If you want to know what life was like for a working class woman over the last century in Victoria, check out Ghosts of the Plaza, a new piece of interactive theatre which made its world premiere last week.
Produced by Rosie Bitts’ Best Bitts Productions, in connection with The City of Victoria’s 150 People and Places: Addressing Arts and Culture Grant, this show explores the history of the 101-year-old Plaza Hotel through a series of vignettes from each of the hotel’s reincarnations — The Westholme with its luxurious Songhees Grill; the risque Stranger’s Rest rooming house in the ’20s and ’30s; the Century Inn with its Arabian Nights and harem room dancers; and its current re-imagination as a cheap hotel with a bad reputation and one of Victoria’s only stripper bars — all from the female perspective, shedding some light on what it would be like to be a dancer, a cocktail waitress or even a prostitute in the City of Gardens.
And some of the stories are far from rosie — suicide, extortion and the supernatural all make an appearance, but they’re counteracted by the sheer entertainment factor of shimmying bodies, song and dance numbers and a stellar cast.
And instead of lurking around the bowels of the Plaza Hotel — with its cracked mosaic tiles from longtime defunct Songhees Grill — the production is located at the Odd Fellows Hall, using its bars, lounges and billiards rooms as the set with only minor additions, like a stripper pole and a set of purple glass tiles inserted into the ceiling, just like the ones in the Plaza’s basement ceiling.
In lieu of rent, their hosts asked they make a donation to a charity of their choice. The producers chose PEERS — a fitting choice considering the hotel’s history with the sex trade and Smith’s women’s studies major — not to mention that the show was written, choreographed and produced by burlesque dancers, the early cousin to what you can now find at Monty’s Exotic Showroom Pub on its ground floor.
Ghosts of the Plaza is a fun out-of-the-box theatre experience that not only entertains, but educates as well.
These lovely ladies have put the city’s grant money to good use, because the sale of the hotel is pending and just as the charismatic narrator James (Alex Carroll) says, “After [they’re] gone, who will tell these stories? Who will look? Who will find them?” M
Ghosts of the plaza
Odd Fellows Hall (1315 Douglas)
Fri., Nov. 23 at 7:30 and 9:30pm,
Sat., Nov. 24 at 4:30, 7:30 and 9:30pm
Tickets are $10 at Chronicles of Crime (1048 Fort) or
Please note: Tickets are very limited!