Off the Page has off-Coast ambitions

The Sunshine Coast play-reading series Off the Page is heading into its fourth season with plans to mount more COVID-safe local theatre productions, and also to expand into the Lower Mainland this fall. 

Producers Wanda Nowicki and Janet Hodgkinson have booked the Heritage Playhouse in Gibsons for Sept. 20 to put on a safely distanced reading-performance of local writer David King’s play, How Things Have Changed. The production of King’s three-character comedy was originally scheduled for March 15 but had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. 

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This will be the first show with a live audience at the theatre in six months, but this time a maximum of 50 people will be allowed in the building – including the cast, production crew, and theatre staff – with pandemic protocols in place. “There will be a little over 40 seats available in the audience, with the possibility of little pods of two or three sitting together,” Hodgkinson said. 

The Off the Page series usually runs from September to March, but the producers are waiting to decide about future performances. “We’ll see what kind of response we get [this month],” said Nowicki. “Do people feel comfortable with it, and will we be able to carry on?” 

The Sunday, Sept. 20 production starts at 1 p.m., starring Nowicki, Frank Crudele and John Payne. In keeping with Off the Page tradition, the playwright will be on hand for a conversation with the audience after the performance. Seats can now be reserved through the Off the Page Facebook page, and drop-ins are still welcome if seats are available. Admission, as always, is by donation. 

Off the Page also hopes to start putting on productions in North Vancouver. “It’s our plan to have a monthly play reading at Presentation House Theatre,” said Hodgkinson. “We have applied for funding from North Vancouver to do so. We won’t find out until the middle of September whether we have funding or not. But we would also hopefully continue to do our monthly readings at the Heritage Playhouse. That’s our plan, to have two monthly readings in two different places.” 

Meanwhile, Off the Page is collaborating with Vancouver’s Touchstone Theatre to host King’s newest work, Overdale, at Presentation House Sept. 12 and 13 for three shows, one of which will be also be streamed live online. Writer King will be performing one of the two roles, along with Vancouver theatre legend Nicola Cavendish. The one-hour play is about and a man and woman who meet on the Langdale ferry and discover they have connections from their past and that, had things gone a little differently, their lives might have gone in another direction, perhaps together. 

Overdale will be performed to a limited in-house audience on Saturday, Sept. 12 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 13 at 2:30 p.m. Theatre tickets can be purchased by following the links at phtheatre.org. The Sunday show will also be available through the paid live-streaming service Side Door, with tickets available at sidedooraccess.com.

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