For the past eight months there has been an unusual vessel docked at Nanaimo’s Waterfront Suites and Marina.
The Amara Zee is a seafaring stage. The 90-foot-tall Thames sailing barge is the home of the Caravan Stage Company. Founded in Sooke in 1970, the mobile theatre group left the Island 30 years ago by horse-drawn carriage and returned last year by boat.
Caravan co-founder and producer Adriana Kelder said it’s good to be back in B.C.
“Over the years we’ve worked with thousands of theatre people and so it’s nice to meet old friends and people that we’ve worked with in the past,” she said.
“A lot of them are still in theatre and doing very interesting things on the West Coast.”
Caravan is back on the West Coast to present its latest production, the acrobatic, high-tech, post-apocalyptic rock opera Nomadic Tempest. Caravan debuted the show last year along North America’s Atlantic coast, but Kelder said its characters and audio-visual elements have since been changed to be more relevant to the Pacific Northwest.
Nomadic Tempest tells the story of four monarch butterflies, representing climate refugees, seeking sanctuary on a world rendered uninhabitable by rising sea levels.
“All our shows have a political or environmental theme to them because we believe theatre is a venue for change. We believe that people can be invigorated by seeing art that makes them think and makes them want to make change,” Kelder said.
The tour kicks off at Nanaimo’s Waterfront Suites and Marina on Thursday, June 14 and continues nightly until June 16. It is Caravan’s first run of shows in Nanaimo since the late-80s. Viewers will be seated on the shore looking towards the water.
Performing theatre outdoors and on the deck of a ship has its challenges, Kelder said, as every site is different. There are also safety and environmental concerns.
“We have to make sure when we are doing the shows the tides are high or else the audience can’t see half the show,” she explained.
“And then there’s also the light. We can’t turn the lights off and we’re doing the shows in the middle of the summer so we have to wait until it’s dark because there’s so much video.”
After Nanaimo, the production has more Island dates in Courtenay and Sooke before sailing to Washington State for shows in Port Townsend, Bellingham, Seattle and Everett, where Nomadic Tempest is performed for the last time on Sept. 3.
“The premiere of a show and a premiere of a season, there’s an excitement that you don’t get at any other time when you’re putting a tour together,” Kelder said.
“Because everybody, cast and crew, is new to the show and it’s also the first time we put it in front of an audience. So it’s always exciting to get the feedback that they give us.”
WHAT’S ON … The Caravan Stage Company presents Nomadic Tempest at Waterfront Suites and Marina (1000 Stewart Ave.) from June 14 to 16. Doors at 9 p.m. show starts 10 p.m. nightly. Admission by donation, tickets available at www.caravanstage.org.