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Arts Whistler takes different approach to performance series

Spanning from fall to spring, shows for annual series revealed on rolling basis

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The colder days are more than just a sign that ski and snowboard season is on its way.

Every fall, Arts Whistler also reveals the line up for its performance series that takes place from September to April in the Maury Young Arts Centre.

Featuring a range of theatre, music, children’s performances, comedy and less conventional shows, it offers locals the opportunity to take in arts performances without having to go to the city.

This year, Arts Whistler is rolling out performance announcements rather than unveiling the entire list at once. “We may go into a pattern of bringing in an act, local act, bringing in an act, local act,” says Maureen Douglas, executive director of Arts Whistler. “It’s great to bring in some outside artists because it helps everyone take a look at what else is happening and elevate the talent here. You see what someone else is doing and you can learn from that.”

Arts Whistler Live! officially kicked off in September with two nights of the local play All Relative, presented in conjunction with The Point Artist-Run Centre. “Local theatre actually does better than imported in Whistler,” Douglas adds.

Last week was supposed to be the second show of the series with the comedic musical performance of David Scheel. However, Scheel had to cancel two days before due to illness. “I did run through the idea of ‘is there anyone we can call in to replace this guy?’ but it was two days away, unfortunately,” Douglas says.

The rest of the series will run roughly once a month with a few performers already secured and more to be revealed.

Next up is a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct. 28, featuring live actors as part of the fun. Then, on Nov. 17, Vancouver burlesque troupe The Geekenders are performing their “greatest hits” with Full Frontal Nerdity.

“All their burlesque is super steeped in pop culture,” Douglas says. “It’ll be fun.”

The yet-to-be-confirmed shows include Christmas programming in December and a local comedy show in January. More set in stone is the Valentine’s Day show on Feb. 14 called Best Date Night Ever.

The Squamish 11-piece band Bluesberry Jam will be on stage to set the mood for dancing while lovebirds can also enjoy strawberries, chocolate and bubbly.

In March, Arts Whistler will take on a bigger role with this year’s celebrations for International Women’s Day, which last year, featured over 25 local female musicians.

Finally, wrapping up in April, Douglas says they plan to bring in a to-be-determined indie band from Vancouver.

Overall, their focus has been more on showcasing local talent to offer artists, musicians and performers in Whistler new opportunities. “It was an absolute conscious decision,” Douglas says. “You hear this kind of language in Whistler—we want to be delivering ‘authentic, place-based tourism.’ (Arts Whistler) has two roles. One is to provide showcases and opportunities for local artists and do our best to help elevate them. We’ve been engaging in more professional development in the last couple of years.”

Of course, the other half of the equation is attracting locals to take in the series as well. To that end, Arts Whistler has experimented with price points, balancing the need to pay for acts with keeping tickets as accessible as possible, Douglas says.

“Another issue in this town is affordability,” she says. “That affects us too. It’s hard to bring in an external act for under $2,000. We brought (the tickets) down to $15 and $20 the day of, and most people get them slightly in advance, just under the wire.”

As many clubs and bars move to bring in more DJs than live music, she also sees the role of the performance series as filling a hole in Whistler’s arts offerings.

“You’re seeing less live performance… (but) you’ll see us trying to pick that up, as long as there is that audience and market,” Douglas says.

For more information, or to purchase tickets for Arts Whistler Live!, visit artswhistler.com.

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