Theatre serves intimacy to patrons

Our Fair Lady takes centre stage as
Theatre in the Country delivers a
home-cooked dinner and a play

It took Theatre in the Country two years to build its space inside the old school gym at Whonnock elementary. But it only takes patrons a few seconds to fall in love with the atmosphere.

Reg Park, artistic director for Theatre in the Country, says it’s current production of Our Fair Lady is proof the hard work getting the theatre company up and running was worth the effort.

Because of the size of the stage, the theatre seats an intimite 65 for its unique sit-down dinner and production of one of Broadway’s most popular musicals.

With a cast of 18, Parks uses every inch of the theatre to his advantage, bringing the play from the stage to the audience.

“It makes it more interesting and inclusive for the crowd,” said Parks, who is also directing the play. “It’s such a great musical and we’ve had a fantastic response from the audiences.”

He sys Theatre in the Country is the only production he knows of in B.C, that combines live theatre with a full sit-down home-cooked meal.

As good as the food is, he’s even more impressed with his cast. More than half are local, and playing the lead of Eliza Doolittle is Jessica Tabak, one of his former students at Maple Ridge Christian School.

“We had 22 people try out for the lead role, and I told Jessica the competition was going to be stiff, and that I didn’t want to break her heart,” reflects Park. “So I auditioned with a team, because I didn’t want any biases to come into this. And when it was over, Jessica was the  unanimous choice.I’m pretty proud of her and she’s doing quite fabulously at it.”

Parks is also integrating the latest technology to help the production. Much of the backdrops in the play rely on digital projections. It’s a trend being utilized by more and more theatre companies, explains Park.

He said his background in video production has helped make the transition smoother and he believes the melding of the two mediums will be more common in the future.

“What it can do is speed up the transitions between scenes, where set changes can sometimes slow things down. It can also add a more cinematic feel.”

Park’s original production for Theatre in the Country was Charley’s Aunt, which also proved wildly successful. Once completed, they took their production to the Greater Vancouver Regional Theatre Festival, where it won a number of awards.

Park says an improve and summer BBQ is planned for Aug. 9-10, then the group will start rehearsing for its next production, Slueth, which opens Oct. 31.

My Fair Lady runs until July 20. Shows are every Friday and Saturday evening, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m., dinner served at 7 p.m. and show starting at 8 p.m.

There is also a Saturday matinee, with doors opening a 12:30 p.m., lunch at 1 p.m. and the show starting at 2 p.m.

Sunday features a theatre-only production, with doors opening at 3:30 p.m. and the show starting at 4 p.m.

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