Ask anyone who's been in this town for a few years - many of Whistler's residents have a flair for the dramatic. And one local event producer plans to take full advantage of the community's theatrical tendencies this summer, hosting a new grassroots theatre festival from Aug. 27 to 29.
Lilli Clark helps to coordinate and produce the indoor, multimedia events for the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, and events like Crush! at Cornucopia. But on top of her work with Watermark Communications, she splits her time between Whistler and Vancouver, pursuing a career as an actor. With a strong background in theatre, Clark had noticed a definite absence of live theatre here in Whistler, and decided to step up and organize a special summertime event for the community: the Blank Slate Theatre Festival.
"I've lived here for at least five years now and I just haven't seen, really, any (theatre productions)," she said. "I mean, other than the Whistler Theatre Project that happened that one summer, I haven't seen any theatre in Whistler."
She points out that other one-off events like the Chairlift Revue, which takes place during the TWSSF, have been met with a very warm reception from the community, proving that there is in fact a desire for live theatre productions.
Clark planned to start small this year, hosting three separate shows are three separate venues on three nights, just to see if the community has an appetite for the festival.
"This production is coming from a place of passion and a place of enthusiasm," Clark said, adding that they aren't necessarily expecting the event to be a resounding success in its first year.
"Our mandate for the festival was that Blank Slate would produce maybe a show or two, but we'd also send out a call for submissions for people to mount or remount shows," she explained.
Planning Blank Slate has required a large financial and personal commitment on behalf of Clark and the other stakeholders, fellow actors Simon Roberts and Nicky Anderton, and the process hasn't been entirely problem-free. Just six weeks from the planned show dates, Clark received an e-mail from Louise Lundy, the interim general manager of MY Millennium Place, stating that the group would not be able to use the space for one of the three productions planned for the festival: the mounting of Mental: The Musical . The show was to feature a cast of nine, many of whom were planning to travel from Los Angeles to take part in the inaugural festival, free of charge.
"...We had already been in discussion with MY Place for months on this particular project and all was good," Clark said.
When contacted about their decision not to rent the space to the Blank Slate festival, Lundy e-mailed a statement.
"Millennium Place is very supportive of a summer theatre festival in Whistler and we hope to help Blank Slate Productions with their two productions planned for this summer. We were unable to fully support a musical production at Millennium Place in August given the short timeline and our limited resources at the present time, but we hope to participate in a larger production with them next summer.
"This year, all our resources are focused on integrating with the Whistler Arts Council, preparing for and delivering our fall and winter programs, preparing for the 2010 Games time operations of Millennium Place and supporting the Whistler Arts Council in the delivery of 2010 Celebration Sites events. We are also developing our strategies for performance programming for the next two to three years as most productions are usually planned and booked a year or two in advance."
MY Place's decision has forced organizers to cancel the production of Mental: The Musical as they couldn't find a suitable alternative space in time.
"With a technical show that involves lights and nine mics, it was too much - we couldn't do it," Clark said.
While Lundy says they hope to work something out for future years, the inaugural festival has simply been altered for this summer. There will be nightly presentations of the two remaining productions, a dark comedy called Problem Child by Canadian playwright George F. Walker and a one-woman play about a teenage Jesus, entitled Some Reckless Abandon , at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre and The Path Gallery, respectively.
Doors to each of the shows will open at 7 p.m., with drinks and a reception before the curtain opens at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, or catch both shows for $35. Anyone interested in finding out more about the performances or looking to purchase tickets should visit www.blankslatetheatre.ca .