Five years ago, I was given the advice, not to do theatre in the summer because apparently no one in Vancouver was going to go see theatre when they could go to the beach instead. Well, am I ever glad that I trusted my instincts and did it anyways, because Twenty-Something Theatre’s success has shown that, shocker, people actually do like to go see theatre all year ‘round. And, in the five years since we put up our first production in 2006 what used to be a pretty quiet indie summer theatre scene is now starting to be a much more happening one. And, this makes me very happy.
In 2007, a year after Twenty-Something put up it’s first summer production, Itsazoo migrated to Vancouver from Victoria bringing with them their roving summer productions of fairy-tales-turned-upside-down. And they weren’t the only the ones. That year a few other young companies started to pop up with summer plays and musicals.
Now, fast forward in time to the present, and we’ve now got a brand new indie summer theatre festival formatted after Toronto’s Summerworks: Neanderthal Arts. On Friday night I went to see another young company called Thirty Below Theatre and their production of Tiny Replicas. The writing by Dave Deveau was funny and poignant and the performances moving. He’s a young playwright to watch. I don’t say that lightly and I look forward to seeing more of his stuff. Plus it was geared right at young audiences. My theatre-going companions and I talked about it long after it was over while we sipped our wine in The Cultch’s fabulous new Wine Bar and Café. If this is the kind of stuff that is going to come out of the new Neanderthal Arts Festival, I look forward to seeing many more shows in the years to come. And, from the sound of things, that certainly looks possible. Speaking to Daniel Martin after the show (Co-Artistic Director of Upintheair Theatre and Co-Producer of the festival) it sounds like they are having a great turn out so far. From the packed Wine Bar and the amount of people I saw buzzing around the building, I would say that he’s not lying. And maybe, just maybe, part of that happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the crowd, was due in part to the fact that it is summer. Hmmmm….who would’ve thought?! Theatre in the summer a good thing?!
But it’s not just in the summer, something is in the air and seems to be translating from summer through to the rest of the traditional, September - May, theatre season. Twenty-Something Theatre’s got a 3-show season coming up next year. Young new companies seem to be popping up all over the place. We’ve got Glass City doing it’s first Fringe show and then moving on to a production of “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” in March. Or, Relephant Theatre, who is producing its first production of Stewart Lemoine’s “The Exquisite Hour” during the Vancouver Fringe. And, these are just two examples that come to mind but there are many more. Times they are a-changin’.
And it seems to me that maybe in the next five years, Vancouver’s indie theatre scene might look very different than it does today. What do you think?