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With The Adventures of Tom Sawyer just around the corner, we thought you'd appreciate some thoughts from our Artistic Director, Ken Hildebrandt, about the show. Enjoy!


We first traveled to the Mark Twain universe back in 2008 with our production of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Since that successful production, I have kept Tom Sawyer's adventure tale in the back of my mind, waiting for the right season to bring his story to life on our stage.


Looking at Adventures of Huck Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer side by side provides an interesting study in contrast and similarity. While Adventures of Huckleberry Finn explores artifice and hypocrisy in the context of an exciting journey down the mighty Mississippi, a journey that sees our young hero taken outside his normal universe, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer more gently explores human nature in the context of a young boy discovering himself, his purpose, and his relationship to the ones closest to him on a domestic front. Huck Finn feels more heavy-handed on the satire, while Tom Sawyer feels more like a good-ole fashioned yarn, spun for our entertainment and enjoyment. At the end of their respective stories, Huck Finn has been deeply affected by his experiences and grows more mature as a result, yet Tom seems happy to remain in the realm of childhood, seeking fun and adventure wherever he can; in some ways, just like Peter Pan. 


And yet, in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, both stories point to the frailties of human nature: our habit of accepting truth at face value without exploring what's beneath the surface; our hypocrisy in expecting others to do what we ourselves are not willing to do and our perchance to let emotions instead of reason to dictate our actions. 


But that all sounds very serious and philosophical, themes and ideas to keep in the back of our minds that maybe helps us better appreciate Mark Twain's stories, but certainly should not take the fun out of what are otherwise comical adventures. 


I like Tom Sawyer because he lives life in the moment. Though he is a bit of a scallywag, I believe him to be well-meaning and sincere, even if it is purely in his desire to squeeze every last drop of excitement out of life. I love Tom's charm, his ability to attract people to himself and to lead them to do his wishes, all in spite of what conventional wisdom might say. Maybe I like Tom because I feel I was a straight-laced, reserved and cautious kid and I can now relive my childhood vicariously through Tom's risky adventures and his incessant ability to look on the bright side. Then again, maybe I'm falling victim to the very thing Mark Twain was trying to raise attention to in the first place: our habit of placing charm over substance, something that tends to end with disillusionment and disappointment. Hmmm....


Laura Eason's adaptation is fresh off the New York stage. It premiered in Hartford, Connecticut and then transferred to the New Victory Theatre in New York during the 2012 season. The script uses some simple, yet fun theatre conventions to re-tell Mark Twain's story in a refreshed, modern way. It moves quickly and lightly, but still captures much of the charm and treachery of its various characters, and it certainly covers all the key moments in the story.


Tom_SawyerI'm super-stoked that Phil Dyck has returned to reprise the role of Tom Sawyer. You may remember how he embodied the energy and passion of the character back in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In my mind, he is the quintessential Tom Sawyer. I'm also thrilled to welcome back to the director's chair, John Trottier. John hasn't been with us since he directed Our Town so many years ago, so it's great to have him part of the team once again. Mix in the wonderful talents of the rest of the cast, crew and the design team, and I think we have a theatre experience you and your family won't soon forget. Hope to see you there!



The Adventures of Tom Sawyer runs November 8 & 9, 14 - 16, 21 - 23, 2013 @ 7:30 PM with matinee performances on November 9, 16 & 23 @ 2:00 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbtosford. Tickets available at House of James or online at

Dann_WarrickDann Warrick is another one of those funny improv guys and he's joining Panic Squad this Friday night here at G7 for the one-of-a-kind, not-to-be-seen-anywhere-in-Canada, Panic Squad & Friends show! Allow us to make an introduction...


Dann is Mr. Random Funniness. You never know what Dann is going to say or do next. One time Dann sang a song on stage and used numbers instead of words. Oddly enough, it was really funny. Dann got into improv while living in Southern California. He toured Hollywood Clubs for a while with a sketch and improv group called Center Stage, then later joined up with L.A. Connection, and the finally Ventura Theater Sports.


While Dann loved the acting, the competitive nature began to bother him "It was all about who might be in the audience, everyone had their headshots and resumes ready after the show." Dann wasn't into improv for his acting career, he just wanted to have fun.


After moving to the Northwest, Dann first ran into The Panic Squad at one of their shows. He actually ended up on stage as a volunteer. Dann began performing with The Squad in 2005. He currently lives in Lynden, WA with his wife Abby and fuzzy faced baby, Bella (their cat).





Panic Squad & Friends hit the Gallery 7 stage on Friday October 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford (1-800-665-8826 or 604-852-3701) or online here:

In the lead-up to our annual Panic Squad and Friends show on October 4, we thought we'd introduce you to the improvisors you can expect to see on stage ! First up, Andrew Bright...

AndrewOne of the founding members of The Panic Squad, Andrew is Mr. Physical Comedy and loves to bend his face and body into anything the scene calls for. He also seems to channel Dr. Seuss himself when playing rhyming games.


Andrew discovered his love for improv at Trinity Western University, where he became part of the university's comedy improv league, "11:07". According to Andrew, "after watching and wishing I could do improv for months, I finally gave it a shot. Five minutes on stage and I knew I was home. We're all wired differently, to like what we like, excel at some things and struggle with others (that's why I don't teach math and why my wife takes care of the bills). Hopefully we all find the niche God designed us for, like I did that evening on stage."


Graduation didn't seem like a good enough reason to stop doing improv, so in 1996 Andrew started The Panic Squad with Dave and some other improvisers from TWU. The rest is history. In 2001, The Panic Squad became a full-time venture.


