Making a mark with Blank Slate 

Grassroots theatre festival returns for second year with The Big Oops and Canadian premiere of Almost An Evening


What: Blank Slate theatre festival

When: Wednesday, Sept. 1 to Saturday, Sept. 4

Where: Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre

Cost: $20/show, $35/both

Whistler isn't known for having a thriving performing arts scene. Aside from grassroots initiatives like the annual Chairlift Revue at the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival and Snow, the musical that was commissioned as part of the Cultural Capitals program, the community hasn't seen a lot of live theatre lately.

One woman is hoping to change all that with a new, independent theatre festival.

Lilli Clark is multimedia events planner for Watermark Communications, but she's also a passionate member of the performing arts community in Vancouver, having studied theatre at Queens University and the Atlantic Acting School in New York. Over the last two years, in addition to her work with Watermark, she has been busy trying to get her Whistler-based theatre project, Blank Slate, off the ground.

"I really think that theatre is so important for a community and there's a reason why little theatre companies develop in small communities; it just happens naturally. It's like evolution!"

Clark has been a Whistler weekender her entire life but set down permanent roots in the community about six years ago. In that time, she's noticed a lack of theatre among the community's cultural offerings.

"I think maybe people have tried and I know people go, 'Oh, we've tried this before, it's never going to work,'" Clark reflected. "And that's fine and I think there have been efforts to do it, but maybe it was just not the right time."

It may seem ambitious, but Clark is hoping Blank Slate could act as a catalyst of sorts to build a thriving theatrical scene.

"I don't want to sound arrogant," Clark said. "I'm not saying that I think that's going to happen. But in an ideal world it would be fantastic."

Her long-term plan for the festival is to expand to include First Nations playwrights, offer workshops and perhaps even develop and stage an original work developed by Whistler locals.

"What would be great is if we could take little sub-communities like the writers and other local actors and stuff like that, and kind of incorporate everybody into the festival."

And she's quick to point out that Whistler has a wealth of multi-talented, creative minds.

"It's so welcoming. Everybody kind of really wants to pitch in," she said.

"Everybody is putting on like five different hats - they can do this, that and the other. And I think that's really cool."


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