After having spent a season in hiatus and facing an uncertain future, the Kaatza Lakeside Players are preparing to take the stage again. Along with a new production, the Players are planning to bring a slew of changes to the company itself.
Part of that change will actually be a return to form for the community theatre group. Board president Brandon De Pol said that the Players will be trying to recapture some of the magic of their May 2014 production of The Wizard of Oz after their latest production of A Dickens Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts saw a smaller turnout than expected. Getting back on the yellow brick track means that the Players will be looking for a larger, more age-diverse cast and crew for the next production, which De Pol said will be either Aladdin or Annie.
“The Wizard of Oz did really well, it brought in a lot of community support,” De Pol said. “It was a really large production; it involved a lot of children and brought in support from their families. It was one of our most successful productions.”
The Players will also be bringing back director Dena McPhee. As a founding member of the Kaatza Lakeside Players, McPhee has been involved with the group since 1985. McPhee said that A Dickens Christmas Carol was the first production she had no involvement with, though her brief departure was unrelated to any problems within the group.
“I just needed a break, I’ve been doing this for 30-odd years, I’m 65,” McPhee said.
While the community theatre group has always been popular with the youth of Lake Cowichan, the next production will mark the first time that Lake Cowichan School students will actually receive credits for their involvement in the production. McPhee noted that the credits will actually be “work experience” credits rather than art credits.
“These students certainly deserve the credits for their involvement with the production, they put in hundreds of hours of production time,” McPhee said. “There were so many young people — children and teens — and lots of adults involved in the past, and we want to build that up again.
“There are lots of young people who want to be involved with the arts in anyway, whether its acting, painting sets, selling tickets or doing tech. This is a teaching theatre in every aspect.”
At the recent AGM of the Kaatza Lakeside Players on June 15, the members of the group elected a new board of directors, with half of the eight positions being filled by newcomers. De Pol referred to the past months as a “restructuring” for the Players. The group is still looking for a vice-president and youth representatives to fill the board.
In a letter McPhee wrote to the Gazette in April, she addressed apparent claims that the Players were “washed up” and said that discussions at the board level of disbanding the society had been resolved.
“This was shocking news and certainly not an acceptable solution for ourselves or for the community,” she wrote. “I am excited to tell you that the idea to disband has been dropped and the Players are now focused on redirecting our time and energy toward a healthy and creative future.”
“That’s why I got reinvolved,” she later added. “As a founding member, that’s not how I wanted to see it end… We offer a lot to the community culturally, which is lacking elsewhere in Lake Cowichan. That role needs to be filled, and [the Players] would love to fill it.”
Some of that time and energy will be directed towards public awareness, which McPhee said will be accomplished through traditional and social media, including the Kaatza Lakeside Players website (www.Kaatzalakesideplayers.ca) and Facebook, which are being moderated and updated by volunteers.
Though the latest production by the Players was A Dickens Christmas Carol, which premiered back in November 2014, the group had a warmup when they coordinated tech and rehearsals for the Chamber of Commerce’s Spring Fling and for the Lady of the Lake Opportunity Night during Lake Days.
Open auditions for the Players next production, either Aladdin or Annie, are expected to begin on September 17. The production is set to premiere in February of next year.
“We’re going to be continuing a lot of what we did in the past,” McPhee said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel —we just have to get it rolling again.”