Kelowna theatre trying to help the arts survive, one show at a time | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna theatre trying to help the arts survive, one show at a time

Featuring the talents of Kirsti Hack, Aaron Johnson, Tamie Williams, Brandon Benner, Harsh Hundal and Corey Hendricks, we discover The Black Fly Lodge is a place full of dark secrets and lies that include murder. 
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/New Vintage Theatre
September 05, 2020 - 2:33 PM

Bonnie Gratz remembers the exact moment she realized COVID-19 was going to change everything for people in the arts.

“I was on a conference call, and we saw Broadway close down,” Gratz, Artistic Director of the New Vintage Theatre in Kelowna said. “It was chilling, honestly. We realized the scale of what we would be working with would be massive.”

So, she jumped into action and started disassembling the event that took months to build.

“We had Kelowna FX and it was the first major event that was canceled in the city,” she said, adding that it’s the Southern Interior’s biggest pop culture festival held in March. “We were dealing with Interior Health to see if it was possible to keep our event, and I saw Seattle cancelled theirs and, when I did my research, I could see what was to come. I was really worried about our community and for, in particular, the arts groups in our area.”

She was right to worry. Since that time, arts groups folded shows large and small and tried to figure out how to make ends meet with threadbare resources and no audiences.

“We don’t know what will happen. The thing is, it’s not just us, it’s everyone,” she said. “The point I’ve been trying to make to everybody, is that every show by arts groups now is pivotal — people need to show their support.”

Gratz said New Vintage took a hard look at what they were doing early on and worked to figure out what was possible.

“We want to make sure we are still doing work and do it in a safe fashion,” she said, adding audiences want the same of their viewing experience.

With that in mind, adaptation was the key.

All the big shows, like FX, were postponed, but the small shows took shape. A one-person show, filmed outside and streamed online, was the first foray into the new way of working.

“It worked out in that we did get people to buy tickets, which was awesome because at that time people were getting free content, but they didn’t realize the artists and the arts can’t survive without funds,” she said.

Up next will be Doug Greenall’s play, Dead Serious, at the Rotary Centre for the Arts' Mary Irwin Theatre, which now has a capacity of 50 people in what is otherwise a 350-person space Sept. 17 to 19.

Dead Serious was first produced at Vancouver’s Arts Club in 1989. The play is a classic murder mystery set at a B.C. family-run lakeside resort, The Blackfly Lodge. The knives are out on in the play that critics have called “a dramatic scream machine” and “a cool, gripping thriller”.

“People are going to love this,” Gratz said.

And, with her eye to the future also, Gratz said they’re also raising funds for a theatre truck that will be driven to different locations as a caravan theatre in different communities.

“We would come to your street and do a performance there,” she said, adding there are just a few barriers to be worked out.

Ultimately, however, she just wants to be part of the effort to make the arts survive.

“There’s more than one theatre company in the city, and so many others in the arts who are working so hard,” she said.

She said these efforts don't need a lot.

“Collectively a small donation can make sure these companies will survive. Not enough grant money around to get us to get around for the future,” she said.

The show is Sept. 17-19 at 7 p.m. at Rotary Centre for the Arts. To get tickets click the link. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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