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Welcome to a new blog series!  We'll call it Meet the Cast & Crew. Simple enough, eh? Over the next while, we'll introduce you to members of the cast and crew of Sense and Sensibility, opening in November. Today, we introduce (or re-introduce you as the case might be) to a familiar face, a man who's been our stage a bunch of times in such productions as God's Man in Texas, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Matchmaker and most recently, The Importance of Being Earnest...Mr. John Dawson.

 

John_Dawson-1361_smGallery 7 (G7): Tell us about your acting background – how did you get involved in theatre in the first place? What makes you continue with it?

 

Dawson (JD): I have always loved live theatre, and living in Vancouver for my years my wife and I frequented Pacific Theatre and Bard on the Beach. When we moved to Abbotsford in 1997 I realized the community theatre here was very good, and more importantly I realized it was something that someone like me could do. I did my first show in 2003 and have never looked back. I love the process of putting a show together; the character development, working with the cast. But mostly I love the immediacy of live theatre, where anything can happen and often does.

 

G7: What drew you to this play?

 

JD: I was a part of Pride and Prejudice several years back, another Jane Austen novel, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I love the period and the issues it deals with.

 

G7: Is it important to you to be involved with a faith-based theatre? If so, why?

 

JD: Having experienced live theatre, I would probably do it regardless. Having experienced G7, I am grateful that they believe in exploring life issues from a faith based perspective. I know that the leadership works hard to identify plays that both entertain and explore life issues.

 

G7: Jane Austen is clearly popular with audiences and you'll have dedicated fans in the audience – how does that affect you as an actor?

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JD: At this point in my acting career at G7 I know that the theatre is committed to excellence, and that the key is to put a good product on the stage. My part in that is preparing well for my role, and trusting my fellow actors to do the same. I know if we do that, the story will take care of itself, and people will be entertained.

 

G7: If you were on death row, what would you request as your last meal?

 

JD: A medium rare NY steak from Rempel's Meats and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Mt. Lehman Winery. How's that for local advertising?

 

G7: What's the best 5 bucks you ever spent?

 

JD: Buying my wife's engagement ring. I'm just kidding. That was at least 10 times that amount. Probably a great meal Angelika and I had in Budapest Hungary. Great place, great memory, great company.

 

G7: If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or living, who would it be and what's the first question you'd ask him/her?

 

JD: My dad, and I would ask him how he's being treated up there.

 


 

Sense__SensibilitySense and Sensibility runs November 2 & 3, 8 - 10, 15 - 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM with discount matinees on November 3, 10 & 17 at 2:00 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets are on sale now at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford or by calling 604-852-3701.

Brochure_CoverWe're launching something new this year! It's called the Gallery 7 Theatre Club.

 

The Galley 7 Theatre Club is for those who love theatre and want to dig deeper into the themes and ideas that result from seeing a production. Here's how it will work:

 

G7Theatre Club members will attend the November 10th matinee of Sense and Sensibility. You purchase your own ticket and sit wherever you like. Immediately following the production, we'll leave the theatre and reconvene at House of James (2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford) where owner Lando Klassen will have reserved tables for us and where staff are preparing a unique drink just for G7 Theatre Club members! As we enjoy dinner together, we'll use the popular Gallery & Theatre Discussion Guide to guide us as we discuss the play itself, our experience of it, its themes and more.

 

The G7 Theatre Club is meant to enrich your enrich your theatre experience as you learn from the discussion and see how other patrons have seen the play.

 

The discussion will be led by Angelika Dawson, who is an avid theatre fan, a Gallery 7 Theater board member and who edits the Discussion Guide for each play. She is looking forward to meeting you and seeing the production through your eyes!

 

For more information and to register, email Dawson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. She will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Space is limited so don't delay, register today!

Today, our Artistic Director, Ken Hildebrandt, shares some thoughts on why he selected Swallows and Amazons for our March production. This blog post is part of an on-going series called Why I Chose the Plays I Chose. We hope these blog posts serve as a great introduction to the plays in our 2012/2013 Theatre for Life! Season.

 

Swallows_and_AmazonsWhen I set out to plan this year's season, I had no intention of doing another musical. Not because I don't like musicals, but because we had featured The Fantasticks in our previous season, and we've been following an "every-other-year" pattern of sorts. Furthermore, musicals present numerous extra challenges in that they are more expensive to produce and demand a much larger artistic and production team to execute properly. In terms of programming, we have to balance the complexity of our productions with our limited resources.

