SURREY — The arts space still has no official name, but that’s of secondary importance to Ellie King right now.
“We just can’t wait to get in here to start working on our next show,” said King, founder and director of Royal Canadian Theatre Company, as she toured the Now through the facility at 10660 City Parkway.
Renovations to the space, a former auto garage, should be completed within a month, followed by a move-in date for Royal Canadian and its partner in the venture, the Vancouver-based Streetrich Hip Hop Society.
For the moment, King and others are calling the space 10660 – or Ten Six Sixty.
“It’ll be up to ourselves and Streetrich to come up with a name, and then it’ll have to go to the city for approval because there are guidelines they have for names,” King noted.
Whatever the name, the shared space is something of a godsend for the performing arts companies, both of which have a focus on youth programming.
Last spring, following a request for proposals, the city chose the two companies to operate the “creative cluster,” which measures 2,500 square feet. The renovation bill will arrive under $300,000, said Todd Ayotte, the city’s cultural development co-ordinator.
Re-purposing the city-owned property will “contribute to the further development of Surrey’s Cultural Corridor, and create a much needed venue to support art making and creative collaborations in City Centre,” Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner stated in an April 13 release announcing the initiative.
(Story continues below photo of building exterior at 10660 City Parkway, Surrey)
The facility boasts high ceilings, some natural light, a sprung floor, a workshop/set-building area and enough width and depth to appease King in her role as director.
“When you’re preparing to do a stage show, one of the important things is you want your rehearsal space roughly the same size as the stage you’ll be performing on,” she explained. “We do a lot of work at Surrey Arts Centre, and with our mentorship program, some of the people aren’t used to performing, and then you bring them from a small rehearsal space to a bigger stage, it’s hard for them to adapt, virtually impossible. Here, that won’t be a problem. They’ll know exactly where they’re supposed to be after rehearsing in here.”
This week, King and company are preparing the pantomime “Beauty and the Beast” for the Surrey Arts Centre stage. The show opens on Friday (Dec. 16) and runs until Dec. 26, followed by some dates at the The ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge.
Rehearsals for the show, involving close to three dozen actors, have taken place in storefront space at Guildford Town Centre.
“They have generously sponsored us, and we have a huge space there, probably three times the size of this, which is great but also cavernous, right in the mall,” King said. “We are paying but it’s not the going commercial rate for the space, and the idea is for us to leave the door open and have people come in and see what we’re doing, what we’re rehearsing.”
If all goes according to plan, Royal Canadian will in January begin rehearsing Norm Foster’s “Opening Night,” the first of its three plays at Surrey Arts Centre in 2017, at the 10660 space.
“The operating agreement (with Royal Canadian and Streetrich) will be similar to the one we have with the arts council (of Surrey) to operate Newton Cultural Centre,” Ayotte told the Now.
The deal will outline the responsibilities of all partners for a five-year term, with options for renewal, Ayotte said.
“From the city’s perspective, we’re thrilled that this space is happening in City Centre because the cultural strategic plan is about enlivening the town centres and decentralizing the arts and supporting and fostering the artists, and this is the perfect kind of project for that, for the arts organizations but also the neighbourhood here.”
King envisions a place busy with art shows, music, improv comedy, spoken word and, of course, theatre and dance.
“This could be a huge catalyst for this area, because you look at a place like Granville Island, it starts with one,” she said. “If this place is continually busy – and if we have our druthers, it will be, trust me – it becomes a gathering place, with the doors open.
“We are in what could be termed a slightly derelict area, but I don’t personally have any issues with it,” King continued. “You look at people like Jay Hamburger, who does Theatre in the Raw in East Van, and there’s no reason why we couldn’t do something like that here, have the local residents involved in making theatre and speaking with their own voices. There is so much that can happen here. The only restriction is how many hours in a day and how many days in the week there are, that’s it. It looks like a room with couple of rooms off, but (it’s) a huge next chapter in the development of the cultural landscape of Surrey, and we could not be more grateful to the City of Surrey – councillors, staff, everybody, for their support of this. There are no words to say what this means.”
Royal Canadian’s panto version of “Beauty and the Beast” will be staged seven times at Surrey Arts Centre during its run there, this week and next.
The show puts a comedic twist on a classic tale of love, bravery and second chances.
The story, set in the town of Licketysplitz, tells the story of a merchant named Herr Brush, who has two daughters. “All looks rosy until a shipment of goods fails to arrive and he’s left destitute with nowhere to turn,” the company says. “His youngest daughter, the beautiful Isabella, saves the day but at such a price! To rescue her family from poverty, she becomes the only companion to the hideous beast in his old and lonely castle, with no hope of escape.”