Two North Delta actors will hit the stage this week as part of a showcase featuring the winners of Trinity Western University theatre department’s playwriting contest.
Five young playwrights will see their works staged back-to-back in one big show, set to run this Tuesday to Saturday (Feb. 1-5), before TWU lowers the curtain for good on its theatre program.
The Lanlgey university announced in July of last year that it was closing down its theatre program, including its bachelor of fine arts in acting program, its BA in theatre program, and the master’s degree program in teaching english to speakers of other languages. Students currently in the programs will be able to complete their degrees and graduate, but no new students would be enrolled after this past fall.
This week’s show, New Words, New Works, will feature 13 actors, as well as two stage managers and a half-dozen people behind the scenes in key roles.
“It is such a delight to celebrate young artists, particularly when the pandemic has been so hard on the performing arts and TWU is closing its theatre program,” said Angela Konrad, professor and co-chair of the theatre department.
Each play, approximately 15 minutes long, will be performed by TWU theatre students, directed by instructor Kerri Norris.
North Delta Secondary grad Elizabeth Trottier plays Netta in Wishing on a Steve by Emma Giesbrecht, which tells the story of Steve, an inept wishing star who doesn’t quite understand how it is all supposed to work. Trottier’s Netta is Steve’s surly supervisor.
“Playing Netta is so much fun,” Trottier said. “She doesn’t make life easy for Steve and she is a great foil to his incompetence.”
For Trottier, the play is about finding magic in the little moments, something that is really important in difficult times like right now.
“The pandemic has been really hard on performing artists and TWU is contributing to the removal of the arts by closing its theatre program,” she said.
“New Words, New Works shows the world that small theatre programs matter and artists deserve a chance to perform original works in a professional and educational setting.”
Wishing on a Steve also features North Delta resident Valerie Mihelic, who plays Mel, a character who tries to help Steve keep his wishing star job.
“Being able to play in such a sweet fantasy world is a real treat,” Mihelic said. “Emma [Giesbrecht] has written such loveable characters and such an enchanting story. I am grateful to be part of it and I think audiences will have a blast.”
For Norris, an accomplished actor and director who has worked with theatre companies throughout the Lower Mainland, the project presents a particular thrill.
“I love directing and I love working with emerging artists, so this production is really special,” Norris said.
“Each actor brings their own unique spark into the process. Elizabeth and Valerie are experienced but others have never been in a play before, so it is a privilege to introduce them to the magic of theatre. And I am delighted that we are able to give these new playwrights a stage.”
The department was initially unsure about organizing the event due to rising Omicron cases, but Konrad said she is excited that the event is able to go ahead.
“We never knew from one day to the next if we would actually be able to get this play on stage, but it is happening,” she noted.
Konrad shared that COVID had made it difficult for the team to rehearse, and that Norris could only focus on one actor at a time due to physical-distancing requirements. Numerous times, stage managers had to step in and take on different roles to cover for cast members in isolation.
Theatre-goers will have to wear masks throughout the performances. Proof of vaccination will be required at the time of entry to the hall, which will run at half capacity.
The five plays were selected from more than a dozen applications as part of a contest the department ran in the summer of 2021, and the department tried to cover most genres with its selections for the show.
“Whether you like fantasy or realism, drama or comedy, big box stores or blanket forts, New Words, New Works has something for everyone,” Konrad said.
The five short plays to be performed are:
• Medium Auburn Cherry Crush, by Lani-Marie Carbonel. “Love is hard, especially when you’re 17. Thankfully, there’s best friends and hair dye.”
• Wishing on a Steve, by Emma Wiebe Giesbrecht. “A star named Steve makes people regret not being more careful what they wished for…”
• She Who Flew Too Close, by Annie Zander. “The sun isn’t the only light that catches on your wings.”
• The Den-aisle, by Braedon Grover Sunnes. “Whether living in dorms or in Costco, it’s never a good idea to lie to your roommate. Or yourself.”
• The Drive Home, by Hailee Boks. “One chasing dreams and the other hiding from fears – where will their drive take them?”
“Being able to encourage these playwrights and performers that what they do is valuable is especially meaningful when the theatre program is closing. We hope people will forego Netflix for an evening and come out to see some future stars in action. The show is funny, touching, and inspiring — what more could you want?” Konrad said.
Performances will run 7:30 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, at Trinity Western University’s Langley campus (22500 University Dr.), with an additional matinee show on Saturday at 2 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit twu.ca/theatre.
— with files from Matthew Claxton and Tom Zillich