 

Then I read Swallows and Amazons as adapted by Helen Edmundson. I had never heard of the title before, nor had I heard of Arthur Ransome and his classic children's stories. What I found in the script, though, was an endearing tale about a group of kids embarking on a summer adventure not to be forgotten. The show had the flavour of our recent production of Peter Pan and it celebrated youth in such a fun and charming way. I was hooked.

 

Essentially, the story is about a group of young people who embark on a summer wilderness adventure in their trusty rowboat, Swallow. They imagine themselves as pirates, seeking to set-up camp on a deserted island. They find, however, they are not alone on this island. There are other pirates, a band of neighbourhood kids, known as the Amazons. In the spirit of fun-loving competition, the Swallows challenge the Amazons to see who can capture the other's boat first. But evil also lurks on the lake, and the kids must team together to face the cantankerous Captain Flint and help foil an attempted robbery.

 

Talk about a fun adventure, perfect for kids and their families. And what better way to launch the spring season, and spring break, than with an action-packed and exciting journey that reminds us of those great summer memories from our childhood.

 

But Swallows and Amazons is not just a children's story, nor is it a play being performed by children. As a story, it transcends age. It encourages both young and old to re-engage their imaginations, to seek adventures that, whatever it might be, inspires life and lifts us out of the drudgery of mundane, everyday living. What a perfect fit for our theatre whose mandate is to present plays that stir the heart, stimulate the mind, and elevate the soul. And what a fun take on the theme of "being like children..."

 

As a production, this play presents some unique and creative challenges. Putting aside the musical elements along with the associated challenges, this production requires the free-flowing, uninhibited use of our imaginations as a foundation on which to build the entire show design & production-wise. In terms of casting, our intent is to cast adults in the roles of the children as much as possible, thus connecting the span of age with the timeless nature of the story, and making it relevant for both the young and the young at heart.

 

In terms of props and sets, it's nearly impossible to re-create what the script requires in terms of boats, islands and floating houses realistically. Rather, the show relies on the use of "found objects" to recreate the world of the characters. So, a feather duster might be a parrot or a paddle or a shovel or something. As a result, the audience is invited to imagine along with us as the story unfolds, making this production a truly innovative and fun theatre experience.

 

I'm particularly thrilled that our production will be the Canadian amateur premier of this play. This is the first time that any group of our kind has produced this play in our nation. Talk about super-cool!

 

I hope you will join us for this amazing adventure, a theatre experience sure to lift your spirits.

 

Season Passes Still Available...

 

You can enjoy all four productions in our our 2012/2013 Theatre for Life! Season and save up to 25% off individual tickets. The EXCLUSIVE PACKAGE allows you to go to an evening performance of each production and the MATINEE PACKAGE allows you to go to a matinee performance of each show. Check out the benefits of getting a season pass here. You won't be sorry! Order online, or visit the House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford, today!

The_ForeignerToday, we conclude our series, Why I Chose the Plays I Chose, with Ken Hildebrandt's thoughts on our final production of the 2012/2013 Theatre for Life! season, Larry Shue's hilarious comedy, The Foreigner. Enjoy!

 

The Foreigner is another one of those plays that's been on the list for a long, LONG time that had to wait for just the right year to be included in the season. I first became acquainted with Larry Shue's adventure/comedy around the time that our friends at Pacific Theatre produced it in Vancouver, featuring Erla Faye Forsyth as Betty Meeks. It was a delight to watch her in that role, and I believe that performance was one of the few shows I remember laughing at...and I mean really laughing in a good, out-loud, boisterous kind of way.

 

This play has had a lot of stage time in our community. We've seen it on school, amateur, college and professional stages through-out the Lower Mainland. Like The Importance of Being Earnest, it seems like every theatre at some point in its history produces this gem of a show. It's almost like a theatre's rite of passage.

 

So why The Foreigner now at Gallery 7? Good question. I always look for something light for the end of the season – a comedy that will lift people's spirits. June is traditionally a bit of a tough month – it's not quite spring but not quite summer. The weather can be quite unpredictable and everyone is hunkered down, finishing off the school year. It seems only fitting that we help people through this grueling month and celebrate the approaching summer season with a comedy! This play fits the bill perfectly.

 

The Foreigner is pure fun, filled with adventure, intrigue and even a touch of romance. It's about a pathologically shy gentleman named Charlie who is quite down on his luck of late. To lift his spirits, his good friend, Froggy, a munitions expert in the British army, treats him to a retreat at a run-down fishing lodge in rural Georgia, run by the beloved Betty Meeks. To help Charlie, Froggy announces to everyone at the lodge that his friend is from an exotic foreign country and can't speak a lick of English. The lodge's entrepreneur and fellow guests embrace Charlie, but it seems that treachery is afoot and all is not as it seems. That's where the fun begins as Charlie becomes the unwitting witness to a plot to have the fishing lodge condemned and to put Betty out of business forever.

