Thursday, January 21, 2010

Theatre Royal, Barkerville - new cast for 2010

Photo Richard Wright: VanDusen Garden's light up. The Christmas Revelers performed here to great accolades.

The last month has been a hectic round of holidays, visiting family and friends  sandwiched in with auditions and meetings to get our Theatre Royal, Barkerville season up and running.
         It began with me cruising in off the highway to catch the last few songs of Amy’s Christmas Revelers at Burnaby village. What a great sound!  This year the Revelers were Amy, Alison Jenkins, Theatre Royal alumni Nick Fontaine, Chris Harvey and Patrice Bowler as a stand-in for Alison.
          Amy and I started off our own reveling at dinner with my old friend Jim Stanton, his partner Paula, her son Travis and my son Raven. Then came Christmas with our respective families and New Year’s Eve with old friends at my brother’s.  It is a party that has been going for 35 years!
         We had a chance to see Amy’s niece Lauren Bowler (Theatre Royal alumni with Eureka) as the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie at Gateway Theatre. Theatre Royal 2009 alumni Jennie Moase and Thomas Boutilier were also in the cast. Great work by all three, though the direction and set made it a lighter shade of grey. The theatre brought back memories as my brother Edd has performed there and my Dad was on the board of directors for many years.  I could almost see Dad standing at the door as we entered.

Old friends celebrate Christmas

In the New Year we headed to Victoria for auditions at the Canadian College of Performing Arts where we saw some talented young folks. Both Peter Boychuk, our returning director, and Matt Quick, Company Manager, joined us so we were able to cram in some planning for 2010 over a pint or two.
         The next night we met with Marcello and Christina Sequeira and confirmed Marcello returning in the spring as stage manager, a real switch up for him. Marcello will also be returning in the fall as a performer. One reason for his return is that he just found out his great, great, great grandfather was a partner in the famous Raby Claim on Williams creek.
         Between all this Amy found time to visit her friend Maureen, the gal who loans us so many costumes, at Disguise the Limit, to see her renovated shop.
         Then we spent many hours at the BC Archives, checking out a few facts, reading journals, and trying to get a handle on the Cassiar gold rush of 1874 for a new project we are working on. That all took most of a week.
         Then back to Vancouver for a meeting with Peter and auditions at Capilano University, again with Peter.  From these we found many talented folks and hired Sayer Roberts as a performer. He performed a great number from Wizard of Oz, “If I only had a brain”, with legs of rubber. Maya Meron did a great audition and then ended it with Whistle Pitch singing. You can check out this singing style on You Tube but it is basically the high register singing Maria Cary is known for. Maya will be Front of House/Performer.  We also auditioned and hired Shawn Watson, a multi-instrumentalist who plays tuba, guitar, ukelele, digeredoo, baritone, tin whistle and a bunch more. Without knowing our connection he played "Berkeley" by David Essig. David has been a friend of mine for 20 years, recorded the sound track for most of Amy’s one-woman shows and has been a guest at the Singing Camel several times. Shawn will join us for the Spring show and the main season.
         Somewhere in here we had dinner with Alison Jenkins and her partner Jonathan. Alison confirmed that she will come on board for the Spring show and the main season. She was on our Spring Tour last year and was Musical Director for the Motherlode Tour in 2008. She plays accordion, tin whistle and piano. Although she plays in a couple of bands she has managed to fit us in and will make a great addition.
 During this time we were auditioning pianists, trying to find the person with just the right chops, high skill level and good attitude to join our cast.  After several online interviews with various folks Robert Ahad came over from Victoria for an audition.  We had talked to him on the phone so had a good sense of who he was.  Amy handed him some sheet music and chord charts. Picking up the chord charts, with Amy at his left side, he played his way through “Tomorrow”, a difficult patter song that Amy sang last year. He stuck right with Amy and aced it.  Within an hour they could have performed the number on stage.  Ten minutes later Robert was hired and had accepted.  So all in all we will have a great sound and a great cast.
Others returning this year are Amy, of course, and Matt Quick who will bring a new one-man show. Elliott Loran, who toured with us and was "on the street”, is also rejoining us for the fall. 

 Photo Richard Wright: Christmas Revelers at Burnaby Village

And, great news, the talented, experienced Barkervillian, Queen Victoria herself, Danette Boucher will be joining the cast with her own one-woman show. Danette will also be taking on some FOH duties and assisting with interpretation. Those who are BV regulars will surely know Danette from the street a few years ago. We are pleased and honored that, as she is now a Wells resident, she can join our cast.
         Our plan is that Danette will be presenting her own show (the title as yet not firmly decided) in the mornings, a new show, likely at 11 a.m. This show will present one of Barkerville’s many stories and will be of interest to those who want the facts, the guts, the real story. Her show will be directed by James Douglas.
         Wow, what a lineup!
         Our tech crew is not all confirmed yet but we expect some folks, like Marcello, to return, and some new folks.
        One of the highlights of this coastal month for me, just the day before we left, was working with Amy’s brother Paul, a computer systems analyst and programmer with Rainmaker.  Back in 1985-6 the Friends of Barkerville had many gold rush records compiled in a database by summer students with the aim of creating an early census.  These included all the gold mining licenses from 1861 to 1871, a total of 12,126 records.  These had been written on Kaypros using the CP/m operating system and input into dbase 2, one of the best databases of the time.  However, the only known copy of these records now resides as part of the database at Barkerville.  Other updated versions had been lost.
         Paul assured me we could transfer the material. So we blew off the dust, fired up the old Kaypro II, made sure the files were still intact after 25 years, transferred them to a comma deliminated .txt file and began to figure out a system to link the Kaypro with his Linux OS. It took awhile – about 8 hours. First, the disc-to-disc plan did not work. Paul’s old 5.25 drives were NFG. Then we (he) used two modem programs to make the link-up. Unlike popular TV shows this stuff takes more than a couple of minutes. It was fun to try and remember all the old commands to make things work. 1985 computers usually just give you a blank screen to begin your work. Then some hours later we had a Eureka moment as the files started migrating.  By about 7 pm we had all the files transferred to a .txt file, migrated to a CD and I was reading them on my Mac and transferring them into Filemaker Pro 10, the leading database system for Mac. I have to say all I did was take out a few screws, mess with 5.25 floppy discs and keep Paul company. He did all the heavy lifting. Thanks Paul.
         It will take a few days to clean up the files and reconfigure some fields but now these important files are available in two more versions - .txt files and Filemaker Pro CSV files. Along with other files FOB input they offer a window into the population of the creeks in the early formative gold rush years.
         My database, which is becoming a life’s work, which adds even more records including all the area vital stats, graves, newspaper obits and various other records, now has 21,000 entries. Being a relational database fields can be compared, so some interesting stats are emerging.  But that is a whole new blog.
       This should be one of our best years yet and we are all anxious to get started.  Stay tuned for more information.

© Richard Wright 2010