Western Canada Theatre’s 2016-17 season announced

Shows this upcoming season take a step into the past, but all focus on finding one’s identity

Kelsey Gilker and Anita Wittenberg perform a scene from Blithe Spirit. (Marlys Klossner/The Omega)

Kelsey Gilker and Anita Wittenberg perform a scene from Blithe Spirit. (Marlys Klossner/The Omega)

The coming theatre season in Kamloops is taking a look into the past and a look into ourselves, often with a timely soundtrack.

The first show of the new season will be the world premiere of Made in Italy by Farren Timoteo, who also stars. The one-man show’s lead character “has the heart of Rocky Balboa and the dance moves and hair of John Travolta,” said Daryl Cloran, artistic director of Western Canada Theatre. The comedy will feature music of the ‘70s as well as classic Italian songs. Made in Italy will run at the Pavilion Theatre Sept. 8 to 24, 2016.

Next up and further back in time is Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward, a comedy about a séance gone awry when the summoned dead first wife refuses to leave. Blithe Spirit will be at the Sagebrush Theatre Oct. 6 to 15 this year. A preview performed by Anita Wittenberg as the enthusiastic medium and Kelsey Gilker as the slightly uptight second wife demonstrated the comedic power of their opposing personalities.

Shakespeare will be returning to Western Canada Theatre after a six-year hiatus with A Comedy of Errors. With only five actors in a play of 17 characters, the hilarity will be amped up by funny costume changes and the fast pace of every actor switching between several characters mid-scene. A Comedy of Errors will run Jan. 26 to Feb. 4, 2017, and is a story of mistaken identity as two sets of twins set out to reunite with their kin.

Following the footsteps of WCT’s A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline, Ring of Fire by Richard Maltby Jr. will be all about “the man in black” himself, Johnny Cash. After showing in Kamloops Feb. 23 to March 4, 2017, the play will also tour Chilliwack, Vernon, Nelson and Cranbrook.

The (Re)Imagine series will feature two productions about the relationship between indigenous peoples and white settlers. The first, from April 6 to 15, 2017, will be the world premiere of Daryl Cloran’s play adaptation of the book The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson-Dargatz. In The Cure for Death by Lightning, 15-year-old Beth Weeks comes of age post-Second World War when some scary things are happening to other young native girls on the West Coast. It will be performed at the Sagebrush.

On May 4 to 13, 2017 at the Pavilion Theatre some of the same cast of The Cure for Death by Lightning will return to the stage in Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth by Hayden Taylor, a story of two native sisters, one who stays on the reservation and one who is adopted by a white family. When the two reunite as adults for their mother’s funeral, they have to deal with their very different pasts and decide where to go from there.

The High Wire Festival this year is jumping into an unexpected medium: podcasting. The festival has been a place for experimental theatre and for this Oct. 22 and 23, 2016, Western Canada Theatre is looking for the true stories of everyday Kamloopsians about places in town that were the setting for impactful things in their lives. Selected stories will be produced as theatrical podcasts with the idea that listeners will actually explore the places in Kamloops while they listen to the stories about them. Western Canada Theatre is also calling for submissions by B.C. playwrights for live readings and commission consideration in February 2017.

Family-friendly events include a production of The House at Pooh Corner March 4 and 11, 2017 geared towards three- to eight-year-olds and their families, and a Family-Friendly Halloween Dance Party on Oct. 29, 2016, both at the Pavilion Theatre.

The big holiday production, though chronologically in the middle of this list, was announced last for maximum dramatic effect. Last year’s Mary Poppins was the most popular show that Western Canada Theatre has ever run according to Daryl Cloran, so the pressure was on to replicate the success. Mamma Mia! By Catherine Johnson will be gracing the Sagebrush stage Nov. 24 to Dec. 6, 2016. A preview of one of the songs already had those present for the announcement clapping along.

“All the shows ask questions about identity. They all follow the theme of finding yourself, both within yourself and hopefully finding yourself sitting in this theatre,” Cloran said.