Hopping on the Stu-Bus

It was a world of wheels in the Salloum Room on Wednesday.


Because Chelsea McEvoy’s screenplay for her upcoming film The Wheels on The Bus was read by New Vintage actors Graham Daley, Joe Welton, Chris Froese, Ashley Armour, Marissa Alexander and Brock Gratz.

The audience was filled with the crazy cool gang that inspired it; a group of lifelong friends who all met because they are in wheelchairs.

Since January, I have had the extraordinary experience of being a dramaturg for Chelsea McEvoy, a well known fixture in Kelowna’s burgeoning film scene, as she worked on the script for her first feature film.

Chelsea has had a hand in a lot of locally shot commercials, music videos and major motion picture projects, but she always wanted to film her own feature.

Chelsea’s generosity and skill level have meant that she works consistently and while that has yielded incredible experiences and an enviable resume, she has not had time to devote to her feature film effort.

She blocked off Tuesday nights to meet with me and we flushed out her concept until it made its way from her brilliant brain to the page.

So what’s the story, morning glory?

The Wheels on the Bus is the story of a road trip that four buddies take from Kelowna to Burning Man in their wheelchair adapted bus, aptly named The Stu-Bus.

Along for the ride is a newly disabled hockey hero who looks down on the guys as men who he believes “gave up on rehab,” but jumps on board for his own to be revealed reasons.

The Wheels on The Bus is part Hangover, part Little Miss Sunshine with lots of laughs, some heart break and bucket loads of raunchy debauchery.

It is also based on the stories of Chelsea’s real life friends that she met through her partner James Hektner who is also in a wheelchair.

There actually is a Stu-Bus, James has a character inspired by him, and the men in the audience on Wednesday night were excited to hear Chelsea’s screenplay that, with their blessing, lifts all kinds of material from their own epic road trips.

The reading on Wednesday night was an exciting ride and it is just the start because this movie is already in pre-production mode with plans for footage to start being shot this summer as part of an accompanying documentary.


Little shop has its horrors

Help! There is a man-eating plant in Studio 100 at Rotary Centre For The Arts and her name is Audrey II.

But don’t dismay, the strange and interesting plant at Mushnik and Son’s Florist is all part of New Vintage Theatre’s upcoming mega-musical, Little Shop of Horrors.

Little Shop of Horrors was first a low-budget horror movie starring Jack Nicholson, released in 1960, directed by Roger Corman known as the King of B-Movies. Legend has it that Corman learned about some sets left over from a recent movie shoot and he wrangled a deal with the filmmakers to leave them on site so he could shoot his own film with them.

What he didn’t say to the producers was that he didn’t have a script, so he spent the next 10 days writing Little Shop in coffee shops around Hollywood and then shot the film in two days and one night.

The result was the cult classic that inspired the musical and the magnificent botanical beast of a prop sitting in our studio today.

The musical version of the film premiered in 1968 and it quickly won acclaim. In 1983 Little Shop of Horrors beat Cats for the New York Critics Best Musical award and ran constantly for a record breaking 2209 performances more than five years making it the third longest running Off-Broadway musical of all time.

Audrey II is the plant named by Seymour (Corey Hendricks), the show’s nerdy hero, for the woman he adores.

Audrey (Joanne Booth) is a shop clerk with a heart of gold but trapped in a relationship with Orrin (Mac Mackay) her terrifying dentist boyfriend who loves Elvis but treats her like garbage on skid row.

Seymour starts to capture Audrey’s eye when the strange and unusual plant arrives at Mushnik’s Skid Row Florist, but what he doesn’t say is that he has to feed it blood in order to get it to keep growing.

Enter the “horror” part of the musical.

As the show’s producer, I have been working wrangling Audrey II puppets, sourcing 1950s dentist chairs and coordinating the behind the scenes surprises for the show, both gory and great.

Last week, I was blown away by the full run through I saw with the stars of the show, live band and glorious Audrey II. Director Danny Tagle’s choreography and Lyndsey Wong’s music is simply magnificent and must be seen.

So run, don’t walk to this hilarious cult comedy hit.  It’s not for kids but you won’t be sorry you visited Little Shop Of Horrors.

You will adore this strange and interesting musical and will even leave whistling about how much fun you had down on Skid Row.

Little Shop of Horrors runs May 16-26 at The Mary Irwin Theatre.

Tickets are available at www.rotarycentreforthearts.com

The Birds Are In The House

Have you ever seen the Alfred Hitchcock classic horror, The Birds?

It starts out innocently enough with a beautiful woman — Tippi Hedren — making small talk with a handsome man — in a pet shop. They are flirtatious and like most of the slow burns of Hitchcock horrors the characters slowly start to realize that they are trapped, much like the old adage "a bird in the house."

