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.

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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