ON STAGE: Time to clean up, company is coming

A Langley theatre group is once again hosting the regional community theatre competitions this week.

For the second time in three years, the best of the best thespians in the Fraser Valley are performing on the Langley Playhouse stage.

Langley was once again asked to host the Fraser Valley Zone Festival (a regional theatre competition) this week, explained Mary Renvall.

The reason is simple. Langley is central, and – more importantly – Langley Players is one of the few remaining drama clubs in the Lower Mainland to own its own theatre, she said.

“It is so much easier for Langley Players to host, as we have our own space,” said Renvall, a long-time Langley Player member and repeat Theatre BC winner.

“Costs are low, not as much red tape – such as licensing, contracts, rental,” she elaborated.

Last year the festival was hosted by Surrey Little Theatre, but held at the Coast Capital Theatre in White Rock.

But preparing for the regional competition always means a mad scramble, Renvall admitted, explaining that the Players closed their own month-long run of Blood Relations on Saturday, May 19, then opened up for the regional competition the next morning.

Fortunately, as host, they had the advantage of being able to keep their set intact one extra day, and to be the first of seven theatre groups to present their play to the regional judge.

“It was a wonderful kickoff to the festival,” said Players president Dave Williams, who was involved in Blood Relations and on the zone festival organizing committee.

Despite being the first on and off the stage for the festival, a mass clean up was still in order throughout the Brookswood theatre space, explained Renvall, who served as production manager in the story about Lizzie Borden.

In addition to Langley Players competing in this week’s regionals, they are up against the Chilliwack School of Performing Arts bringing a youth production of Halo, Mission’s Opening Nite Theatre performing Drop Dead, Offtopic from Abbotsford performing Emotional Baggage, Surrey Little Theatre presenting Slow Dancing, Theatre in the Country (of Maple Ridge and Langley) performing No Exit, and Coquitlam’s Stage 43 presenting The Ladies Foursome.

Each team is given a few hours to load in and prepare their set before performing their play for Vancouver dramaturage Kathleen Duborg. She’s the adjudicator for this year’s regional competition.

“The festival is a friendly competition but also has an educational component, Renvall said, noting that there is a critiquing session offered to each group the day after their show.

The winner of this competition will be announced during an awards dinner on Saturday, and the victor will earn the chance to attend the provincial competition, called BC Mainstage, being held in Vernon at the end of June. They’ll compete against nine theatre groups from around the province to be the best in B.C.

Dale Kelly, who started with Langley Players back in 1975, was back in his old stomping grounds Tuesday.

He’s directing the production by Port Coquitlam theatre group, Stage 43, of The Ladies Foursome, a Norm Foster comedy.

This production, starring four adult women golfers and four young groundskeepers, was the fourth to show for the regional adjudicator this week.

“I haven’t been back here in a long time,” he said, now a Port Moody resident who’s been involved with 20 Lower Mainland theatre groups since those early days with Langley Players.

This is his 92nd directorial production, including a few back in his Langley days.

With any luck, he said, his team will win the regionals and earn a chance at Mainstage. But winning isn’t what concerns him.

“It’s an entertaining show,” he said, noting Stage 43 was the first non-professional group given permission to debut the play in Western Canada.

“I don’t care so much if we win. I just hope it will be one of the more entertaining shows in the festival… I’ll be happy if the audience laughs and has a good night,” Kelly said.

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