This summer, the Driftwood Players theatre company will breathe fresh life into classic tales through dramatic performances at community celebrations.
The first of five Story Theatre appearances is planned by the Sunshine Coast-based troupe for July 1 celebrations at Sechelt’s Hackett Park.
The summer performance series had been on hiatus since 2016.
A new rendition of Chicken Little has been prepared to supplement perennial favourites like The Bremen Musicians and The Lion and the Mouse.
Driftwood’s Story Theatre project began 15 years ago when director Bob Hunt led performances inspired by the tradition of itinerant actors who performed outdoors with simple costumes and staging. Producer Radhika Samwald sustained the tradition after Hunt’s retirement.
“We’d pop up in the most unexpected places: festivals and fairs, summer youth camps, a care home, street festivals, Molly’s Lane, even a bus stop,” said JoAnne Bennison, who spent eight years with Story Theatre as an actor, writer and director. “Story Theatre wasn’t just about performing. It opened so many doors for me: from acting to writing and directing, to serving as an administrator at the Driftwood Theatre School where I helped produce youth theatrical productions. It all started with Story Theatre, which has truly been a life-changing experience.”
Bennison directs this year’s production of Robin Hood: The Musical. The show is a tuneful traversal of legends about the heroic outlaw.
The seven short plays will be presented as partly-improvised theatre with an emphasis on audience participation. Each piece is designed to take advantage of its natural setting.
“Where else can you rehearse in the awesome presence of humpback whales while making new and old friends in our beautiful natural spaces?” said Marissa Fischer. Fischer is involved as an actor and writer, and directs the retelling of Chicken Little.
Two other directors took responsibility for multiple stories. Gabriel Ditmars directs The Bremen Musicians and The Miller, His Son and His Ass. Director Shannon Rhody oversees The Lion and the Mouse, The Dog and His Reflection, and Two Crows.
Linda McTurk, the project’s artistic director and producer, worked with dramaturge Lise Kreps to review past scripts and tailor 2023 performances.
Costumer and logistics coordinator Ruthy Boehm turned Story Theatre into a family affair. Boehm’s two adult children and one of their partners joined the troupe. “After being quite ill for quite awhile,” said Boehm, “I wanted to live again and there’s no better way to come alive then to become someone else for a little while.”
Following its July 1 performances, the group will appear at the Halfmoon Bay Fair on July 16, Pender Harbour Days on August 5, Creek Daze on August 13, and Labour Day celebrations at Winegarden Park in Gibsons on September 3. All shows by the multigenerational cast are free of charge.
“As the parent of two young children, and in the wake of the pandemic, theatre is more vital than ever to inspire young kids who haven’t been able to participate in any live in-person activities,” said Fischer. “We’re trying to give them a light-hearted first taste of what theatre is about.”