Venture into directorship paying off for Langley thespian

Langley Players and Surrey Little Theatre, as well as team members, were lauded for their efforts.

Mike Busswood is a 61-year-old retired Telus electrician who has been pursuing his passion for theatre – alongside his wife Cathe – for more than 30 years.

Now, the Langley City thespian is being honoured for all the work he’s done on and off the stage in more than 60 different plays through the Lower Mainland – from Chilliwack to West Vancouver, but primarily his work with the Langley, Surrey and White Rock theatre groups.

A lifetime achievement award was bestowed on Busswood during a recent Community Theatre Coalition awards evening in White Rock.

“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers… I guess that means I haven’t blown up too many things,” he added with a chuckle.

“No, I was pleased. It was a very nice ceremony,” Busswood said, noting that family and friends in the theatre business got up and “said nice things about me. They lied. Which is appropriate at these things,” he joked.

But, on a brief, serious note, Busswood said nomination in itself was an award in his view, never expecting to actually receive the large glass trophy that is now place prominently on their living room bookshelf.

He had to interject, however, that his wife Cathe won the same award two years early, and that her trophy is on the higher shelf.

“Hers is on top. It’s the typical one upmanship of us theatre people, you know,” he jabbed.

But it’s nice to look at, he said of his award. “It reminds me that I do have longevity going for me.”

While he performed in musicals in high school in Vancouver, Busswood blames his wife for pulling him back into the world of theatre back in 1983.

A decade out from school, Busswood thought his theatre days were behind him when Cathe coaxed him to get involved in the Abbotsford production of Arsenic and Old Lace.

“Theatre then became our hobby,” he said, noting their daughters Samantha and Kaitlyn have since become immersed in community theatre, as well – both on and off the stage. And his girls spoke about “dear ol’ dad” during his award presentation.

Langley Players past-president Mary Renvall also congratulated Busswood for receiving the award, commenting on his “immense dedication” to community theatre, and thanking him for “paving the way for artists to come.”

In addition to bringing home the lifetime achievement award, Busswood was also singled out as best director in the 2016-17 theatre season, for his work on Surrey Little Theatre’s The Dixie Swim Club.

Leading this comedy on the Clayton Height stage was his second turn in the director’s chair, and obviously it paid off.

He was reluctant to take much of the credit, saying “As a burgeoning director, if you will, picking a play with five middle-aged women in it, you pretty quickly learn your place. You have ideas. They have ideas… Let them do their ideas first. It’s safer that way. After 35 years of marriage what else do you do? But the results was a good one.”

Half the success for any play, – whether a high school production, amateur theatre, or big Broadway productions, is getting the right people in the right roles, and he said that with Dixie it all fell together.

Other local award winners

Busswood wasn’t the only local award winner at the CTC ceremonies on Sept. 9, and in fact, he wasn’t the only family member to bring home some bling.

Cathe, who is traditionally stage manager in most productions, earned best supporting actress for her role in Dixie, where she played one of five Southern women.

While the couple appreciated all the accolades, Busswood said there’s no time to revel in the fame.

They both have to focus on the here and how, buckling down on work for their two upcoming productions.

Cathe, a 58-year-old office manager for a notary public has returned to her more common role as stage manager for SLT’s upcoming production of Wrong Turn at Lungfish, opening Oct. 26 in the historic Clayton Heights playhouse.

Meanwhile, Busswood has thrown himself in – again as director – with the White Rock Players production of The Woman in Black – a Gothic ghost story opening Oct. 13.

More accolades to go around

A member of the SLT team also garnered the best lead actor, that going to Grant Vlahovic, for his role in Homechild.

And all the local awards were not restricted to those working on SLT productions.

Langley Players earned a few accolades, including the best lead actress performance that was given to Kristine McCallum for her role as Rothstein in the Grandkid.

McCallum was “truly surprised,” as she just recently returned to the stage after university, and managed to tackle the role while working full time,” Renvall said.

“She came out on a whim and voila’,” and it too paid off, she elaborated.

Langley Players received 14 nominations for this year’s CTC awards, in various acting, directing, and design and production categories.

The biggest honour came at the end of the night. The final award of the evening is always the best overall production, and Renvall was honoured her team received the award – even if they have to share it with Surrey, she joked.

SLT’s Dixie Swim Club tied with Langley Players’ Old Love for best overall production.

Renvall described Old Love as a heartwarming comedy. It was their winter production written by Norm Foster.

“The creative team and directors Barb Coulter and Raymond Hatton fostered something beautiful with the lead actors Gemma Martini and Ken Boyd,” Renvall said in her capacity as the show’s producer.

“It made you want to stand up and cheer for both of them,” she added, “thrilled for everyone for their hard work.”

The Players also don’t have much time to bask in the glory of their win, said Renvall. The team is gearing up to present Shelagh Stephenson’s The Memory Water. That play opens Oct. 19.

Meanwhile, the coalition represents more than 30 amateur theatre groups in the Lower Mainland, and the recent awards given out reflect the best showings during the 2016-17 season from all participating clubs.

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