City's Theatre Angel retires

Say it isn't so! Diane Fettig is wrapping up her 10 years as Kelowna's favourite prop mistress and theatre angel.

How did this nurse end up behind the scenes on shows as varied as Peter Pan to Macbeth and winning multiple awards for her work? 

It all started shortly after she retired as a nurse. She was volunteering for a local meals program and met Theatre Kelowna's long time marketing/promotions volunteer Decio D'Ornellas.

Desi encouraged her to help with set décor for Peter Pan. Shortly after coming on board with the production, she was quickly promoted to head set décor when the previous person quit.

Using her curiosity and ingenuity, she quickly found herself as the go-to person for all things props and décor. 

There definitely is an eclectic requirement of skill sets for a props and set designer. The first award Diane won was for a Theatre Kelowna play called Sins of The Mother, the first creative endeavour where she felt she really needed to think outside of the box.

Twelve cakes were required for that play, a new one frosted every night. She created a present that could be re-opened every night and got a surprise herself when she won the Ozone Award for Best Set Décor. 

Her second Ozone award was for the play Perfect Wedding, also by Theatre Kelowna. In that production, Diane had to decorate and provide props to recreate a hotel room.

The adjudicator remarked that Diane's design "was nicer than the hotel room they were currently staying in.” 

Diane and I met when I first moved to Kelowna and worked on Aliske Webb's production of Waiting for the Parade. She coached me on how to believably smoke, a requirement for the character I played. Over the years, Diane was so much more than helpful; she was instrumental in the success and look of many of our productions.

The craziest prop she ever picked up was a strange looking, large cauldron that we wanted for Macbeth. She got it up in Calgary, strapped it in the backseat like a child, and headed with her husband, Len, down to the U.S. for a little vacation.

She said the cauldron in the backseat made for some really interesting conversations with the border guards.

Other unique prop finds included antlers, making the provocative calendar for Calendar Girls and creating Macbeth's severed head, which had to be refrigerated nightly. 

The most work was meticulously gluing cigarette butts to numerous ashtrays for The Full Monty and looking for retro props like metal flashlights and dust pans in order to make sure things looked like they were authentic.

"Everything is plastic now, but it wasn't always that way." 

Her favourite play? The Great Gatsby because "it was glitzy and a wonderful story."

Her most devastating moment? When working on Blackbird she got donations, collected and cleaned fast food containers, which were supposed to fill the office space of a troubled office manager.

"We were all so upset when a cleaner came in one night of the show and "cleaned up" our stage, throwing out all of our carefully curated garbage. We had to start all over again," she says with a chuckle. 

After 10 years, many, many productions for Theatre Kelowna, Playhouse 25, New Vintage Theatre and Fred Skeleton, Diane is feeling it is a good time to wind down the part-time job that has often been a full-time effort.

"With COVID and changes in the ages of the cast and crew I am finding it is a good time to focus on other interests. I am back taking cooking classes and having a great deal of fun with that."

On behalf of the entire theatre community, I want to start the standing ovation for this backstage angel who has created so many beautiful stage moments possible.

Thank you, Di! You will be missed but we look forward to seeing you in our theatre seats if not hanging out with us backstage. 

And yes, I promise to take good care of the metal flashlight, dustpan and antlers.


Vault of Horror open again

Can you imagine a time when comic books were considered too indecent to be sold?

Such was the case in the early 1950s when William Gaines and Al Feldstein launched the horror comic book series The Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, and Tales from the Crypt.

The series, first penned in 1950, was published bi-monthly for five years by EC Comics and was extraordinarily popular with teenagers. The popular series trifecta was abruptly cancelled in 1955 when the authors tried to launch a fourth series called The Crypt of Terror. 

This came at a time when parents, teachers, psychologists and clergymen were all accusing violent comic books as the root of juvenile delinquency.

In 1954, the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency held a series of hearings and it was determined that violence in comics needed to be addressed to protect the morality of youth.

The comic book industry established standards to deal with these concerns and violence, the use of the words “terror” and “horror” were banned along with any references to the occult including things like ghosts, werewolves and vampires.

