The Epistle of Q — Chapter 111

Repeating numbers may mean a repeating theme…

People always seem to be complaining that there is never enough to do in Penticton. The town’s too small. It’s too boring. Nothing of interest to keep anybody staying in the place. Well perhaps it is more a case of too much going on. Maybe that’s what keep people indoors. They are befuddled with the options.

Last Thursday I had a SOS Arts Board meeting. I’m currently secretary/treasurer for a small group trying to determine if it is time to build a proper concert hall/playhouse for the South Okanagan & Similkameen Valleys. I helped them get re-started (the group in one form or another has been around for twenty-five years and nine studies) by suggesting that perhaps it was time to get back to the beginning and develop a strategic vision. So we held a workshop in late October which was very successful and Step Two will be a action planning workshop in March. Slowly but surely we are moving the process forward. Each Board meeting does take a good deal of energy both preparing and then doing the follow-up (need I say any more than boy do I appreciate more than ever the EA’s and secretaries that worked for me over the years – they really worked!). Anyway, by the time I got the minutes done and related materials out it was early evening on Friday.

I also have a fair amount of re-writing to complete on my manuscript. Seems it was still too academic and neither ready to consider publishing nor converting into an audio book. So that took the rest of Friday and most of Saturday. By Saturday evening I was ready for a break.

Saturday night I went to the SoundStage Productions presentation of Urinetown. I’ve seen this musical done before by a professional theatre in Calgary. I will have to say that this effort by a largely amateur cast was very well done. Each year Lynne Leydier assembles a cast and some professional musicians and puts on some type of musical production. Sometimes it’s a Broadway type show, other times it’s a collection of songs woven together in a particular theme. I believe in supporting local arts so I always go. It’s always okay, some shows are better than others. But this year’s effort was the best yet. The acting was solid, the singing was very good and the entire presentation was very tight. It was enjoyable and it was worth the price of admission. There was only one problem – it was not sold out. Now I’d heard some people were upset with the title; there were even letters to the editor about it. But come on folks that is no excuse for not attending. This group is usually good anyway; but this time it was something first produced in this millennium, and after the first night when everyone was raving about it, you should have immediately bought a ticket. Missing it was not just your loss, but it was a loss to the Production Company and to all the actors who obviously had worked very hard to make sure the presentation was first class. If you don’t support this kind of effort, what encouragement is there for those trying to make the Arts an even bigger deal?

Sunday evening I decided to go to the Dream Café to experience the Atlantic String Machine which is based in PEI (turns out I had heard a number of them play at one of my best friend’s daughter’s wedding a couple of years ago). These people were true professionals. A quintet (first and second violin, viola, cello and bass) that played music from Haydn and Bach to the Leonard Cohen to the Beatle to Metallica and a bunch of stuff in between. Their sound was tight, the music was woven together in a way that took us seamlessly through both sets. They even let us vote on a couple of choices which was a novel concept in itself, but certainly increased the audience engagement. It was a great evening – great food, great wine, great music, great entertainment. Just one problem – the venue was not sold out. You didn’t have to come and eat dinner – you could have come just for the show so don’t tell me the price was too expensive. Moreover, the Dream Café always brings in good entertainment so even if you didn’t know the group that shouldn’t have been an issue. Besides you might have found you did know some of them – in any event, it was another loss for you. And it was a loss for the Dream Café and for the performers, although I will give credit to the lighting technician who blacked out the empty tables on the wings. Once again, if you won’t support the small professional acts how can we count on you supporting big ones. And where were the music teachers and their students – the show was like a master class. I’m sure you could have negotiated a student rate…

Monday night after debating whether to go or not I was convinced I should go see the movie JoJo Rabbitt. I don’t also agree with the Valley Editor’s choices so his raving about the film did not in itself persuade me. But he is right. This is a must see film. The child actors are brilliant. The script is both humourous and biting. The adult actors are first class too. Wonderful evening. Go see it. My only disappointment – even though it was seniors’ night the theatre was only about 20% full. However there is still time to get to it.

Last night I went to the Ballet. I know, this is not something I do very often. Furthermore this was a Ballet about Anne of Green Gables. I’ve lived for over six years on PEI and my mother was born there and while in elementary school I read almost all the Lucy Maud Montgomery books on Anne. I’ve seen the musical (and the second one called Anne & Gilbert). Not sure I need any more. But this also was worth the price of admission. The dancing was great. The choreography was second to none. The sets were minimalist but so appropriate. And without saying one word from beginning to end (it is a ballet after all) the entire story was crisply and succinctly told. Even the recorded music was wonderful. It was a tremendous evening and guess what – the place (the Venables Theatre in the village of Oliver) was SOLD OUT. Finally, I was re-assured that there are people willing to get out to the Arts, even when it isn’t a big name. Moreover on this night there were many young people in attendance. Shout out for Oliver!

Before I end this quiet critique I also want to talk to the English and drama teachers who missed a glorious opportunity to have their students see a great play from a great playhouse. On Saturday (18th) via satellite from the Old Vic Theatre in London England the Arthur Miller play All My Sons was presented. Sally Fields was among the cast members. It was a very tight performance and the theatre was perhaps 1/3 full. It’s costly to go to London or even to Stratford to see professional theatre at its best. So when it comes to your town, even if it is by satellite, make sure you make a deal with the theatre so your students can go. Give them an assignment to critique the play and turn in a briefing note of no more than three pages. Let that be an option instead of writing a great big essay on some esoteric topic. If these presentations aren’t supported, soon they won’t be available and then you will have a more boring academic year to slog through.

Okay, I’m done. For the moment I just want you to start pushing your friends, colleagues and any young people that you know to get out and support the Arts no matter how small or big, how amateur or professional. The degree to which the Arts are available and supported will determine in large part the quality of life in your community. Further a vibrant Arts scene is worth about ten times what the sports scene generates in any community – so for economic reasons alone, make sure your Arts world is supported.