Between Shifts Theatre Society likes to mix up their season with lighter, accessible plays and at least one that's more challenging.
However, their latest production, The Gravitational Pull of Bernice Trimble, falls somewhere in between, says Kathy Daniels, artistic managing director for the Squamish theatre company.
"I would call it a family dramedy," she says. "There are some really funny moments in it. All the characters, particularly the kids, are so interesting. There's the older, middle and youngest child. Those sort of psychological profiles of a family have been very well drawn in this play."
The production, set to run at the Eagle Eye Community Theatre on April 6, 7 and 11 to 14, is about the Trimble family, primarily the middle child Iris (played by Sara Marrocco) as they navigate their matriarch's early onset Alzheimer's diagnosis. "The whole play is a memory play," Daniels says. "It's through the eyes and voice of the middle child, Iris. She's the middle child, so she's always trying to keep it together—keep the family together—and does everything for the parents."
Long-time local actor Todd Weitzel plays the youngest sibling, Peter, while newcomer Claire Lindsay performs as the oldest, Sarah. (Janice Carroll and Michael K. Hewitt are co-directing.)
Written by Edmonton playwright Beth Graham, the play was a unanimous pick for this season. "When we read this play we went, 'This is so beautiful and so well written and so poignant,'" Daniels says. "Particularly with a lot of us in the baby boomer generation who are dealing with parents who are aging and dealing with parents who are starting to get Alzheimer's or dementia, that whole area of mental health is becoming prominent these days."
To that end, the company will be accepting donations for the Alzheimer's Society of B.C. during the show, as well as offering up some information on resources. "Some of the acting challenges were with the theme—what everyone has to deal with: people making decisions about the end of life. How do you approach those decisions and not shy away? And also being informed about Alzheimer's," Daniels says.
By chance, Carla Fuhre, the actress playing the production's namesake, Bernice, is also a mental health nurse and was able to offer the cast some insight. "Often, she's the person who makes the diagnosis herself, so she had a lot to tell us about Alzheimer's and dementia treatment," Daniels says.
While the group is gearing up for opening night, they're also attempting to find a new location for their warehouse—again. Last fall, the group's landlord, BC Rail Yards, told them they had to move out of their storage space. They found a six-month solution when Westcoast Outbuildings rented them a space in the same area, but that lease will also soon be up.
"We need a place that's dry where we can construct our sets and store them—and have enough light to do that," Daniels says. "We're in a bit of a stew again."
There are certainly challenges to operating a non-profit arts group, but Daniels says it's worth it to see the culmination their work on opening night.
"It's my passion," she says. "(It's worth it) when we have done some shows that I have just been so bloody proud of—and so thankful and grateful to be part of... It's about telling stories. Through that, we hope to reflect our lives and process and question things."
Tickets for the show are $21.50 for adults and $11 for students and seniors. (However, there are also a handful of two-for-one nights.) Get them at betweenshifts.ca.