Theatre Alive turns to stage events

Season premieres with ‘Earnest’ Jan. 1

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An important island arts and literary society is set to have a vital new role on Salt Spring, with the relaunch of Theatre Alive in the new year as a staged reading theatre series.

Helmed by actor/writer/director Chris Humphreys, Theatre Alive will enjoy a monthly run at Mahon Hall from January to June, beginning with The Importance of Earnest on Wednesday, Jan. 1. Humphreys directs Oscar Wilde’s comedy classic, with Adina Hildebrandt as Lady Bracknell. Young actors Izak Donnelly, Jo Gaffney, Chloe Haigh and Peter Hoskins will take the roles as the two main couples.

Theatre Alive was set up by Diana Hayes and Brian Brett in the 1990s to host literary events and author readings. The infamous Erotic Festival was a fundraiser for the series. Humphreys happened to be having dinner with Hayes and Brett recently when the topic came up. He’d already been thinking about doing more staged reading events after producing and acting in Art by Yasmina Reza for the Salt Spring Arts Council’s Easter Art Show program in 2018.

With Brett having left the island for health reasons and Hayes ready to retire her role, the time was ripe for a new iteration.

“For me it’s a way of bringing really great theatre to Salt Spring, and I’m quite excited about it,” Humphreys said.

“I really like staged readings,” he added. “It’s a way of accessing great plays without all the bells and whistles. You don’t need a ton of rehearsal — but I do insist on rehearsal. You can tackle big things because you’re not going to need big sets, you don’t need much costuming. And the feedback from the audience after Art and elsewhere that I’ve done it is they forget you’re even holding a script, which is great.”   

Some of the script rights are still being negotiated, but Humphreys has most of the 2020 season mapped out. It will include a mix of material from comedy to drama and perhaps even some tragedy, and also vary in cast size from the two-hander to the large ensemble.

“I want to try to reflect the diversity of the island,” he said. “One of the plays I’ll do this year will be a gay-themed play, hopefully Boys in the Band. I want to make [the series] as broad as possible and bring in a lot of theatre people from the community.”

Readings will include Red, which is about Mark Rothko and will star Jan Rabson and his son Hayden, to be presented during the Easter Art Show. God of Carnage, another play by Reza, is about two sets of parents who meet after one set’s child has hurt the other at a public park. Escaped Alone is a play for four older women by acclaimed playwright Caryl Churchill. Humphreys will close the season in June with a modern farce written by himself called Touching Wood. (Plays will not be occurring on the same day of the month each time, so people should check the schedule as it becomes available.)

Tickets can be purchased to shows individually, but Humphreys is also looking for subscribers to support the program. It will be possible to purchase the entire series at the first show on Jan. 1, which will mean six performances for the price of five.

The Importance of Being Earnest starts at 7 p.m.

For advance subscription purchase or more information, contact theatrealive2020@gmail.com.

For more on this story, see the Dec. 18, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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