Theatre with benefits

In a recent Castanet news story about local arts funding in Kelowna, I read about City of Kelowna Cultural Services Manager Sandra Kochan’s report to City Council about the recipients of arts funding. She highlighted how the investment in the arts also benefits the economy “yielding big dividends” to our larger community. The company I work with, New Vintage Theatre, was fortunate to be able to receive funding for the first time, something which we are very grateful for.

Of course this is a subject I am extremely passionate about as I wholeheartedly believe that a strong cultural community makes for a dynamic, healthy and wealthy city. Ironically I named our third season “Theatre With Benefits”; a funny double entendre on the romantic reference that is a big theme in our plays this next season as well as highlighting the real benefits of theatre in our lives.

Theatre really does attract all kinds of people and this is something I find constantly fascinating.

The largest group are those who are interested in performing. Some artists I meet have been doing some aspect of performance their whole life. I certainly would fall into this group. As a shy kid I was constantly planning plays and would present them, with my reluctant brothers in tow, in the rec room for family functions. There were a lot of frustrations as my family didn’t take my work seriously enough (I started when was three) unfortunately my ill-fated puppet shows usually didn’t go as planned.

Other artists I meet are just starting out as performers. One day they just decided it was time to explore acting-something that they always wanted to try so they take one of our classes. I have met business people, lawyers, mathematicians and other seemingly unlikely artists who one day decided to get into performance-some of them even leave their careers to pursue this- because it seemed like a better fit for them and makes them happy. I am not a big advocate of leaving everything you know to become a performer. My experience has been that it is absolutely necessary to have a back-up career that can pay the bills and almost everyone I know who performs has side jobs. Professional performers in Canada almost always have a least one other job they can fall back on during lean times.

A group of people often unrecognized, but of the upmost importance are those who contribute to the design and technical aspects of a play. Designing costumes, lights, sound, sets or props or being a stage manager is a rich artistic exploration that is highly creative, abstract and full of intellectual intricacies that appeal to a small subset of fascinating individuals. This group is in high demand because they have an understanding and skill set few have mastered. Local talents include Diane Fettig (Set décor and Props), Brian Haigh (Sets), Andrew Taylor & Janet Anderson (Stage Management), Bill Haidei (Sets), Aletha Currie (Costumes) and Vanessa Lomas (Lights). I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of the fantastic people in this group, but the most important to me has been my husband Derek Gratz, an accomplished industrial & product designer, who has designed sets and props for me for over 20 years. Collaborating with him has made such a difference in my work and over the years we have really learned from each other.

Then there are those who are there for the creation and planning for production of the work-the playwrights and the directors. A story can, and often does, take years before it makes it to the page, let alone the stage. Ironically though if a playwright is able to get their work produced, it is a double edged sword. To see your work come to life is thrilling, but it can also be fraught with frustration as you leave it in the hands of the director and their production team to interpret your words in a way that they feel best serves the story.

Right now I have the pleasure of working with Logan Albert Mullin, Natasha Davis, Jeremy Beaulne and Gillianne Richards on their scripts as part of a workshop program called Playwright’s Hot House. It is our collective goal to have these plays heard on the last two Tuesdays in March and to work towards seeing them produced. From an interesting variety of backgrounds and a wide range of interests this group absolutely embraces the artistic process and most certainly understands the benefits of theatre.

Theatre is an eclectic art form that attracts an eccentric, wide ranging community of people who work together to create a magical memorable experience. I have made lifelong friends and developed my life’s work in the world of theatre and have learned from artists I would never have met otherwise. For me, this is the true benefit of the arts and I am sincerely grateful to live in a community that supports it.


New Vintage Theatre launches its upcoming Theatre With Benefits-Season 3 this Friday, Feb.6 and Saturday, Feb.7 at The Black Cat Cabaret. Shows are at 7:30pm at The Black Box Theatre. Over 20 artists are donating their talents to this important fundraiser which includes original scenes, music and a silent auction with donations from local artisans, wineries and signed items by Sir Anthony Hopkins and Julia Stiles. Audience members are encouraged to dress in black. Advance tickets, $20, are available from www.selectyourtickets.com or at the door, $25 (cash only).

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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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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