Skip to content

White Rock Museum spotlights ‘Shenanigans’

New exhibit celebrates 80-year history of White Rock Players Club

White Rock Museum and Archives’ newest exhibit has a notably theatrical aspect.

Shenanigans: Celebrating 80 years of the White Rock Players Club looks back fondly at the the city’s ‘little theatre that could’ – and still does today, more than 390 productions since the first official White Rock Players Club show, The Passing of the Third Floor Back, opened at the old Army and Navy Club on Washington Avenue (Marine Drive) in 1944.

With a starring role played by the club’s particularly eccentric mascot, ‘Shenanigans the pantomime giraffe’ – seen in both original and most recent incarnations – the exhibit is now open at the museum, in the historic waterfront train station on Marine Drive.

Curated by Charlene Garvey – with information and physical artifacts from club past president Fred Partridge, writer/lyricist/prop-maker extraordinaire Tom Saunders, wardrobe supervisor Laura McKenzie and former theatre manager Daina Buchanan, the show traces the history of the club from its roots in a Surrey school district teachers’ dramatic society of the late 1930s to the present day.

READ ALSO: SIGHTLINES:White Rock Players show noteworthy

The collected memorabilia includes old costumes, posters, programmes, a couple of lighting units and two seats from the original pre-renovation auditorium at the club’s Johnston Road theatre, now known as the Oceana PARC Playhouse.

Adding to the presentation are a video slide show by Semiahmoo Secondary student Celina Qu and music by the late Norman Long, whose piano accompaniment graced many a pantomime and musical for the club.

The show’s plethora of informative storyboards, incorporating historic photos, that succinctly summarize the different eras of the club in a way that is sure to stir memories for past and present members, as well as their loyal audiences.

The exhibit covers the club’s different regular venues, starting with a revamped Marine Drive storefront in 1950 (stage right led into the phone booth of the cafe next door), through the repurposed Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall on Johnston Road that early members mortgaged their homes to buy, eventually rebuilt as the Coat Capital Playhouse in 2006 (now the Oceana PARC Playhouse).

There’s recognition of the club’s big win at the Dominion Drama Festival that put both it and its home community on the national map, in 1957.

Recognition is also given to notable personalities of the past – including the theatre group’s first guru, director/actor/artistic director Franklin Johnson, his wife, panto author Charlotte Johnson, actors Enid Saunders, Reg Romero and Wynn Tetrault (who also created many early posters), long-time wardrobe supervisor Margaret Primrose, director/producer/actor Scott Wheeler and aforementioned musical director Long.

Those with sharp eyes may even be able to spot a future White Rock politician, Mayor Darryl Walker, in a shot from the 1982 pantomime, Boy Blue.

And, for the first time, Tom Saunders has also shared the full story behind the birth of ‘Shenanigans’ – created for one pantomime in the late 1990s and still going strong, as a cherished Players Club tradition, almost 25 years later.

The exhibit runs until May 5 at the museum, located at 14970 Marine Drive. The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is by donation.

About the Author: Alex Browne

Read more