Thus, the Crypt Keeper, Old Witch and Vault Keeper, the fictional narrators of the terrifyingly formulaic series, were now out of a job as the series was cancelled by 1955. 

Until now.

I was a big collector of horror comics as a child in the 1970s. My local used bookstore in the Lake Bonavista Shopping Centre in Calgary had a huge selection of these series and for just 25 cents each so I loaded up every Saturday.

The comics were disturbingly delightful and frighteningly fantastic. (I was always fascinated with the morbid signing out a book about Halloween week after week from the library when I was in Grade 1.)

Fast forward to this week where I get to combine my two childhood loves, Halloween and horror comics, in our latest show The Vault of Horror.

My inner seven-year-old is going crazy with excitement.

New Vintage Theatre is bringing to life five Vault of Horror classics including Daddy Lost His Head, Terror on The Moors, and Lend Me A Hand along with some original sketches in the pulp fiction style written and performed by local playwrights Cat Bonner, Fatima Khan and Benjamin Stevens.

Popular local actors who will also be starring in the show include Brent Applegath, Kristi Hack, Randy Jernidier, Josie Morrow, Braeden Rachfall, Aly Rothery, Brock Gratz and Reid Gratz.

There will be candy and comic books with every ticket purchased for our live show along with some Halloween tricks and treats.

For those too scared to come out, we are also offering an online ticket to view a filmed version of the play by James Alton. This ticket can be purchased and viewed any time until Nov. 30.

Either way, we promise you a great evening of “juvenile delinquent” fun. Right now the arts need you and you need the arts, so support us and buy a ticket, OK? This show is suitable for 12 plus.

Tickets for New Vintage Theatre’s live Vault of Horror Oct. 29-30 shows at the Black Box Theatre are available at https://www.showpass.com/the-vault-of-horror-live-comic-book-performance/

Online tickets are available at https://www.showpass.com/the-vault-of-horror-online-comic-book-comedy/

Seriously! See Dead Serious

Six reasons you should see Dead Serious

I am directing Doug Greenall’s acclaimed play, Dead Serious.

It runs Aug. 28-29 at 7:30 p.m. at The Black Box Theatre, and Sept. 17-19 at 7 p.m. at Rotary Centre for the Arts.

It is exciting and full of unexpected twists and turns. There have been times after our late night rehearsals that I have checked behind me on my walk to the car, but this is not what worries me.

What does is getting people to come and see this amazing production.

Why should you come out and see Dead Serious? Or donate to our theatre company if you can’t?

Here are six reasons why:

A killer cast of six

Kirsti Hack, Aaron Johnson, Tamie Williams, Brandon Benner, Harsh Hundal and Corey Hendricks are mind-blowingly talented.

Our discussions about the flawed and dangerous characters in the play as well as in-depth discussions about cults, mental illness, family dysfunction, drug use and more are invested in their layered, insightful performances.

I am wowed by them at every rehearsal. These actors work needs to be seen — not just by me.

You can only view it live

Playwright Doug Greenall has already sold the movie rights to this play, so you can only see it as a live performance. We will not be taping it, sharing it or streaming it.

However, we did create a very creepy promo trailer for it with James Alton Visuals that you can check out here.

Seeing a mystery can give you a needed escape

Dead Serious, first produced at Vancouver’s Arts Club in 1989, is a classic, a murder mystery set at a B.C. family-run lakeside resort, The Blackfly Lodge.

The knives are literally out on this acclaimed show, which has been called “a dramatic scream machine” and “a cool, gripping thriller.”

Live performance offers a unique opportunity to escape the world in a way like no other and Stage Manager Riley Walton and Lighting/Sound Designer Julian Smith have created the haunted resort experience you have only seen in movies or read about in books.

Who doesn’t love a compelling mystery?

Learn how to play “The Game"

The main characters are an unusual brother and sister who continue to play a secret childhood game they call The Game into their teenage years, something only they know about.

After The Game takes a serious turn one night, the sister, Tracey, stops playing. She grows more remote, deciding it is time for her to seek out the friendship of others and avoid her family.

Her brother, Seymour, feels hurt, and retreats into his own world, but now and then tries to lure her back into the excitement they had felt as kids.

