Theatre is making its presence known in the Okangan Valley this year with new companies, new spaces and new ideas.
But if there’s one addition to the scene that just might revolutionize the theatre-going experience for adventurous art enthusiasts and armchair entertainment buffs alike, it’s the new Theatre 26 at UBCO.
Designed to showcase student work and introduce the student community to artistic entertainment as a viable option for something to do on a Friday night, it offers perhaps the best hope for anyone interested in fringe-scene theatre to see the sort of edgy, experimental art the Okanagan valley seems to miss.
“Because we have institutional support, it allows us to pursue endeavours that maybe a for-profit theatre wouldn’t be able to support,” said Laen Hershler, the performer, instructor and director hired to help the student work experience program that runs the theatre get its first season underway.
The theatre itself is busy. Friday nights there is a showcase from 5-7 p.m. where anyone who wants to use the space to perform a new scene or test out an idea has five to seven minutes in front of an audience, with feedback.
There are student shows performed on its stage, both during the semester and as part of the final projects for those completing their degree work.
There are also shows that come into the theatre, drawn to the area largely to provide theatre experiences for the community and student body, but often to work with the students as well.
En route to the stage, for example, is The Tragicomic Destiny of Tubby and Notubby. Created for the 2009 theatre season in France, the show is on a cross-Canada tour sponsored by the Canadian Arts Council. The performers will spend a week in workshops with the theatre students.
Delving into the world of the clown, Tubby and Nottubby, are at once deceived by their illusions and carried by the beauty of their dreams on life’s adventure. They come up on quite a wide scope of what life, fantasy or not, has to offer, meeting a skull, surviving a tempest, falling out and making up and singing to deceive fear and death itself en route to their renaissance.
The show’s creators are top Canadian performers Sophie Brech and Louis Fortier, who will be moving on to work with Robert Lepage, the leading theatre artist in the country, when the show’s 35-show Canadian tour and a tour in Paris are through.
Showing in the theatre itself this weekend is Woody Sed: A Play About the Life and Music of Woody Guthrie.
Performed by Thomas Jones, this is a one-man play about the life and times of the American folk-music pioneer.
The theatre organizers are hoping to bring theatre sports up from Vancouver later this spring—likely to be a hit with the students—and will be opening the theatre up for standup comedy and music nights.
“We want to make it an alternative space for theatre and to really turn UBCO into a hub for art in the Interior of British Columbia,” said Hershler.
Tickets for The Tragicomic Destiny of Tubby and Nottubby are $10 to $25, with advanced ticket and student pricing, available through www.selectyourtickets.com. The show runs Thursday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. in the Rotary Centre for the Arts.
Woody Sed runs this Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. in Theatre 26 at UBCO in the administration building. Tickets are $20, or $10 for students, available at the door. More information on this show can be found at woodysed.com.