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Opinion: Missing The Point

From left, Louise Robinson, Katie Painchaud, Brandon Barrett, Jack R. Trotter and Chris Quinlan, who were some of the performers in this year’s Flag Stop Theatre & Arts Festival, held Aug. 6 and 7 at The Point.

When you mention The Point Artist-Run Centre to locals, it’s often a crapshoot as to whether they will know what you’re talking about.

Just last week, I was telling my barber, a Sea to Sky resident going on 30 years, that I was performing at the Point for the annual Flag Stop Theatre & Arts Festival (I requested a wizard beard for a role I was playing, obviously), and her first response was: Where’s that? 

I’m sometimes baffled by how such a tried and true Whistler venue, the historic site of the former Cypress Lodge (and, later, a youth hostel) built by Dick and Kelly Fairhurst in the 1950s, has managed to fly under the radar even among long-time locals. It doesn’t help that it’s been years since public transit serviced the area, and the parking can be a nightmare on weekends, what with the overflow from nearby Rainbow Park. But for those in the know, walking down the long, metallic stairs to the rustic (and arguably haunted) cabin is like finding an oasis in the sun-soaked desert. 

Grassroots to its core, The Point possesses a certain ragtag charm that sits in stark contrast to the overly sanitized tourism magnet of the village. Powered almost exclusively by volunteers, artistic director Stephen Vogler has managed to create a tightknit sense of community that both harkens back to Whistler’s hippie days and, in its inclusivity, reflects its modern reality as well. 

Without fail, there’s always a moment every Flag Stop when, peering through the tall windows into the living room from the cabin’s long back porch, we marvel at the diversity of the assembled crowd inside, dancing their hearts out on the slick hardwood floors (pre-pandemic, at least). Artists mingle with athletes, hardcore ski bums with East Van crust punks, and shocks of silver hair are spotted alongside excitable kids all hopped up on homemade pie (shout-out to Aphrodite’s Organic Café!). 

To me, The Point reflects all the best qualities of this special community, tied together not by generation or class or career, but by a shared zest for life that tells you there is no time like the present to be exactly who you truly are. 

Crucially, it also offers a haven for local emerging performers and creatives in a town where the arts have historically taken a backseat to sports and nature as the main attractions. And after COVID-19 put a pause on live events for much of the past 17 months, just getting the chance to entertain an audience again in the flesh added a special significance to this year’s Flag Stop that made its 10th edition one I won’t soon forget.

But if I’m being honest, it’s not just the thrill of performing on the scenic floating stage that keeps me coming back year after year, but those fleeting moments after the curtains close: the cheap drinks courtesy of Big Kev at Harrop’s Bar, the sweaty dance circles, the long conversations staring out at a moonlit night, when it feels like even the wildest ideas are attainable. For me personally, I can’t think of another place in Whistler where I’ve discovered more about who I am as a man. It’s where I acted for the first time, where I staged my first play, and where I fell in love with the woman of my dreams. 

I’m sure I’m not the first, nor will I be the last person to notice the distinct energy at The Point, one I have to imagine has been fed by the innumerable dreamers and doers who have passed through the cabin’s doors over the past 70 years. And while there’s part of me that hopes more locals discover its unique charms, maybe it’s fitting that, just like a far-away peak or secret run tucked into the backcountry, one of Whistler’s true hidden gems takes a little bit of extra effort to appreciate.