Theatre project plans scaled back 

Organizers work on bringing public theatre back to Whistler in 2009

It looks like fans of Shakespeare are going to have to go elsewhere for their fix of the Bard during the summer months; the Whistler Theatre Project won’t be coming back to Whistler this year.

Sue Adams is chair of the board of MY Millennium Place and is very involved in the Whistler Theatre Project (WTP), an outdoor theatrical production that was held in the summer of 2006.

“Millennium Place’s purpose is ensuring that we have quality live performances in Whistler through partnerships that we have with other people, generally outside of our community,” Adams explained. She added that the WTP is one of the key organizations they work with to achieve this goal.

Created by Lynn May Mirfield, Zaib Shaikh, and Todd Talbot, 34 performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream were held at Rebagliatti Park during the first and only season of WTP, attracting more than 5,000 people.

Despite the popularity of the project, it was cancelled in 2007, and though organizers were hoping to bring it back this summer, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen.

Adams said this is largely due to financial issues, adding that the 2006 project cost an estimated $500,000, to rent the park and other equipment, and put cast members up.

But members of the WTP and Millennium Place are now working together to make sure theatrical productions have a role in Whistler. Adams explained that each of the organizations has recently held meetings to discuss the future of the project.

“We’re taking baby steps to move towards getting quality live theatre back into our lives in Whistler,” said Adams.

The WTP and Millennium Place applied for funding through the federal government’s Cultural Capitals program that the municipality recently received. The two organizations have been designated almost $50,000, which is about half of what Adams estimates they will need for a new scaled-down performance series that explores the history of Whistler.

“This is a much smaller project… than we staged last time,” said Adams. “What we are hoping for with this new sort of agreement we have between the two organizations — it’s not set in stone at all — but that we will be able to work together to have a really good live performance program in place in Whistler for 2010 or close to that time.”

Millennium Place will manage the project, and the people from Whistler Theatre Project will handle the artistic direction, while board members will work on raising sponsorship and funding so they can have the program up and running by the of summer of 2009.

“From my point of view, being a business person in Whistler, I see this as being an absolutely fabulous way to build cultural tourism,” said Adams. She added that, according to the World Tourism Organization, cultural tourism is the fastest growing segment of Canada’s tourism industry, with almost $4 billion spent on cultural events in B.C. each year.

Adams said they will be seeking financial support from within the community and abroad, but she doesn’t believe they will have a hard time finding people to support the project.

While it may be disappointing that the WTP isn’t returning this summer, Adams says this is a realistic, practical approach to building live theatre’s presence within the community.

“There’s a fantastic template in place, and we just need to bring some other partnerships in to make it work,” said Adams.

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