For the final production of their 20th season Squamish's Between Shifts Theatre looked to locals for scripts.
Their All Canadian One-Acts show will feature two scripts from Whistler playwright Karen McLeod, burgeoning Squamish writer Jacob Bakes (who's just 16-years-old), Troy Dawson, also from Squamish, and lone Ontarian David Craig. "They're all kind of different," says Kathy Daniels, company founder and one of the directors in this production. "There are four comedies and one drama... The cool thing is if you don't like one you might like the next one."
This is Between Shifts' sixth one-act production. One of the perks — besides the bite-sized plays that are over quickly if they leave a bad taste in your mouth — is that they're good testing grounds for new community theatre recruits, from actors to directors and playwrights themselves. Daniels, who is directing McLeod's pair of comedies, says her first-time actress seems made for the stage. "I thought she was fantastic," she says. "I think younger folk, it's the time commitment and the attendance. It's a learning process and that's part of what Between Shifts is here to do. We really want to bring in new people and young people and give them a place and encourage them to learn. Even if they don't go on in theatre at least they have this nice experience."
After two decades, many budding theatre enthusiasts have passed through Between Shifts' doors (which are metaphorical, as they don't have a brick and mortar theatre of their own — something Daniels hopes could happen in the future). Their milestone year was a strong one, she says, particularly their recent production of Calendar Girls, which they had to turn people away from night after night. The attendance for their take on Sherlock Holmes was strong too.
"Calendar Girls was phenomenal," she says. "It took us by surprise. We didn't realize we'd have that response. It was incredible. I'm still running into people who are saying, 'That was great.' We had a lot of repeat business, but we also had people from Vancouver and Whistler come to see it too."
Already, she's looking ahead to their first play of the next season, A Christmas Carol. "I need to get these people nailed down soon because my crew is my gold," she adds. "The last thing I do is cast it. Getting the crew together, I need a design and stage manager and a costume designer."
The current crew is hunkering down with last minute dress rehearsals ahead of Canadian One-Acts' opening night on June 20. It will run at the Brackendale Art Gallery from then until June 22 and again June 27 to 29.
Some sample synopses of that show: one (which has been staged in Whistler in recent months) is about a women's book club and the trouble that can ensue during gatherings, another is about a school health class and a third is an adaption of the British sitcom Blackadder. "It's really fun for all of us to do because you can take a small project and it doesn't take very long to put it together," Daniels says. "It's our end-of-year thing. It's not so labour intensive as a big play."
Teenage playwright Bakes' play is the sole drama in the bunch. It takes on a series of heavy topics, like family relationships and teenage suicide, but it provides variety within the collection. "I was putting out feelers that Between Shifts was doing all Canadian plays," Daniels says, explaining she has connections to the drama department at Howe Sound Secondary. "I kept contacting kids and if they didn't have one to put in they would refer me to someone."
Eventually, she found Bakes. "He thought it would be great," she's says.
It took Daniels and her other director Paul Fletcher time to sort through plays that could fit with the "Canadian one-act" theme. But at this point they're seasoned at choosing productions. "We're always keeping an eye out for interesting plays," she says.
For the upcoming season, she reveals, they're considering everything from Steel Magnolias to The Full Monty. For now, though, they're working on capping off their 20th year with a bang. Adds Daniels, "We're looking forward to the next 20 years."
Tickets for the show are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. Grab them ahead of time at Bille's Bouquet, the Brackendale Art Gallery or online at www.betweenshiftstheatre.com.
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