The next White Rock Players Club production has plenty of colour and eye-appeal – as well as a flair for the historic.
About the only thing lacking is physical action – but there’s a lot of it suggested in the project – a 50-by-30-foot mural swiftly taking form on the south wall of the Coast Capital Playhouse, thanks to the lively drawing style of well-known Peninsula artist Elizabeth Hollick.
Indeed, in the imaginative hands of the experienced painter and muralist, one might almost expect the characters to jump down off the wall and start emoting – not to mention singing and dancing – in the Rotary parking lot next to it.
The mural project, held in abeyance for the last two years, is finally coming to fruition, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the City of White Rock approved earlier this year.
It had seemed like a natural way to spruce up the building three years ago when the White Rock Players Club issued a call for proposals from local artists – but until the city got involved it had entirely depended on flagging fundraising efforts .
Hollick said she leapt at the chance to create a design – inspired by the traditional White Rock Christmas Pantomime song The Wonderful Year We Fell In Love – when the projected was first mooted.
“I wanted this to be mine so badly,” said Hollick, who added that, for her, the mural has special significance.
“I go to the pantomime with my grandkids and daughters every year, and we all love the song,” she said.
With the help of Players Club historian Tom Saunders, who provided vintage images of plays and players gone by (Saunders also writes the clever lyrics replete with topical references for Wonderful Year each panto season), she came up with a dynamic visual counterpart to the song, featuring many of the stage and real-life characters who have contributed to the club’s 70-year history.
Personalities such as former club presidents and artistic directors Franklin Johnson and Scott Wheeler are front and centre, along with other past notables like Enid Saunders, Phyllis Clifford, Guy and Barbara Weston, Guy Foreman, Neil Primrose and Riette Hilliard.
Even panto giraffe Shenanigans (another Saunders creation), the panto ‘Dame’ and her beau, and William Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet get into the act, while the backdrop on the stage in one corner depicts White Rock’s waterfront – mercifully minus the current fencing.
While the design won favour with the club board (“It perfectly captures the excitement, fun and personalities of the club’s history as White Rock’s own community theatre,” then-president and mural proponent Dave Baron said), the fundraising campaign ultimately fell short of the mark needed to give the mural the green light.
Now, thanks to the city contribution, it’s back on track and set for completion by the end of July with an official unveiling in August – and Hollick, Saunders and Pat MacClean, the Players Club’s supervisor for the project, said they couldn’t be happier.
“I’m really excited to see it going up on the wall,” Saunders said, adding that he believes Hollick’s design captures all the excitement and camaraderie of the Players Club, both yesterday and today.
“I was hoping it would be close to this but (the design) exceeded all my expectations,” he said.
“I’ve been in training for this for almost 50 years,” Hollick said, before resuming work on the scaffolded and tarp-shrouded wall. “I painted my first mural when I was in my early 20s.”
Although she’s lost count of the number of walls she’s enlivened around White Rock (which also include, in the uptown area, the side of White Rock Travel and Blue Frog Studios) she noted the newest is adjacent to the site of the old wooden fence that Hollick and an ad-hoc committee of fellow artists kept decorated as an ever-evolving art piece for a decade, starting in the late 1990s.
At 30 feet high and 50 feet wide, it’s also the largest she’s attempted, but Hollick has everything worked out with a grid pattern that corresponds to the concrete blocks that make up the wall.
Current phase has been drawing out the design – “this is the difficult bit,” Hollick said, “because you want to get everything right.”
“The next bit is filling in the colours – which should take a couple of weeks – and the last week will be the detail.”
Hollick said she’s hoping to pay tribute to theatre patrons who already donated to the mural in the design – “we want to let them know their money didn’t go in vain.”
She also paid tribute to McClean, who was instrumental in securing Burnaby’s United Scaffolding to provide a very solid structure for Hollick to work on – on very reasonable terms – and has been in charge of all negotiations with the city and White Rock Rotary Club to ensure the work runs smoothly.
“Rotary has been very helpful moving some of their parking out of the way for the scaffold to go in,” said McClean.
“The city gave them some parking spaces and we’ve given them some parking spaces.”
“This is the first project manager I’ve ever had,” Hollick beamed. “I don’t have to do anything. I just appear and enjoy myself.”