When one thinks of organizations operating for 90 years, entities such as banks or insurance companies might spring to mind.
The Victoria Theatre Guild and Dramatic School, operating out of historic Langham Court Theatre, is among that elite group. The volunteer-based company, billed as the longest-running community theatre in Western Canada, recently announced the schedule for its 90th season.
“I can’t think of a better way to spend your theatre season than coming to Langham Court to enjoy some fantastic community theatre,” said general manager Michelle Buck.
The anniversary prompts her to consider people who come back year after year, either as part of the productions on or off stage, as board members or as a dedicated audience member.
“What I find amazing is how you can see people having been threaded throughout the theatre for 50, 60, 70 years, and that they’re still here, all the way from life members to volunteers that come, actors that come back and do other things,” she says.
The season kicks off Sept. 26 with the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit, directed by longtime Langham Court member Toshik Bukowiecki.
Others in the season include the wartime drama Goodnight Mister Tom (directed by Shauna Baird), followed by always-fun musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Pat Rundell); the Janet Munsil-penned romantic comedy That Elusive Spark (Mercedes Bátiz-Benét); Quartet, a comedy about four aging opera singers (Jon Scheer), and finally next June, the hilarious play-within-a-play, Noises Off (Don Keith).
Rundell joins Alan Penty as planning production co-chair for the next two seasons. Not only does Rundell see the upcoming offerings as a great showcase of the skills and passions of the volunteer actors and crew, he says some surprises may be in store for audience members when his show runs Jan. 16 to Feb. 2.
“I suggest audience members start studying their dictionaries now, you’ll never know if they get called up to be part of the bee,” he says.
As part of the anniversary celebration, the tireless work of Langham Court archivist Marilyn Kuss is prominently displayed around the theatre’s lounge. Photo and information boards offer a glimpse through the decades, from the shows staged, to the people involved to the history of its venues back to 1929.
She outlined a crisis the company endured one spring in the 1960s, when the fire marshal came and ordered the aging theatre closed at the end of the season, demanding that safety upgrades be made.
“We couldn’t afford the changes so we offered the theatre for sale, for $25,000 – no takers, too much,” she says. “We couldn’t find anywhere better than this, so we stayed here, did the renos and opened on Oct. 31.”
A 1930s-themed 90th anniversary formal gala is planned for Sunday, Sept. 2 at Craigdarroch Castle. Tickets, on sale at the theatre box office (250-384-2142) until Aug. 15, are $35 and include a glass of bubbly, hors d’ouevres and live music.
For more information, visit langhamtheatre.ca.