Powerhouse: A theatre for 50 seasons

Vernon’s Powerhouse Theatre celebrates five decades of entertaining the community with an exciting season ahead.

Powerhouse Theatre as it looks today.

Powerhouse Theatre as it looks today.

Six years before the summer of love, a group of actors, directors, writers and community builders, all of whom loved the stage, would come together to build a new theatre in Vernon.

That’s when Vernon Little Theatre moved into its new home, an old, abandoned power station turned warehouse that would become one of the city’s gems.

After careful planning and extensive renovation, the curtain would rise Nov. 23, 1963 with a gala performance of Jean Giraudoux’s The Mad Woman of Chaillot, directed by one of the theatre’s founding members, Paddy Malcolm.

The theatre society and building would eventually become known as Powerhouse Theatre and for the past five decades, the curtain has continued to rise on community theatre productions that have made patrons smile, cry, laugh and sing along.

About to host its 50th celebration with its current and past members this weekend, some of whom are coming from as far as England, Powerhouse’s colourful history is detailed in a new book.

The book relays the theatre’s history  starting in 1963 and goes right to the present,” said Powerhouse’s current business manager, marketing and publicity director Barb Keith. “We are so grateful in the theatre to have Lorraine Allum, our archivist, who gathered many of the photos for the book; some of which are being displayed on the walls inside the theatre, as well as to our 50th anniversary committee co-chairs Kristine Larsen and Joan Karstensen who did a lot of the work.”

Designed and printed by Wayside Press, with financial support from local businesses and sponsors, the book features original photos dating back to the theatre’s beginnings as well as a “playbill” of all the productions Powerhouse has staged since it opened. The book also includes two DVDs, one made by Randy Jones celebrating Powerhouse’s 40th anniversary, and the other by Powerhouse lifetime member David Jones, and edited by Jim Elderton, about the most recent renovations done to the theatre.

The books will be available for purchase by the public after Saturday’s invite-only event in Powerhouse’s lobby during show runs and can also be ordered by emailing powerhouse50@shaw.ca.

“We will also do special events with prizes at our opening nights to celebrate our 50th,” said Keith.

Besides the reunion party, Powerhouse is celebrating its long history the best way it knows how — by staging a show for just about every age and taste for its 2013-14 season.

“We have a murder mystery, a rock musical and a comedy,” said Keith.“It’s a season to celebrate with something for everyone.”

Stanley Bruhl’s Deathtrap, directed by Jackson Mace, opens the season in November, followed by a musical mid-season in February sure to please the kid in everyone.

Ten years ago, for its 40th anniversary, Powerhouse staged Peter Pan as its big musical, directed by founding member Mary Huggins, and this year the theatre should expect another full house for its presentation of the rock musical about that man-eating plant, Little Shop of Horrors.

The show is being directed by Lana O’Brien, W.L. Seaton Secondary School drama teacher, who is familiar with the source material as she directed Little Shop at Seaton back in 2002.

The season closes in April with the rollicking comedy, A Flea in Her Ear, directed by Monty Hughes, which was last staged for Powerhouse’s 10th anniversary in 1973.

The Powerhouse board of directors have also made some changes to its schedule times this year.

“We developed a page on our website for feedback, and people wanted our times to start earlier, so all evening plays will now begin at 7:30 p.m. instead of 8 p.m., and we have also added a matinée to the Saturday performance along with the Sunday matinée,” said Keith.

The theatre has also come up with a way to appease its older and supportive members with something called the Schubert Connection, where patrons can pick up season’s tickets for all three matinée performances (either Saturday or Sunday). The package also includes a round-trip bus service from Schubert to Powerhouse.

“After 50 years, we noticed lots of retirees of the theatre give up their season tickets,” said Keith. “This is a way to give back to the community and we are very excited and hope seniors, or those who can’t make evening performances, take advantage of this.”

Those interested don’t have to be a member or a resident of the Schubert Centre – anyone living in the area can purchase the package. Tickets are available at the Ticket Seller, and will be made available for pick up at the Schubert Centre.

Powerhouse has also made improvements for those hard-of-hearing patrons, who are being accommodated with a new Phonak system, which has been paid for and donated by the Kalamalka Rotary Club.

The public can get in on Powerhouse’s 50th season by ordering season tickets or individual tickets to all shows at the Ticket Seller in the Vernon Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 or order online at www.ticketseller.ca.