Between Shifts Theatre at 20 

Squamish's award-winning community theatre takes on 'A Christmas Carol'

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LISA SCHAER - Local heroes The actors from Between Shift's production of A Christmas Carol
  • Photo By Lisa Schaer
  • Local heroes The actors from Between Shift's production of A Christmas Carol

For 20 years and through almost 50 different productions, the Between Shifts Theatre company in Squamish has put on popular revues, serious plays and musicals.

"I wanted to be able offer high-quality community theatre that is local and professional. A lot of people come through us and have gone on to be professional. Or some already are," says Kathy Daniels, who co-founded the company two decades ago and remains its artistic director.

Their latest show is about that rotten Victorian miser Scrooge, whose cold heart is warmed up thanks to the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future — A Christmas Carol.

It runs at the Eagle Eye Theatre in Squamish from Nov. 28 to 30 and from Dec. 4 to 7, at 7:30 p.m., with Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors.

The story is an almost inevitable Dickens classic for this time of year, but what is not inevitable is the way it is being staged.

"The big secret is that I've gender-bended a few of the roles. I'm not doing it like a panto(mime) where people are in drag, it's not like that. It's just playing the character, but not necessarily gender specific," Daniels says.

"I've also added something like a Greek Chorus, but they appear as a group of choral singers. They come in and out of the play quite a bit and some will take small incidental roles. They will show up and sing. It's a device that I thought would add more musicality.

"I felt we needed to find a slightly different way so that people can renew Dickens's message... If you look at the story, it is such a beautiful story of redemption and it's about love."

The youngest actor is eight, the oldest in their 60s.

It runs to just under two hours because Daniels, who is also directing it, did not want smaller audience members worn out by the experience.

The actor playing the famous Scrooge is a mystery, Daniels won't divulge the name, but the other roles are performed by Paul Borchert, Todd Weitzl, Skai Stevenson, Emma Wong, Carrie Salazar, Glen McMillan, Whitney Keyes,  Glenn Gentil, Eli Stern, Calista Ryan, Taija Milne, Sonoma Brawley, Julianna Magee, Sasha Law, Josephine Iacovone, Elizabeth Kerr and Barb Stover.

Between Shift's producer, Prentice Geary, says it all works because they are like minded.

"Essentially, everyone involved volunteers their time and purchases a membership to belong to Between Shifts Theatre and really we are all just a bunch of people who are passionate about theatre," he says.

A Christmas Carol follows last summer's sold out showing of Calendar Girls and in 2012 Between Shifts won the North Shore Festival for their production of The Cemetery Club.

"We went on to main stage and it was fun to do that," Daniels says. "We want to constantly set that bar higher. These people enjoy doing theatre but they can really challenge themselves at the same time."

Running a small-town theatre company isn't without challenges.

Daniels says: "What's disappointing for me is that we're not in a better place financially. We're very, very tight with our budgets. Man, we can put on a good-looking show for six or seven grand."

Funds to run Between Shifts are mostly raised through ticket sales, though the Squamish Arts Council presented them with $2,500 for the current production.

Other sponsors include Optomeyes, which donates $500 a year; two community sponsors donate $200. Daniels is grateful but explains they could spend $900 on theatre rental alone for one show, "so we need to put on shows that bring in audiences."

The company keeps its sets at the West Coast Railway Museum and this sort of local help is another thing that allows the company to survive, Daniels adds.

She tries to balance this with also creating an "artistic and valid experience" for both the audiences and the artists.

Between Shifts is putting on The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams in April, and a series of one-act plays by local playwrights in the summer of 2014.

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