the same trials, jokes, and dust-ups experienced by every other long-term couple.”