Fresh off Langley Players' sell-out production of Christmas Belles, the drama club's front of house manager Angela Bell is now directing a murder mystery across the river in Coquitlam.
It's like going home for Bell, a 40-year-old Brookswood resident who started her community theatre career a "few years" back with Coquitlam's Stage 43 theatre group, playing the role of Lizzie Tingley in the 1988 production of The Last Real Summer.
Bell was approached by the struggling Coquitlam theatre group last spring, asking her to direct Murder on the Rerun. She was anxious to help out - not only for old-time sake, but because she's worked closely with most of the Stage 43 members for years at the regional and provincial theatre competitions and recognized their struggles.
"They're an incredibly dedicated group who share my passion for theatre. How could I not?" Bell said.
As a member and former president of the Langley Players, Bell said she realizes how "incredibly lucky" the Langley group is to have its own facilities and "great community support" in the form of consistently sold-out shows and sponsorships.
In contrast, Stage 43 rehearses in an auto-body shop, and rents space in the rather expensive Evergreen Cultural Centre to host productions, all while grasping for ongoing community support.
"It really smacks home about how fortunate we are in Langley. The community is so supportive here. We're so lucky," Bell said, rushing out this week to yet another rehearsal in Coquitlam.
"They needed help, and I couldn't stand by and not pitch in and get the job done. That's why I agreed to help. I wanted to give back," Bell said, noting these latest directing duties have not been without their hurdles.
The most trying of moments came back in November, in the thick of Murder on the Rerun rehearsals, when she was directing Langley's production of Christmas Belles four nights a week, and rehearsing in Coquitlam three days a week.
Sundays were particularly harried, rushing out of the matinees in Langley to the rehearsals in Coquitlam, and doing that during a time when traffic was constantly snarled with the construction of the new Port Mann Bridge.
"That was a difficult series of doubleheaders for me," she said. "But I'm so glad I did it. It's been great."
Even when she rushed into late again to an evening rehearsal, the members were always there anxiously and quietly waiting for her.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather the first time that happened. Adults, quiet, attentive, and patiently waiting. What's with that?" Bell said with a chuckle. In addition to loving the people she's been working with on this upcoming production, Bell said she's thrived under the challenge of working with such a diverse cast and crew - ranging from individuals with more than 40 years of community theatre experience to newbies who have just walked through the door.
The curtain goes up on Fred Carmichael's Murder on the Rerun Thursday, Jan. 17.
Murder on the Rerun is what Bell calls a "spoofy murder mystery."
"This play is a lot of fun," she added, noting it tells the story of Jane, a screenwriter who has been recently murdered in a Vermont ski lodge. Aided by Kitty, a wannabe angel who is working off demerits so she can finally be admitted into heaven, the two manipulate the other upper-crust, Hollywoodite guests into returning to the scene of the crime in an effort to determine who killed Jane.
"No matter how young or old you are, whether it is your first time seeing live theatre or your one hundredth time, everyone is sure to enjoy this show," Bell insisted.
Stage 43's rendition of Murder on the Rerun plays at the Evergreen Cultural Centre (1205 Pinetree Way, Coquitlam) from Jan. 17 to 20 and from Jan. 23 to 26. Tickets are available online at www. stage43.org, or by calling the Evergreen Box Office at 604-927-6550.