What's New, Pussycat?

The doldrums of winter can always be broken up with the heat of a warm fire, great company and something fun.  

Something I always look forward to in February is New Vintage Theatre’s annual fundraiser and season launch, The Black Cat Cabaret, because it is a chance to show the community our fantastic artists and warm up the crowd for our upcoming shows.

Heating things up, indeed. This weekend’s event, held at The Black Box Theatre, will feature over 40 artists.  We’ll be singing cabaret classics and sending up our favorite shows in sometimes bawdy skits written by yours truly.  

The big deal is our annual 10 Minute Play Competition. Four finalists were selected by jury from our fall call out for plays:

  • The Grind by Andrew G. Cooper of Kamloops
  • Green Alibi by Catherine Cunningham-Huston of Kelowna
  • Cancel My Appointments by Natasha Daly of Kelowna
  • The Hammer Shop by past winner Logan Mullin from Vernon. 

The winner is awarded $150 and a ridiculous, but coveted trophy, The Black Cat Cup. 

Directors this year are:

  • Ashley Plomp
  • Kendra Hesketh
  • Graham Daley
  • Logan Mullin, who will be directing his own play. 

Believe me, they take their job seriously and although the cup is goofy, they want to win.

Our audiences also get into The Black Cat by dressing up like underground cabaret partiers, lover’s red and black cat prevail, and they also vote on the winning play. 

Fifteen local businesses have also contributed hotel packages, jewelry, wine and collectables to The Black Cat silent auction and raffles because this event is our major fundraiser for the year. 

One lucky audience member will also get to take home a pair of diamond earrings worth $500 from Premier Jewellery and Loan.

If you are looking for the perfect Valentine’s event-may we encourage you to bring out your inner Love Cat?  

Throw off the parka and dress up in lover’s red or black cat and pop down to our party, set in London’s Kit Kat Club.

It’s going to be a hot one.

The Black Cat Cabaret runs Feb.11-12 at 7:30 p.m. at The Black Box Theatre. It is a 16+ event.

Advance tickets, $25, are available from www.selectyourtickets.com or $35 at the door (cash only).  For more information about our not for profit, charitable professional theatre company, check out www.newvintage.ca.

A play with bells on

I am like a kid at Christmas, anxiously awaiting the arrival of a really, cool surprise. 

The present? A play and the arrival of playwright Darrin Hagen from Edmonton.

I am a big fan of Hagen. It all started in the summer of 1993 when my husband, Derek, and I lived in Edmonton and were on The Fringe Theatre board.

We had the most amazing perk — an all-access pass to Edmonton Fringe Festival plays; pretty much the dream for a girl like me.

One warm, summer evening (The Fringe usually marks the end of summer festival season in the Alberta capital), Derek and I went to see a play by Trevor Schmidt  and Hagen and then sat in on a drag queen bingo after. 

It was then we made Guys in Disguise shows part of every summer Fringe — Tranny Get Your Gun and The Edmonton Queen, Not A Riverboat Story — were well written, fun and pulled at your heart strings, eliciting real emotion. And there were more-so many more.

So now, more than 20 years later, you can understand why I am so giddy to see Hagen, an esteemed Edmonton playwright, sound designer and performer, come to Kelowna this weekend. 

With Bells On is the hit play penned by Hagen and directed by Vernon's Logan Mullin that opens Thursday in New Vintage Theatre's studio space, The Hothouse, at Rotary Centre For The Arts.

The comedy is based around the scenario of a quiet businessman who gets trapped in an elevator with a drag queen on her way to a Christmas pageant, possibly her last.

The panic of the two being stuck in a confined space builds a camaraderie between the two when it is apparent no one is coming to rescue them.

The unlikely friendship and amazing experience the audience has with them is what has made the one-act play a hit throughout Canada, with sold out runs in Edmonton and Calgary.

It's the closing show of New Vintage Theatre's busy 2016.

Hagen's fast wit and salty sweetness of With Bells On is what marks him as playwright and has made his shows with his company Guys In Disguise nationally renowned for over 25 years. 

Named one of Alberta's most influential citizens in 2005 and Alberta Foundation For The Arts most notable top 25 citizens in 2016, Hagen is one of Canada's most progressive and innovative playwrights with a long list of Fringe Festival and regional theatre hits on his resume.

You can come and see Hagen's play, starring Zachary Fox and Shannon Lester, at The Rotary Centre For The Arts, Studio 100 on Dec. 8, 10, 15-17 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 if reserved at info@newvintage.ca or $25 (cash only) at the door. Since this play is in New Vintage Theatre's Studio 100, space is very limited.

Audiences are also invited to come and hear Hagen speak about his groundbreaking work at a talk called Happy Hour with Darrin on Dec.10 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. 

