Parker Baker, Kim Baker, Lisa Keeling Drever and Sophie Drever (pictured clockwise from left) are featured in Surrey Little Theatre’s production of “UFO Ho-Ho!” from Dec. 6 to 13. (submitted photo)

Families play in ‘UFO Ho-Ho!’ at Surrey theatre that faces uncertain future

City budgets $500K to help Surrey Little Theatre relocate, if and when street is widened

Operators of Surrey Little Theatre received a pre-Christmas gift in the latest city budget, in a week when the company’s latest Christmas show was rehearsed.

The UFO Ho-Ho! play opens Friday (Dec. 6) at the 76-seat theatre, which faces an uncertain future in light of increasing residential development in that corner of Clayton, at 184th Street and Fraser Highway.

The city has budgeted $500,000 in 2023 for the potential relocation of the theatre, among major general capital projects listed in the five-year budget passed by city council on Monday (Dec. 2).

“The relocation of this not-for-profit group’s facility to a more accessible location is anticipated to both strengthen this organization and increase service to the city,” city officials say in a budget document.

The allocation of $500,000 was news to theatre company president Sara Lohnes when contacted by the Now-Leader on Nov. 22.

“We have not spoken to anyone at the City of Surrey about this – only about the potential for us to find land or space, but there’s been nothing about formal assistance like this,” Lohnes said.

“This is totally out of the blue for us, but it’s a boost for what we want to do, yes.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2016: Members of Surrey Little Theatre hope for the best as West Clayton densifies.

homelessphoto

In West Clayton, city plans call for higher-density housing and commercial activity, and that could mean widening 184th Street one day. If that happens down the road, the theatre would have to go, because the structure – a former church built in 1936 – is located just steps from the increasingly busy street.

As it stands, parking is a pain, and there is no space on the land to set the structure back from the roadway, so a plan to move the plays to a theatre in another location would have to be drawn.

“That’s a plan we’re trying to work on,” Lohnes said. “Ideally we need a whole new building in a whole new location, and that location just isn’t feasible right now. Informally we’ve been in talks with the city about finding space, but nothing is formal yet.

“Ideally we’d love to stay in Clayton or Cloverdale – that’s where a good base of our patrons live, so we wouldn’t want to move too, too far,” she added.

The church building is listed on the Surrey Heritage Register but does not have formal heritage protection, according to the West Clayton Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) approved by city council in July 2015.

Kent Gallie, the city’s manager of performing arts, said the $500,000 budgeted for the theatre relocation has been on the books for at least a year.

“Essentially it’s there, really, as a placeholder in the event that development happens in that area and they need to widen 184th Street,” Gallie said. “The purpose to have money in the capital plan is, if and when they do need to relocate, and they can put a plan together and find a suitable location, the city would be wanting to assist them, particularly if it was all because the road needs to be widened. So that’s where we’re at at this point. It’s not in there for a specific reason, but it’s in there for 2023 for the possible relocation, just in case.”

Gallie said operators of the theatre are “in the driver’s seat” at this point. “If they get a business plan in place, if they had a new building in mind, at that point it would warrant having another meeting with them,” he said.

And so, for now, on with the Christmas show, which closes Dec. 15.

“We’re really excited about it,” Lohnes said. “It’s sold-out the past two years, so we’ve added an extra show this year. We’re doing six shows over two weekends this year, instead of four or five shows on one weekend.”

In UFO H0-Ho!, an alien lands at the North Pole looking for his leader, according to a description posted to surreylittletheatre.com. “Believing his leader to be Santa, he asks to be taken to him. The elves and other characters try to help, but when a villain and his sidekick steal the alien’s ray gun in an attempt to take over Christmas, the elves and friends find they need more help than they expected.”

The play, written by Margaret Shearman and directed by Linda McRae, features four sets of families working together to make the “out-of-the-world adventure come alive on stage,” according to SLT publicist Ellie Parento.

Kim Baker, who plays one of the head elves, Shingles, is involved in the show with her children Jeremy (as the villain), Parker (a jokester elf) and Joel (in the tech booth).

SLT newcomer Lisa Keeling Drever plays Jingles, a cheerful elf, and is joined by her daughter, Sophie (“a show favorite from A Grumpy Christmas, as Frass,” Parento noted).

Barb McLeod plays Sandy Claws, and her son, Andrew Keilbart, is the villain’s sidekick, Sly Stoneheart.

Simon Challenger plays jolly Santa Claus and is also the show producer. His daughter, Jenn, is on board as stage manager.

“Together with the families,” Parento says, “Harry Pering hilariously plays Elvis from the Planet Elvia along with Boe Connell, who is Captain Shortbread, a dog on law patrol and an elf, and Hannah Deschutter, resident musician.”

After the curtain closes, kids are invited to stay and take part in some activities, including photos with Santa.

Show tickets are $6 for kids and $12 for adults, at brownpapertickets.com. For more details, call 604-576-8451.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey councillors wary of ‘streamlining’ environmental development permits process

Mayor Doug McCallum notes B.C. government only agency that can issue environment permit

Lost season ‘disappointing’, but White Rock Renegades eager to play outside competition

South Surrey softball organization president hopes inter-city play is a few weeks away

City buys century-old East Delta church

St. Stephen’s Church to be renovated and restored, used as community services and programming space

Oh baby, what a birthday gift: $2.8M raised to help Surrey boy with rare disease

‘We are very thankful to everybody,’ Aryan Deol’s father says

COVID-19 exposure at Surrey rave prompts warning from Fraser Health

Party was held at Royal Beauty Supply in Whalley

B.C. records 30-50 new COVID-19 cases a day over weekend, no new deaths

Many of those testing positive were identified by contact tracing for being linked to other confirmed infections

Five B.C. First Nations call out Canada for ‘discriminatory’ food fish practices

West Coast nations say government ignoring court-won right to chinook and coho

Salmon arrive in larger numbers at Big Bar landslide

Arrival follows historic hihg-water levels that halted migration runs

Rent-relief program becomes new front in fight between Liberals, opposition

Opposition trying to draw parallels between decision to have Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. run program and the WE controversy

Ottawa sets minimum unemployment rate at 13.1% for EI calculation

Statistics Canada says the unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July

$45K in donations received after couple’s sudden death in Tulameen

Sarah MacDermid, 31, and Casey Bussiere, 37, died August long weekend

Famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer brings movements of joy to Long Beach

Internet-famous dancer is exploring Vancouver Island, visiting the B.C. Legislature and more

Battle of Fairy Creek: blockade launched to save Vancouver Island old-growth

‘Forest Defenders’ occupy road to prevent logging company from reaching Port Renfrew-area watershed

Most Read