A&E » Arts

Vogler's new play blends Whistler fact with fiction

Agnus premiers at Flag Stop Arts and Theatre Festival this Saturday



Agnus and Bert Harrop were the owners of a lodge and teahouse that existed on the current site of The Point. They were two of the pioneers of Whistler, then known as Alta Lake, and are the namesake of that part of the lake, Harrop's Point.

And, of course, few locals have heard that name before. This Saturday local writer Stephen Vogler is hoping to give locals and visitors a history lesson with his new play, Agnus — one of the plays to be performed at the inaugural Flag Stop Theatre and Arts Festival.

The play — written by Vogler who is co-directing with local thespian Angie Nolan — tells the fictional story of the real-life Harrops (played by Nolan and Vancouver-based stage actor Greigh Laschuk) and their interactions with a couple from San Francisco — he (played by newcomer Wayne Esscott) is a jazz musician and World War I vet possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and she (played by Blank Slate Theatre co-founder Lilli Clark) is the daughter of a wealthy media magnate . They arrive at Alta Lake on the eve of the 1929 stock market crash.

The play ties in themes of economic and personal crisis while blending fact and fiction to drive this character study of a time long forgotten in Whistler's history.

Live swing jazz music from the era (supplied by New Orleans Ale Stars co-founder Simon Stribling and local musician Rajan Das) will also be featured prominently throughout the play.

"The calibre of the artists involved is really high," Vogler says.

"I like the collaborative aspect of this festival that we're showcasing. We're bringing together these actors with the musicians, with the playwright. It's been very exciting working together."

The entire play will be performed on Alta Lake, on a floating stage. At the time of the interview (nine days before show time), Vogler had not totally figured out how it was going to work.

"It's all logistically quite complicated," he says with a laugh. "It's more close to shore, so we have a gang plank walking on to it."

The play was written specifically to be performed at this location, with the floating stage in mind, and will likely only be performed this one time.

And while Vogler says he "wouldn't mind" taking it to other venues in the future, there are no plans to do so at this time.

The Flag Stop Theatre and Arts Festival is the result of almost a year of planning, and has been a dream of Vogler's since starting up The Point last year. It combines live music, theatre and visual art, all supplied by local artists.

Vogler says he'd like to make the festival a multi-day event in future years but this year, just the one-day alone has consumed all of his time.

"It's taken over my life for the last month or so but it's exciting," he says.

It will begin like any other Saturday at the Point, featuring live music — this week, courtesy of Michael Faiella — and the Book Shop Café. The opening reception for the TRACKS arts show — summer long exhibit featuring local artists working on canvas, in photography, sculpture, skateboards, you name it — will follow.

At 7 p.m., the Improv Theatre Troupe — who has been workshopping with Aude Ray at The Point for the past five weeks — will perform and will feature a mix of trained actors and newcomers.

The performance of Agnus will follow, which will then be followed by Ray's solo dance performance piece Suitcase of Dreams. A performance by the New Orleans Ale Stars will cap off night.

Tickets for the festival are $18 and can be purchased at www.thepointartists.com.