Fans of live theatre are in for a special treat in late May.
This month, amateur theatre groups from across the Okanagan Valley will come together to showcase their talent, putting on seven different plays over seven consecutive days.
The 2016 Okanagan Zone Theatre Festival, hosted by Oliver and Osoyoos’ own South Okanagan Players (SOAP), is coming to Frank Venables Theatre starting May 21.
There will be seven productions presented between May 21 and 28.
According to Nathan Linders, the president of SOAP, the festival will be the biggest theatre event to hit the area in decades.
Theatre troupes hailing from Vernon, Kelowna, Oliver and other South Okanagan communities will compete for a spot in the provincial Mainstage Festival, which will be held in July in Chilliwack.
Gary Davies, the director of the William Davis Centre for Actor’s Study, who has appeared in shows such as the X-Files and Da Vinci’s Inquest, will judge the productions.
Linders says the event is not only the perfect chance for Oliver and Osoyoos residents to take in some great theatre, but a rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain for a glimpse at what happens behind the scenes.
A “public adjudication” and “coffee critique” will follow each night’s play, where ticket holders would be invited to sit in as Davies critiques the performances and works with the troupe to improve certain scenes.
“Davies is going to actually have them work on scenes, almost like a personal coaching session,” Linders says. “It is a glimpse to the backstage that many of us crave.”
The process that actors go through to arrive at the finished product is just as, if not more, fascinating than the performance itself and for the public to get to experience some of “the rush” for themselves should be a blast, he said.
Amateur theatre is special because the actors are there for no other reason than their love of the theatre, said Linders.
“No one is paid. There is no obligation for anyone to show up, but still they put in hours and hours of their time to create something,” he said.
That effort creates a bond like none other, Linders says, and that bond shines through in the final production that hits the stage.
Linders explained how he used to work for a big bank and every time there was a shakeup in management, they would trot out a new supposedly motivational video about teamwork, featuring smiling people manning a boat or some similar ideal of unity their employees would never even come close to reaching.
“But those managers would be eating their hearts out to see the teamwork that I see every time we get together, this group of amateurs,” he said. “And that’s probably the best part of it, is the people in this aren’t here because they have to be here, they’re here because this is what they want to do in their spare time. And I think it shows in the product.”
Anyone wishing to pick up tickets to attend the 2016 Okanagan Zone Theatre Festival, can visit the South Okanagan Amateur Players website (they are only available online). The site at soplayers.ca also features a synopsis of all seven plays and more information about this year’s festival and its history.
By Trevor Nichols