Andrew, his wife Karla, daughter Katelyn, twins Alyssa and Luke, and new baby Elijah, live in Lynden, WA. He is also the booking guy for the Squad, so if you summon our elite agents of comedy for your event, chances are you'll be talking to Andrew.



AndrewDaveDann-SportPanic Squad & Friends hit the Gallery 7 stage on Friday October 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford (1-800-665-8826 or 604-852-3701) or online here:

ElijahToday, we introduce you to another of the Panic Squad players you'll see next week as part of our Panic Squad & Friends Show, Mr. Elijah Tadema. Enjoy!


Elijah brings a fresh energy and extraordinary musical talent to the team. His improv songs and ability to play just about any instrument you put in front of him (including his mouth if you include beat boxing) has been a great asset to the Squad. Elijah claims he first began doing improv as a toddler, as a way to get out of spankings. He began doing improv legitimately with friends in high school. They would gather at Elijah's home and just start doing games from "Whose Line Is It Anyway?".


Elijah's first experience with The Panic Squad was also Elijah's first date. He took a young lady to see a Panic Squad show in Lynden, WA. We all think that was a pretty smart idea. Elijah began training with the Panic Squad a few years later. He reached Elite Agent status and officially joined the roster in 2003.


Elijah currently lives in Mount Vernon, WA with his wife Katie Brooke and children Delayne, Cliff and Harrison. When not performing comedy with The Panic Squad, Elijah can also be found performing some great music with his band, Into Light. Check out






AndrewDaveDann-SportPanic Squad & Friends hit the Gallery 7 stage on Friday October 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford (1-800-665-8826 or 604-852-3701) or online here:

Katherine_Beswick-5300smOften we feature members of the cast or design team in our blog posts, but today, we're going to showcase an integral member of the team who, if she does her job right, will never be seen by you during the performance. The job she has is often thankless, but absolutely integral to a smooth performance each and every time. We're talking about Katherine Beswick, of course, who is the Stage Manager for The Foreigner. She arrives early to set the stage, keeps actors and crew on top of the performance schedule, calls when all the lighting and sound cues should happen, and then stays late to clean up after everyone has left. Recently, Katherine took a few moments to share a little about her self and what she likes about the play...Enjoy!


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


Katherine Beswick (KB): I was actually forced to audition for my first play and I enjoyed it but thought that it would end up being my last experience with theatre because I saw myself as more of a choir kid. Well, that was seven years ago and since then I haven't really spent much time at home because I've been out working on some show. I've stage managed, designed, acted, operated lights and received a theatre diploma. I suppose I could say that I caught the bug?


G7: What drew you to this play?


KB: I really enjoy comedies because you can goof around all the time without ever feeling like you're being really disrespectful. Comedies usually get people out of their shells earlier on in the process as well. I'm a big fan.


G7: The Foreigner deals a lot with the power of disguise – what kinds of disguises do you think people use to protect themselves?


KB: Everyone has a disguise; people even disguise their feelings from themselves. It can be as significant as hiding a true personality or as trivial as pretending not to be exhausted first thing in the morning at work. Society doesn't like to see the darker parts of the world so we as human beings are conditioned to show only the positive parts of ourselves. One of the most interesting parts of disguises to me is determining what a disguise is covering and how that drives a person to act in a particular way.


G7: What do you hope audiences will take away from this play?


KB: I have been transfixed by the charm of this play; every time I see it I get excited by a new moment that I hadn't thought about previously. I love that there are several dynamics of human nature and comedic layers that are interspersed throughout the show.


G7: What's your favorite way to relax?


KB: My favourite way to relax is to read an addictive book or to watch TV, not movies, TV. Why would I want to add the stress of saying goodbye to my favourite fictional characters after a two hour movie wraps up? I'm relaxing here!


G7: Can you share one of your guilty pleasures?


KB: This is a difficult one... I don't really feel much shame for my favourite things like night time soaps and cats on the internet. I guess my love of Culture Club and MC Hammer could be considered guilty pleasures and Glee. Glee is a guilty pleasure because I hate it and I hate myself but I can't stop watching it. Sometimes I'll watch Blue's Clues or The Wiggles just for kicks.


G7: What's one thing people might be surprised to know about you?


KB: This is actually something that surprises me on a regular basis, I'm afraid of blood but I love horror movies and have been fascinated by the more gruesome areas of history for my entire life. Despite all of this you can say something as trivial as "red blood cell count" and I'll immediately get the small dog shakes and try to protect my major arteries.


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


KB: Drawer dividers. I bought them on a whim and I have never looked back. I didn't really think I would need them so much but my life is ten times easier now. My dresser and I would be lost without them.


G7: Best advice your mom or dad ever gave you?


KB: The best advice I ever got was sage-like guidance hidden in this question: Is the money you'd lose worth your misery? Usually the answer is no so it's helped me put many situations into perspective.


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


KB: Fugu and polar bear liver not because I love them and eat them all the time but because they can kill you. A cheesecake, coffee, pizza, and a 2 litre of diet coke and all of this witnessed by the people who told me that aspartame was bad for me and would be the thing to kill me. I would consider it my final "I told you so".


G7: Anything else you want to share?


KB: I don't think I can. I'm thinking about red blood cells.





The Foreigner runs June 7 & 8, 13 - 15, 20 - 22, 2013 @ 7:30 PM with discount matinees on June 8, 15 & 22 at 2:00 PM at the MEI Auditorium, 4081 Clearbrook Road, Abbotsford. Tickets can be purchased in person or by phone at House of James, 2743 Emerson Street, Abbotsford or 604-852-3701 (1-800-665-8828) or online here.