A post-war love story

In the midst of crises — politically, environmentally and economically — artists have always been inspired to create and relate their unique perspectives on life.

This fall has proven to be a rich one theatrically here in the Okanagan with strong productions and large audiences enjoying plays produced from the many companies in the region.

Following New Vintage Theatre’s new play, Hauntings — Tale of The Supernatural directed and written by company member Ashley Armour, we have, just three weeks later, produced Calgarian David van Belle’s highly regarded play Liberation Days.

It is directed by Kendra Hesketh who remarkably also performed in Hauntings.

Liberation Days is the story of a Dutch woman named Emma (played by Dana Murphy) devastated by the Second World War, which has taken her father, brother and her fiancée is missing in action. 

Emma’s relationship with her mother is strained and her best friend even aligned herself with a German soldier and has been branded a pariah. Enter a young soldier, Alex (Adam Weaver), part of the Canadian liberating forces that will rebuild Holland.

Love blooms in the wreckage of war, but like all battles, the after effects of trauma linger and those liberated are not always ready to be free.

This play is one of New Vintage’s fifth birthday, all-Canadian season. It is based on van Belle’s grandparents' story of how they met and fell in love in Holland during the Second World War.  

Dutch dialogue is intricately woven throughout and has necessitated all of the actors to learn the language and take dialect coaching from storied coach David LeReaney (Fargo) and follow up coaching from Tonny Buckley, president of The Veendam Sister City Association. 

Kelowna Museums has also been instrumental in helping with research and will provide a special display of artifacts in the lobby with a museum docent for each show.

The show promises to be another outstanding production in a banner season of Kelowna plays full of brave, touching performances that will linger with you long after the show is done.

Liberation Days runs for three shows only, Nov.8-10 at 7pm in The Mary Irwin Theatre, Rotary Centre For The Arts. Tickets are available now at RCA box office or online at www.rotarycentreforthearts.com.

New Vintage Theatre is a Kelowna-based professional, charitable theatre company that is a proud member of The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres. For more info, check out www.newvintage.ca.


Birthday Bash Theatre

As I get older, I appreciate the importance of a birthday. It is my chance to reflect on the past year, count my many blessings and ponder the year ahead — with cake.

Despite many people’s protestations about getting older, who doesn’t love the recognition of our friends and family and a good party in our honour?

When a theatre company makes it to a milestone birthday, it is even more momentous. It is such a difficult, expensive and oftentimes all-consuming entity that it often leaves those who are not overwhelmingly passionate about it behind.

Those who stick with it they know what an accomplishment it is — even just to turn five.

Partying is exactly what New Vintage Theatre Company is doing this Saturday night at The Black Box Theatre.

In our trademark, unique theatre experience style, the company is inviting audiences to an evening adventure of cabaret performances, night market shopping and food and glow dancing in the dark with DJ Joe Otoo — all in celebration of our fifth birthday season.

We have come a long way, baby. Our first performances were in the packed winery tasting room at The Vibrant Vine Winery.

Since then we have performed in venues throughout the valley — Benvoulin Church, The Hub in Vernon, Creekside Theatre, parks, Kelowna Community Theatre, schools and The Mary Irwin and Black Box Theatre to name just a few.  

New Vintage has also paid over 150 different artists on 30+ productions. Some of our shows been modest, some grand, but I truly believe each and every play has been created with love, integrity and an earnest desire to create an inspiring experience for our patrons .

Since its inception, New Vintage Theatre has become a member of The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, a prestigious group, and we now perform to audiences of over 10,000 each season.

We also have a home — The Hot House Theatre, Studio 100 at The Rotary Centre For The Arts.

Artists performing at our Saturday Night Party event are favourite New Vintage Theatre performers from the past and present.

Later in the evening, the lights will go down and black lights will be turned on for glow dancing with Kelowna favourite performer/DJ Joseph Otoo. 

This 16+ event is also an important fundraiser for New Vintage Theatre’s upcoming shows. There will be the opportunity to partake in a Night Market where patrons can try their luck for prizes, shop from Perch Vintage Clothing bus, buy tasty treats from Okapop and mini-donuts and enjoy cold beverages from the noir bar.

Of course, there will also be birthday cake served.

If you would like to get your glow on come out to The Night Party Aug. 26, at The Black Box Theatre.

Doors open at 8:45 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available from www.selectyourtickets.com or at the door.

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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] for free tickets to the talk or to book your for tickets to this great play, perfect for the holiday season. Space is limited.

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:  [email protected]


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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