Audiences can grab a complimentary drink of wine and listen to Hagen talk about With Bells On and his experience as a drag queen artiste, playwright and designer with New Vintage Artistic Director Bonnie Gratz.

RSVP to info@newvintage.ca for free tickets to the talk or to book your for tickets to this great play, perfect for the holiday season. Space is limited.

Adorable monster on stage

Play opens next week                                                     

Writing a new play is not easy, particularly when it's about a monster in The Himalayas. 

Last year, I embarked on the task after feeling really bad for those forgotten characters from Christmas stories. 

Why does The Abominable Snow Beast roar all the time and never get a chance to tell his side of the story? 

Why are Ms Snowman and Mrs. Claus unnamed when alongside Frosty and Santa? Is Sasquatch just a lonely soul who is misunderstood and camera shy?

 Yeti —The Untold Story of The Abominable Snow Monster, is my story of the mysterious, elusive snow beast that up until now has merely been the stuff of legend.

Following the crazy hit of our Christmas play last year, the New Vintage team and I have been at hard at work on the premiere of this winter play. 

It has been a challenge. Many of the team recently finished Macbeth and jumping into a family show that takes place at the snowy North Pole took some acclimatization.

Others have had to explore moving in new and different ways as they are now big, furry and have enormous feet.

Our dates are also pretty awkward, just after Remembrance Day, before December; we are battling some serious anti-early Christmas sentiment.

That said we are now ready to open the “real” story of Yeti on Wednesday and a whole cast of characters promise you a wonderful kick off to the winter holiday season with the quirky vibe we are known for.

You will also learn some facts about Yetis because I used historical accounts of Yeti sightings, too.

That and my own experiences as a parent and teacher are the basis for this story.

It’s a weird combination, but monster wrangling and parenting are sometimes strangely similar and this story is one that is really adorable on stage.

The songs are also songs I sang to my little boys, now huge and grown up, so it is very personal.

The play’s theme of acceptance is also makes it a hit with schools; all of our matinees have been sold out since September.

Yeti — The Untold Story stars theatre favourites Torsten Norgel, as Yeti, with Ashley Plomp, Graham Daley, Adam Weaver, Sheila Campbell, Josie Morrow, Ashley Johnson, Justin Gaudio, Hailey Sabourin, Juice FM’s Joseph Otoo, and Vince Walzak returns as Santa. 

Pre-show snowflake making and post-show meet and photos with the characters will be added features of this fun event.

I hope you can make it to my newest play. 

There are still tickets available to the evening performances of Yeti — The Untold Story of The Abominable Snow Monster for Nov. 16, 18-19, 22-23 shows at 7 p.m. Tickets, which range from $20-$10, are available at www.rotarycentreforthearts.com or by calling 250-717-5304.

To see or not to see

A play is work. It is not “working in the salt mines work," but there are long hours, high emotions and lots of people and, hopefully, money to manage.

Ironically, the bulk of time getting a play ready for production is before all the actors start rehearsing; it is finding a way to get it on the stage and this process can sometimes take years.

An example of this is the new play by Ruth Bieber premiering this week at The Mary Irwin Theatre in Rotary Centre For The Arts. 

I met Ruth almost five years ago when I had recently moved to Kelowna from Calgary. We shared mutual experiences as artistic directors who worked with theatre companies there and Ruth kindly offered her extensive expertise on our very first board of directors. 

Those were exciting, yet difficult times trying to get New Vintage Theatre on its feet and Ruth was always there.

All the while she was developing numerous projects of her own-she is an award winning director, artist and producer who has worked on stage, film and in galleries around North America. 

She is also a high profile advocate for the disabled and a playwright who has been tirelessly working on getting her play,To See or Not To See, read, workshopped and now produced. 

To See or Not To See is Ruth’s journey as a visually impaired artist. From her birth to present day, Ruth’s large cast play, which stars another award winner, Janet Anderson, is a complex and harrowing tale I was fortunate to read back in those early days of New Vintage. 

Filled with shamans and ironically, vision quests, the story is highly personal and emotional.

As a dramaturg, I saw there were things about the play that presented challenges to it seeing production, but Ruth has pulled together a team that will impress and has seasoned director Phillip Wagner from Vernon at the helm. 

It may have taken time, but having been fortunate to be at other projects Ruth has produced, I can tell you the audience will be there to support this amazing woman’s play.

To See Or Not To See runs October 20-22 at The Rotary Centre For The Arts. Tickets are available from www.rotarycentreforthearts.com.

More Bonnie on Stage articles

About the Author

Bonnie Gratz is an actor, director, and playwright. She is the Artistic Director of Kelowna's New Vintage Theatre, and a member of the Playwright's Guild of Canada and The Literary and Dramaturges of North America. 

For more on Bonnie, check out www.bonnie-gratz.com or check out www.newvintage.ca

Contact Bonnie at:  bonnie@bonnie-gratz.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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