Surrey Little Theatre’s sign shows details for “Sealed for Freshness,” a comedy staged there starting April 18 and then showcased in May at the Fraser Valley Zone Festival in Coquitlam. (Photo: facebook.com/SurreyLittleTheatre)

COLUMN ON THE ARTS

MINTY: ‘Freshness’ comedy from Surrey Little Theatre amid drama of development pressures

Doug Stone-written show to serve as the company’s Fraser Valley Zone entry this spring

By Melanie Minty, arts columnist

Our city’s landscape is changing. What used to be farmland now sprouts condos and townhouses, and high-rises. Oh my. Change, I suppose, is inevitable, whether it is climate change, population change, or change in municipal management.

Surrey Little Theatre, with its heritage building on Clayton Hill, is threatened by road widening and sewer line construction. Creating better traffic flow to accommodate cars and ridding the residential areas of septic tanks is, of course, a noble cause. But we do want to save Surrey Little Theatre? Yes, we do.

Is Surrey Little Theatre worth saving? Let’s look at the history – always a good place to start. There wasn’t always a designated building. In June 1958, the Greater Whalley Recreation Council sponsored a little theatre group, North Surrey Thespians. The first meetings were held in the basement of the Dell Hotel and a society was formed in early 1959. Not surprising, because even today dance lessons, and theatre rehearsal still use church basements.

At first, there was no stage to play on but the dedicated thespians put on one-act plays in high schools. Many high schools now do have “real” theatre space, so we have made some progress in 61 years. In November 1962, the group produced its first full-length, three-act play, and in December of that year changed its name to Surrey Little Theatre.

It was in 1967 that SLT purchased the former Clayton United Church, but this time the society owned the building and converted the small space into a very usable theatre space – which was declared to be non-conforming to public showings. With the contributions of dedicated leaders and a grant, the building was renovated and productions were re-established by 1973. Whoo-hoo!

It always amazes me how this theatre society has always attracted dedicated leaders. Passion for theatre runs rampant through these people. Community theatre is driven by volunteers, many of whom spend every nickel of their free time in support of this theatre. Today Surrey Little Theatre thrives not just as a historic landmark, but as an award-winning theatre group producing quality entertainment and opportunities for youth for the surrounding community. Outstanding contribution to the community – hats off to you.

SLT’s next production is Sealed for Freshness, a delightful comedy about a neighborly Tupperware party that goes awry. Do martinis mix with safe food storage? Find out when Sealed for Freshness runs from April 18 to May 11. I am letting you know early because some show dates are already sold out, so visit surreylittletheatre.com for ticket details and show times.

Two seasons ago, SLT took on the task of pairing each show with a matching charity. With Sealed for Freshness, the plan is to work with Langley’s Forever Yours store to collect bras that can be donated to the homeless. Not exactly a well known cause, but a small part of how community theatre can make a contribution to the community at large – even the parts we would like to be invisible. Just like sewers, I suppose.

(COLUMN CONTINUES BELOW)

Written by Doug Stone, SFF is Surrey Little Theatre’s entry for the Fraser Valley Zone Festival as part of Theatre BC.’s Mainstage event, in Port Alberni this year from July 5 to 13.

Theatre BC has been the parent association for community theatre in the province since 1932. Its aims are to promote and encourage the development of community theatre by providing leadership as well as opportunities for participation, education and sharing in the enjoyment of diverse theatre experiences. There are 10 zones, but only seven are entering the festival this year – Central Interior, Fraser Valley (which includes Surrey Little Theatre, Langley Players, Studio 43 and others), North Island, North Shore, Okanagan, Peace River and Skeena.

This year, the Fraser Valley fest is being hosted by Studio 43 in May, in Coquitlam at Evergreen Cultural Centre. Visit stage43.org for info, or call 604-927-6555 for passes. Studio 43 does not have its own theatre, so the company must rent theatre space for its productions.

White Rock Players do have their own theatre, and sometimes rent it out to other user groups looking for affordable theatre space. Next up for the Players is Present Laughter, by Noel Coward. This comedy climaxes around mid-life crises. Directed by Susanne de Pencier, the show has a stellar cast – and who doesn’t need more laughter? So, if life gives you lemons, just laugh. May as well.

Present Laughter runs from April 3 to 20, Wednesday through Sunday, with a gala opening on April 5, at The Playhouse (formerly Coast Capital Playhouse) at 1532 Johnston Rd., White Rock. Evening performances are at 8 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are priced from $19 to $22 ($10 on Wednesday), and can be purchased by calling the box office at 604-536-7535, or visit whiterockplayers.ca.

Community theatre is alive and well in the Zone!

Melanie Minty writes twice monthly for the Now-Leader. Email: melminty@telus.net.

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