Kathleen Holmes is ending her reign as artistic director and driving force behind the Coasting Along Theatre Society, which has produced the hugely successful Nutcracker ballet on the Sunshine Coast for the past eight years.
“It’s kind of a sad announcement. My dad’s not doing well, so I want to go back to Oakridge, Tenn., and take care of him and help my mom,” Holmes said in an interview.
Holmes, a Tennessee native, said she made her decision official at the society’s Jan. 8 board meeting. “My board and I decided that’s probably the end of Coasting Along Theatre Society, but not The Nutcracker,” she said. “We wanted to close the society down so that a new group – and they have plenty of time, it’s only January – a new group can take it over and we can sell the costumes and sets to them and they can take it in a new direction.” It’s not a sad ending, she said, “it’s just a new beginning.”
Holmes and her husband David Holmes, who died in 2013, started the society in 2012 specifically to mount annual productions of The Nutcracker. The society’s success with the ballet and its impact have become the stuff of local legend.
“We’ve done 56 performances. The Heritage [Playhouse, in Gibsons] is where we started, with eight shows. It was full capacity,” said Holmes, who moved the show to Sechelt’s larger-capacity Raven’s Cry Theatre in 2014. “I figure we had over 13,000 people see our Nutcracker over eight years. And we had a cast number of over 254 people onstage, and I can’t even begin to count the number of people who helped backstage.”
Julie Izad, studio director of the Coast Academy of Dance and Performing Arts, where Holmes has taught for more than 10 years, told Coast Reporter that the two have had a “fantastic” working relationship. “Her energy, upbeat personality and her ‘savoir-faire’ have benefitted hundreds of young ballerinas over the years. She will be missed. I think it will be very hard to fill Kathy’s shoes.”
Shirley Jackson echoed Izad’s sentiments. “When Kathy leaves the Coast, I will be losing a friend and a colleague,” Jackson said. “Her boundless energy and wacky sense of humour have been an inspiration to us all.” She added, “It would take about five people to replace all the things Kathy did to make [Nutcracker] happen.”
Holmes doesn’t deny she put a lot of passion into the annual dance project but said community support was crucial to its success. “It was an easy hard job, if you know what I mean,” she said.
“What makes me so much happier than anything else is how everybody’s so proud of it, whether they worked on the sets, whether they helped with the costumes, whether they swept the floor – it’s a production the whole community was behind, the whole community is part of. It’s something we built together.”
Hear Rik Jespersen's interview with Kathleen Holmes on this week's Coast Reporter Radio podcast at www.coastreporter.net/audio