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Spallumcheen theatre summer show is 'one saucy proposal'

Summer show The Bear and the Proposal: An Okanagan Wedding Party in Two Acts will be brought to life by Caravan Farm Theatre July 11-Aug. 4
Caravan Farm Theatre artistic director Estelle Shook (left) and UBC Okanagan faculty member Bill Cohen of the Okanagan Nation Alliance look forward to the theatre's saucy summer show, The Bear and The Proosal: An Okanagan Wedding Party in Two Acts July 11-Aug. 4.

In the North Okanagan summer heat, Spallumcheen's live theatre venue will spice things up.

Halfway between the forest and the fields of Caravan Farm, what’s heard are bellows of laughter, the grumble of a bear, a violin strumming “Complicated” and the rising voices of star-crossed lovers, circa 1870. This is Caravan Farm Theatre’s highly anticipated summer show: The Bear and The Proposal: An Okanagan Wedding Party in Two Acts.

Described as a “saucy, Bridgerton-esque take on two hilarious Anton Chekhov plays,” above all else during the show’s July 11-Aug. 4 run, there will be “laughing, singing, and hopefully, a lot of joy,” says director Estelle Shook.

It will also be a delightful history lesson.

What inspired Shook’s adaptation was the book and untold stories of Okanagan Women’s Voices: Syilx and Settler Writing and Relations, 1870s to 1960s, edited by scholars Jeannette Armstrong, Lally Grauer and Janet MacArthur.

The book, a collection of writings and stories by seven women at the turn of the century, details some of the friendships and marriages between the early settler and Syilx peoples — relationships that were instrumental in establishing what became the main communities of the Okanagan.

“When we set about making plans for this summer’s show, our number one thought was, what will provide the most delight?” says Shook. “The second thought was, how do we make it meaningful?”

That led to considering local history and the relationships between settler and Indigenous people during the era in which these plays were written.

“As we discovered in this remarkable book, the history of our area is steeped in rich relationships between Syilx and settler peoples," says Shook. "We chose to surface this history by working it into our adaptation of these two Russian plays — merging the fictional with the historical.”

Educator, author and UBC-O faculty member Bill Cohen of the Okanagan Nation has been playing an important part in this, transforming these plays from the Chekhov to the hyper local, ensuring that this adaptation transmits Syilx cultural knowledge.

“Even though as Canadians we have a lot of work to do with respect to Reconciliation, we also need find the lightness and joy and laughter,” says Shook. “It’s important to find ways to celebrate and connect.”

Among the fun and recognizable historical characters is a gentleman inspired by Captain Frederick Houghton, an early settler and owner of the land that became Coldstream Ranch. Audiences meet him in The Proposal. In The Bear, renowned settler-author Susan Moir Allison inspires a character, although in this retelling, her life takes a decidedly different direction.

“These plays are flights of fancy, after all,” says Shook. They’re also framed by an Okanagan wedding with a pop score and even a karaoke moment to enhance the hilarity and festivities.

Gathering with other show-goers under the stars in this spectacularly theatrical landscape makes it an experience unlike any other  — and it’s a rare chance to be entertained by some of Canada’s finest actors, including: Ryan Beil, Kevin Bundy, Sheldon Elter, Kristi Hansen, Jani Lauzon, Renae Morriseau and Amanda Trapp.

“It’s an incredible cast. I’m really excited for the audience to meet these performers," says Shook. "They are so fun, so smart and so talented.”

The Bear and The Proposal: An Okanagan Wedding Party in Two Acts runs July 9-Aug. 4. Tickets are now on sale. Learn more and save your seats by visiting

Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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