A night out at the theatre usually runs you upwards of $60, after factoring in tickets, parking, concessions and other expenses.
So it’s easy to see how the St. Luke’s Players raise more than a few eyebrows with $48 season tickets and $1 snacks.
The community theatre group has been putting on shows out of the St. Luke’s Hall for nearly seven decades, purely through effort from locals. The actors and crew are unpaid, making the performances true works of passion.
“If we didn’t have fun, I wouldn’t do it, and I’m sure most of us wouldn’t,” said Dave Hitchcock, who is co-directing this year’s production of the pantomime Mother Goose. “But I think it’s also the satisfaction of coming up with something that we can be proud of as a team.”
“It gives great internal satisfaction,” added Neville Owens, who has directed many St. Luke’s productions in the past. “You’re taking a book and interpreting that, and you get satisfaction out of, ‘Wow, six months ago I just read the words and now look what’s there.’”
The Players, which have about 120 members, are preparing their first of four plays this season, a comedy titled Opening Night about a wife dragging her husband to the theatre on their 25th anniversary. Their 2015-16 season is rounded out by Mother Goose, the laugh-out-loud thriller Cliffhanger and the comedic whodunnit Bull in a China Shop.
Hitchcock and Owen both said their choices for productions are somewhat formulaic, as the 4,000 or so attendees who turn out each year generally enjoy comedies, dramas, mysteries and the widely popular pantomimes.
“We try to select plays which are not weird or off the wall,” said Owens. “We’re not trying to do the latest thing, whatever it might be.”
The group does 12 performances per play – eight in the evening and four matinees. Each play takes a considerable amount of time to rehearse, so the group puts out a call for actors a few months prior to their onstage debut.
“We have open auditions, so anybody can come and audition, regardless of how much expertise or experience you have,” said Hitchcock. “We often have people who have never been in a stage production before.
“Essentially, we take two weeks to rehearse a play and build the sets, then there are two weeks of 12 performances, then we tear it down and start again on the next one.”
Between August and May, the theatre group keeps quite busy, with one production starting as soon as the previous one ends. But despite the sometimes hectic schedule, Hitchcock said many actors come back season after season to perform with the group.
“If people want to come back and do it again, that means they must’ve had a good time the first time.”
The St. Luke’s Players are holding auditions for Opening Night this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 21 and 22, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 23 at 2 p.m. They are also holding auditions for the Mother Goose pantomime – a laugh-filled family show that puts a twist on classic nursery rhymes – on Sept. 13 and 20 at 2 p.m., as well as Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.
Hitchcock said he hopes people young and old will come out for the shows this season – and the auditions.
“I’d like to bring more of those people in who have never seen theatre before – particularly people who are maybe a bit younger than we are,” he said with a laugh.