Langley Playhouse is coveted by many other theatre groups around the Lower Mainland.
Not many drama clubs have their own digs, putting Langley Players in a rather envious position, admitted president Mary Renvall.
But rather than keeping “this little treasure” all to themselves, club members are hoping to share the wealth, mainly lending it out as a way to encourage more young people to get involved in theatre.
The 80-seat theatre was built in the 1930s and once served a post-war school then later a community hall. It was taken over by Langley thespians around 1969, first as a place to build sets, and later as their theatre space.
That same historic facility, while morphed rather dramatically through the years, was used most recently to showcase Langley Player’s spring production of Ghosts.
And, when that show closed Saturday night, and the team immediately went to work preparing the playhouse for its next role – that of a host for the Fraser Valley regional theatre competitions, which opened Sunday afternoon.
The regionals – dubbed Around the World in 7 Plays – run for seven days, and each night this week a different theatre group has been performing its festival production.
Langley was able to open on Sunday, and other groups competing include Chilliwack Players Guild, Opening Nite Theatre Society, Stage 43, Emerald Pig Theatrical Society, Surrey Little Theatre, and the Chilliwack School of Performing Arts.
The regionals wrap up with awards on Saturday night, and the announcement of which group will move on to the provincials in July.
The fact that this theatre has so often played host to the zone competition, and is becoming increasingly popular for other entertainment uses, doesn’t surprise Renvall in the slightest.
She credits a huge part of the draw to the “incredible” base of volunteers who are committed to theatre. But there are other reasons, too.
“We’re really the apple of the B.C. theatre community’s eye,” she said, noting they own the land and building, while most other theatre groups have to rent large and often expensive community facilities in which to host their shows, and even with that they don’t have “unlimited access.”
It also gives the organization carte blanche on what they want to do with and to the facility.
“When I joined, it was a dump,” Renvall said, recalling that the building was much smaller, there was no lobby, and the back of the property was overrun by brush.
Today, they have a created an “inviting” and “warm,” atmosphere that theatre adjudicator Stephen Drover described as desirable and highly coveted.
It’s large enough to have once hosted a cast of 26 people in the production of Penumbra, but still small and “intimate” enough to carry off a one- or two-person show.
Having viewed most community theatres around B.C., he finds it refreshing every time he steps back inside the doors of the Langley Playhouse.
“It feels welcoming,” he said, crediting in part the people too. “It’s like coming home… they build a gift for the audience, and invite them in to share in the celebration together.”
Drover was in Langley again this week, adjudicating the Fraser Valley zone competitions. He said the friendly atmosphere and supportive energy created by Langley Players helps turn a competitive theatre festival into an educational and fun event for all participating theatre groups.
What’s next at the Playhouse
As soon as the theatre festival wraps up this weekend, work begins again to re-purpose the Playhouse for another play, then the film industry, followed by a gaggle of kids.
On June 3, award-winning playwright Cait Archer brings her production Such A Heart As Yours to the Langley Players’ stage.
Archer was the big winner at last year’s provincial theatre competition for Miss Somewhere.
Such A Heart As Yours remixes the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the modern day with a group of millennials instead of Elizabethans.
“I have always been haunted by Helena in Midsummer and how the life she’s being set up for at the end of the play is entirely outside of her control,” Archer said,
“I realized that the format of the play could be used to examine modern relationships in a fun, supernatural way by planting four Canadian millennials in Shakespeare’s mythical forest.”
Tickets to this show are $15 for all ages at suchaheartasyours.ca or via email firstname.lastname@example.org. (Stay tuned to the Langley Advance for more on this upcoming production).
Doing double duty as a film set and summer camp
In the meantime, once Archer and her troupe have their last curtain call at the Langley Playhouse on June 12, then the space will once again be quickly retrofitted.
This time it will serve as a backdrop for a Hallmark Christmas movie. From June 13 to 17, it’s expected to be used for filming Finding Father Christmas.
This summer, the Playhouse will also be used by 15 young campers of sorts, budding thespians (ages 10 to 15 years) taking part in the fourth annual Bard in the Valley summer camps. Then early this fall, Langley Players will be back on their own stage with a yet to be announced production.
Bottomline, Renvall said, Langley Players tend to be a group of older theatre buffs who want to help entice future generations on to the stage. While younger people are always invited to get involved in the Player productions, she said other types of efforts also have to be made to bring the future theatre leaders into the fold.
“We want to help them,” she said. “We’re trying to encourage younger artists and give them somewhere to perform.”
She believes Langley Players is in the perfect position to help make that happen.