A creepy cult and handsome new man

Where is the kids’ mother while all this is going on? Eve has problems of her own as she struggles to beat a prescription drug addiction with the help of a handsome and hypnotic spiritualist named Ted.

Ted not only helps Eve with her addiction, he becomes her lover, and, much to the kids’ protestations, decides to move in. This is not a happy family unit, it is one full of dark secrets and lies that include murder. 

Your support for this show means we will be able to do more in the future

We are facing a worldwide crisis in the arts. Our work is a precarious passion in the best of times; completely dependent on the participation of audience members who purchase tickets to see our shows.

Without that income we cannot pay our artists, rent for the theatre or our studios or do future shows. It is as simple as that.

It has been almost 25 years since I first saw Dead Serious and five years since New Vintage Theatre first produced it in 2015.  

The cast, crew and director have all changed and I still can’t wait for the thrill of being on the edge of my seat once more. If you love a fantastic murder mystery, horror, or thriller, you really should join me.  

It’s going to be good, very scary, fun. 

I’m serious.

If you can’t see it live, consider donating. Because it is really scary to think about a future without live theatre.

Dead Serious

Aug. 28-29, 7:30 p.m. at The Black Box Theatre  

Sept. 17-19, 7 p.m. at Rotary Centre for the Arts 

Warning: language, violence.

Tickets are $30 or $25 for students and members. 

For more information or to donate, check out www.newvintage.ca

Vintage play a new way

Unicorns are unique, magical, sparkly. They also symbolize the Pride movement for a whole generation who have established themselves as both unique individuals and a mighty group force for advocacy. 

While there will not be Pride events as originally planned in Kelowna next week due to COVID-19, we will still be proceeding with our Pride-themed play, The Pink Unicorn on June 3-5. Like unicorns, the performance will be in a unique location and in an entirely new format for us. This is both thrilling and terrifying, and definitely an adrenalin rush.

What is our new format? After the pandemic hit all of society with a gigantic wallop, we – like other performing arts companies across the world – had to reassess our season offerings. This spring and summer seemed almost entirely lost, but The Pink Unicorn still appeared to be possible. Perhaps we could perform the one-actor play in my backyard? With an iPhone? We sought the necessary agreement from the brilliant playwright Elise Forier Edie who first asked if we wanted our money back and then readily agreed to having the play performance filmed. 

Our next step was a happy coincidence and meeting of minds. While meeting with the Okanagan Society for Independent Filmmakers (OSIF) president James Alton, I mentioned that we had this project coming up and we mutually wondered if it might be possible that we work together to film the piece. After seeing a steady stream of unstable live-streamed performances from people's bedrooms we agreed a filmed, edited performance would truly do this amazing play justice.

Over the last six weeks that is what we have done. First, we rehearsed over Zoom with actress Kendra Hesketh and my stage manager Julian Smith, here from the National Theatre School. Then we met in our studio and outside, socially distanced. In the last week we met on set in a farm in Joe Rich that was simply heavenly. Then Noah Dorsey, James Alton and Aidan Lane filmed the performance. Spoiler alert: a hummingbird makes a guest appearance in our one person show.

Little can upstage Kendra Hesketh, however, and we hope audiences will join us and watch her online at 7 p.m. on June 3, 4 and 5. After the show we will be having a talk back with this incredible talent, our creative team and special guests like award-winning trans actor Hollis Oorbeek, a rising star in their own right.

It is not the way we expected to be showing this play to audiences, but there have been some happy results of going online – some of our patrons are from as far afield as Taiwan, Germany, New Zealand, Vancouver and Toronto.

In the words of John Lennon, sometimes "life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans." These from Lennon's Beautiful Boy relates to this play's content and to our arts community as we try to find our way in these challenging times. When you can find the unicorns, hummingbirds or better yet new friends and collaborators you celebrate them. 

This is what we hope to do with The Pink Unicorn and we hope you will join us.

Get your tickets, $10, at [email protected] or on our website at newvintage.ca. Once you buy your tickets you will receive a link to the show and the Zoom talk back the morning of the show day you pick.  

See you online!

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.

Previous Stories