 

Sounds like fun doesn't it? It is! And for those looking for a little spiritual and intellectual nourishment, there's a few food-for-thought things sprinkled in too about relationships, racism and truth verses lies. It's a perfect fit for our theatre, and for our final production of the season.

 

It's been fun sharing with you some of my thoughts on the 2012/2013 season and I hope you'll join us for an amazing adventure in theatre. As you've heard me say so many times before, there's nothing quite like the live theatre experience. So get your friends and family together, get some tickets (or better yet, season passes) and do something out of the ordinary. See you at the shows!

 

About Ken Hildebrandt, Executive/Artistic Director

 

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Ken is the founding Executive/Artistic Director of Gallery 7 Theatre and is thrilled to be celebrating 22 years with the theatre. Select acting credits include Macbeth, Beau Jest,  Cotton Patch Gospel and most recently, Tuesdays with Morrie, which played at both Gallery 7 Theatre and at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver. Directing credits include Lost in Yonkers, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Importance of Being Earnest and the award-winning Driving Miss Daisy. Behind the scenes, Ken enjoys lighting up the stage, and has many lighting design credits to his name.  When not doing theatre, Ken enjoys announcing at airshows through-out Western Canada and Washington State, flying around the Fraser Valley in a Cessna, and relaxing at home with friends, TV and video games.

430433_425962524129416_1056150345_nWe continue our blog series today with Ken Hildebrandt's thoughts on why he selected Mary's Wedding to be part of our 2012/2013 Theatre for Life! Season...If you haven't heard of this play before, you'll want to read this for sure as Ken gives some great insights in to the story...

 

Stephen Massicotte is one of Canada's hottest playwrights right now, partly because of his very moving, and popular, play, Mary's Wedding. Remember a couple of blogs ago I mentioned that a "must-do" play sometimes has to wait a couple of years because of timing? Mary's Wedding is such an example. I was introduced to this play a few years back by our Front of House Manager, Corry Vandermeer, who had seen the show at Theatre Calgary. I obliged a reading, perhaps with a touch of skepticism, but immediately fell in love with it.

 

Mary's Wedding takes place in Saskatchewan between 1910 and 1912. It starts on the eve of Mary's wedding, a night filled with dreams, even nightmares, as she reflects back on her first love, Charlie. The two met accidentally in a barn while escaping a prairie thunderstorm and an innocent love affair blossoms. Their burgeoning romance soon faces challenges as Charlie's thoughts turn to serving in the cavalry to fight the Germans overseas. From the front, Charlie sends Mary love letters, sharing with her the atrocities of the war experience while expressing his love and concern to and for her. As the war carries on, Mary must face the reality that she may never see her Charlie again, and a story of love, loss, innocence, healing and even heroism emerges as both must face their destiny.

 

Massicotte has masterfully crafted an intimate story of innocent love set against an epic back-drop of the Great War. The writing is so poetic, so beautiful, and the story so touching and moving that it's almost difficult to describe. It can only be experienced for ones' self. I fell in love with the sincere characters whose circumstances have been upset both by world events and by personal choice. Though my life experience was different from theirs, I could relate to them, identify with them and empathize with their plight. Both Mary and Charlie were every-day people caught up, and affected by, world events and that made them even more relatable.

 

As a stage experience, I was immediately caught up in the play's theatricality...my kind of play. Though the story is grounded in reality and is even based on some real-world characters, it is very stylistic in its execution. The story seamlessly transitions from the Saskatchewan prairie to the mud-pits of the battle field as Charlie sends Mary love letters from the front. Scene changes are non-existent and the audience is asked to actively use their imagination as the story unfolds. The actor playing Mary also plays a military sergeant in Charlie's regiment, a convention that further underscores the stylistic nature of the piece. There's even a horse-back ride that requires imagination and ingenuity on the part of the production team, and when done simply and effectively, will be a very exciting moment for audiences.

 

I think Mary's Wedding is a timely piece, both on individual and global levels. I think we can all relate to the experience of having fallen in and out of love, of facing loss in the wake of tragedy, and of having to pick up the pieces of our lives and move forward. On a global front, conflict continues to surface around the world, and we are faced with deciding what is right and wrong, truth and false as battle lines are drawn. We are faced with the question of what heroism truly is as families continue to be ripped apart by the horrors of war.

 

Now that all sounds quite heavy, and it is, but don't let that scare you away from what I think is going to be an amazing theatre experience for all the reasons I described above. I fell in love with this play on first reading, and I think you're going to fall in love with it too.