If you know old lore you know that is very bad luck.

Such is the case with New Vintage Theatre's fall offerings, Blackbird and Mockingbird Close running Oct.17-21 at The Black Box Theatre.

While the plays are completely different in tone and subject matter, the feeling of being enclosed and trapped is a common sensation for the characters. The result are two compelling offerings that are must see plays this season.

Blackbird is the story of a young woman, Una, (played by Hillary Omoe) who corners a man named Ray (played by Doug Brown) in the middle of his busy office and demands she talk to him about an abuse she suffered 15 years earlier. 

He is the abuser. Ray has done his time, suffered the humiliation, loss of employment and has changed his name. He has a new life and things are fine until Una storms in and demands he meet with her.

It is terrifying, energetic and heartbreaking and nothing like I have ever worked on before.

At our dress rehearsal, my knees literally knocked together in fear watching their intensity and I know the play.

Mockingbird Close is a bird of a different feather, a fairytale for adults. Iris (Hailey Sabourin) and Hank (Graham Daley) are a couple in "a perfect 1950s suburban bungalow, on a quiet, safe, suburban street."

One night at a cocktail party their son goes missing.

At first they blame each other for losing track of him-"You smelled like liquor," Hank accuses, while Iris quips, "You smelled like perfume."

But soon it becomes apparent that their son is gone they are forced to go out into their crescent Mockingbird Close" and ask their very unusual neighbours if they have seen him.

What they discover is that the residents of Mockingbird Close all have secrets, some of them deadly, making this a Twin Peaks-Mad Men style who dun it that is fun and scary.

Both plays are Kelowna premieres and Mockingbird Close is a B.C. premiere. To add to the excitement acclaimed "bad boy" of Canadian theatre, Trevor Schmidt, will be coming to see his play Mockingbird Close as and will be at post-show parties every night to talk about his weird, wonderful work. 

Wine sponsor for the event is Back Door Winery.

Audiences will not want to miss these frightening works-they are simply like nothing ever seen in Kelowna that will keep you thinking and talking long after you have left the theatre.

Blackbird — 7 p.m,, Oct. 17-20

Mockingbird Close — 9 p.m,, Oct. 17-20; Oct.21 at 7 p,m,

Tickets, $25, are available from www.selectyourtickets.com, Prospera Place box office or are $35 at the door.

Buy a two show pass for $40.


The Russians are coming

Mystery Theatre, Russians and a Contentious Paper Are Coming Next Week

Pssst…want to see something secret and cool?

Have you heard of Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch? 

Hannah is a genius with words, dubbed the “indie sensation” by Toronto Life Magazine and “dark angel of Toronto theatre” by Toronto Star. She has also been nominated for the Governor General’s award for theatre excellence. 

Her two short plays, The Russian Play and Essay,  kick off New Vintage Theatre’s fall theatre season from Sept.13-15 in a mysterious downtown Kelowna location.

New Vintage Theatre is in our sixth season called Starry Nights.  Both plays are directed by Elana Bizovie in collaboration with producer Angela Lavender. Their cast is first rate: Laura Marie Seres, Adam Weaver and Andrew Knudsen, with costumes by Perch’s Robyn Flinn.

Those familiar with this dream team will know their intensity is equally matched by their commitment. In addition to learning all things historically Russian (accent, dance, food), the actors have also been exploring the modern politics of persuasion and gender dynamics in the academic world today.  

With the world at odds over Russian involvement in our political systems and the #metoo movement, both plays are timely and gripping.

Just like the character Pixie in Essay, New Vintage director Elana Bizovie is very passionate about her “passion” project.

“Having the opportunity to work with a team from the area really opens your eyes to the level of dedication and skill that we have here in the Okanagan. I (also) think supporting work by Canadian playwrights is important, especially women playwrights.

"Actually, the entire production team is made up of women, and we're telling women's stories - I think it's an important time for us as communities to be supporting that!”

The mystery element of the Mystery Theatre project is a result of necessity. 

Faced with a shortage of venues for September, New Vintage sought out proposals back in March from company members who had an idea for a self-produced show that would allow them to challenge themselves artistically in a non-traditional venue.

The details of the venue are kept secret and fully revealed once tickets are purchased.

The first two of New Vintage’s mystery plays took place at Big White earlier this year, and upcoming shows by Bonnie Gratz and CJ Wilkins will also be found at different surprising venues around Kelowna.

But first you must check out The Russian Play and Essay. You will not want to miss these two compelling plays by a stand out team of artists. That is no mystery.

P.S. Bring a friend or two.

Tickets for New Vintage Theatre’s plays The Russian Play and Essay by Hannah Moscovitch are available at www.selectyourtickets.com or Prospera Place ticket office. Text 778-214-1456 to find out more details about this event.

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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