Entertainment

Kelowna's summer theatre: two shows, one city and a cast of excited Vancouver actors

One-time Kelowna kid Jacyln Nestman struts her stuff in Golf the Musical, exercising some impressive pipes in the sporty revue. - Jennifer Smith
One-time Kelowna kid Jacyln Nestman struts her stuff in Golf the Musical, exercising some impressive pipes in the sporty revue.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

It's being dubbed the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival, Kelowna's echo of Bard on the Beach, an outdoor theatre experience in the heart of the downtown core.

And for the young actors who've arrived from Vancouver to perform in it, this should prove one pressure-cooker of a performance.

Amid likely 30 C-plus temperatures with two scripts to learn, they'll be switching from Golf the Musical to the play Fortune's Fools and, as of this week's rehearsal, they're all pretty confident their summer will go swimmingly.

"It's intended to be accessible, fun to go out for a night of theatre and you can take anybody because anybody will like the play," said Neal Facey, KSTF artistic director.

The style is called repertoire theatre. Usually, in professional theatre actors have a two to two-and-a-half week rehearsal period for a show. In repertoire theatre they are learning and rehearsing two shows in just one month and will preform them on alternating nights for the three-week run of performances.

In other words, Kelowna's summer of relaxing laughs on the lawn outside the Rotary Arts Centre is no small feat.

"I'm new to doing two shows at one time as well, so it was a little tricky building the schedule; but I think it's working really well," said Facey. "I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far."

Golf the Musical is the strictly humorous note of the project. A vaudeville-style, madcap revue highlighting the oddities and calamities of the sport, it jabs at everything from the unusual relationship golfers have with their failures to the seemingly appalling manner traditional golfers have of excluding virtually everyone but white men from the sport.

On the alternate days, the second play offers up a romantic comedy featuring a couple who is about to be married and the reluctant relationship that develops between their maid of honour and best man.

"It's the whole evolution of the marriage and what happens after the ring," said Katey Hoffman, an actor originally from Vernon.

Hoffman is now studying in Vancouver and says she enjoys a fantastic relationship with her family who manage to make every show she is in—no exceptions.

Midway through rehearsal, everyone involved seems to believe Kelowna's big venture into the world of outdoor theatre is perfectly on track.

"We're in a really good position considering we've only being doing this for a week," said Simon Mizera, a Slovakian actor based in Vancouver.

He and the other two male actors are spending an afternoon studiously trying to match their feet to the female star's voice.

"It's an intriguing challenge," said Richmond's Andrew Wade, noting the choreography is the most draining portion of their preparation.

"Golf is about matching the choreography to the lyrics. It's not a show that takes itself seriously," he said. "Choreography just takes a lot of energy, not the moves, but learning them."

Casting a repertoire theatre troupe is also a high-energy affair. It means matching a set of actors to two sets of roles and a budget. The group behind this festival is the Viva Musica Society. It's known for staging local opera, but took on this project after finding the audience for small-scale operatic performances is really not here at the moment.

As such, they've spent a year finding financing, choosing the plays, figuring out how many actors to hire and then how they can be used most effectively.

For this summer, it will mean four actors take the stage at the same time and the extra actor will be behind the scenes. One play requires three men and one woman and the other requires two men and two women.

As tricky as the logistics may be, it's a great opportunity for the young actors involved to secure almost two months of employment.

"Since I graduated, I don't think I've had more than three days without a rehearsal or a performance of some kind," said Wade, who finished up at UBC Vancouver last year.

He's worked as a pirate, at Science World and on a string of plays.

"If you're a guy who can dance and sing, you can get in shows," he said. "Whether or not those shows pay money is a different thing."

Shows can run as co-operatives in which the actors split the proceeds if it makes money. They are often voluntary and sometimes they just go belly-up.

But if you're willing to work hard, down the line, it can mean the best job in the world—and you'll likely see a few things along the way.

For cast member Alen Dominguez, securing work means having good skills, but also  a mandatory penchant for travel.

"If you're not willing to travel, you're not going to get work," he said. "It's that simple."

The actors search the Vancouver Public Library's casting call listing—it's ostensibly to promote their play collection but appears to have become the go-to audition listing in the city—and online musical databases. They subscribe to more theatre newsletters than they could ever read and spend at least 15 minutes a day scanning the want ads for work.

"The life of an actor is one of doing job interviews every week and when you finally get the job, it's fantastic, but it only lasts about a month," Wade said.

Kelowna gets its near month of enjoying their efforts at the end of this month.

Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival lasts three weeks running July 19 to August 12th. Tickets are $25 can be purchased through Select Your Tickets or by calling  250-717-5304.

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