If you have strolled by the Rotary Centre for the Arts behind the Kelowna Art Gallery in recent days, you could be excused if you thought there was some construction going on.
The Rotary Common outdoor area has resembled a worksite with a tall fence around it. And it actually is, of a sort.
But it has been a worksite for a small group of actors and theatre technicians who are working under the auspices of the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival (KSTF). A product of the venerable Viva Musica Society, KSTF has transformed the Rotary Common and the front of the Rotary Centre into an outdoor theatre.
The summer theatre is employing all of its own actors and technicians.
“We decided back in the fall of 2009 that it was time for a change,” explained Peter Kascak, president of the organization.
“Due to the downturn in the economy, our former production model was no longer viable, so when Neal (artistic director, Neal Facey) came to the board with this idea, we jumped on it.”
That idea, in a nutshell, is to go fully professional, move the venue outdoors and employ young emerging artists.
“I’ve always wanted to do repertory theatre with young artists who are just starting their careers. We provide them with a unique opportunity to work on their craft, give them something to add to their resume and, of course, a paycheque,” Kascak said.
With five actors, a stage manager, a site manager and one musician, KSTF has created eight short term jobs this summer.
“I am actually quite proud of that,” says Kascak, “and we’ve done this on a very tight budget as well. We aren’t paying anyone a fortune by any means, but they all seem pretty happy.”
Actor Andrew Wade concurs, “Prior to the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival, I had broken even on a couple of Fringe shows, made a small amount of money in a playwriting competition, and earned $300 performing at the UFV Director’s Festival, but other than these small successes, I had not yet found that elusive paid theatre contract. So this opportunity was like blessed manna from the heavens.” Wade said.
“And while the company may consider the rates to be humble, any paycheque I can earn doing theatre means I have more time in the future to devote to creating and pursuing more theatre, rather than needing to find my rent through an unrelated job.”
Facey and Kascak are quick to point out that the group could not have done this without a lot of help from granting agencies.
“We really scoured the field in search of grantors,” said Facey. “We owe much gratitude to agencies such as the Vancouver Foundation and the City of Kelowna, for their financial support and their enthusiasm for the project.”
The summer theatre festival has also received financial support from the Province of British Columbia, Human Resources and Development Canada, BC Arts Council, RBC Foundation and local businesses and donors. “We are very thankful for any all support we have received,” said Kascak.
“And the public at large can support our work by buying tickets of course.”
Individuals and companies who would like to sponsor KSTF next year can find information on sponsorship and contact information on the KSTF website www.kelownasummertheatrefestival.com .
Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival is running until Aug. 12 with two shows: Golf: The Musical and Fortune’s Fools. Both shows are comedies and Kascak said, “audiences are finding them extremely funny.”
Tickets can be purchased at the door of the Rotary Centre, call 250-717-5304 or go online to selectyourtickets.com.