St Luke’s Players announce 2015-2016 season, their 67th. Victoria BC.

St Luke’s Players announce 2015-2016 season, their 67th. Victoria BC.

Long before the introduction of professional theatre companies to Victoria, all theatre was community based. One of the oldest troupes is St Luke’s Players.

Members of the troupe were kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

St Luke's Players logo

The website states, “From the earliest days the objective of the Players has been to produce (in words of Harry Lukey) “good, clean plays for your enjoyment”. Has that changed at all over the years?

St Luke’s Players still aims to provide plays that appeal to their audiences. These loyal audiences, in a number of surveys, have clearly said that they prefer comedies, mysteries and classic dramas. This is an important consideration when selecting the 4 plays for an upcoming Season. Our audiences tend to be older and more traditional, so still expect to see “good, clean plays”. That said, “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” with its slightly risqué title, was one of our biggest hits.

Is it challenging to present works of this nature for modern audiences?

Sometimes! St Luke’s Players recognizes that there are other groups in town who provide new or contemporary plays. However, the Players often includes modern plays in its Season, if they fit the criteria requested by our audiences.

Can you give some examples of your more popular shows?

Pantos are always popular with sold-out audiences. Other shows that have been popular in recent years, include “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” (2011), “Who Dunit” (2013), “Welfarewell” (2014), “Steel Magnolias” (2014) and “Murdered to Death” (2012). While it is sometimes difficult to exactly identify why a show is popular, it often relates to the title that is well known, intriguing or suggests a type of play favoured by our audiences.

The pantomime only dates to 2006 and is arguably a huge hit. Why do you think this is so? And—when do tickets go on sale this year, and how do people get them?

Masques Theatre Co. performed traditional Pantos prior to the director’s retirement, when St. Luke’s Players took up the banner. It is a wonderful show for families, and many make it part of their holiday traditions. The pantomime provides wholesome, feel-good, family entertainment, suitable for audiences of all ages. Although principally directed to young children, much of the humour appeals to adults as well.

This year’s “Mother Goose” will be the tenth pantomime at St Luke’s Players in what has become a very popular Christmas tradition.  Tickets go on sale November 2/15 through Ticket Rocket.  As we usually sell out well in advance of opening, there is no guarantee of tickets at the door.

What particular niche do the St Luke’s Players fill? What cross-over exists?

As per your first question we tend to cater to senior audiences because that is where we get our most support, but we are trying to attract younger viewers who will continue as supporters into the future. Having younger actors on stage correlates with having younger people in the audience.

Our audiences can rely on being entertained with plays that they will enjoy, hopefully keeping them on the edge of their seats until the end and sending them home happy and pleased that they made the effort to leave home and the familiar TV!

Many of our regulars, according to the last survey, also attend Langham & Belfry productions.

Who becomes involved in your productions?

Volunteers come to us through word of mouth, requests to friends/acquaintances, connections with other theatre groups, advertising, our newsletters, etc.

Many people become involved with St Luke’s Players for the first time by coming to an audition and being cast in a play. Sometimes, if they are unsuccessful for one production, they will volunteer to be part of the Production Team, getting involved with Costumes, Set Construction or Painting, Props, Lighting, Sound, Front of House, Concession or one of the many other jobs that are required for producing a live performance.

The number of actors needed for a play will vary greatly from play to play, but St Luke’s likes to choose plays that, typically, require a modest sized cast, suitable for the size of our stage. Pantos are an exception with often as many as 25 in the cast!

Similarly, the number of volunteers on the Production Team can vary depending on the complexity of the production. Typically, this might be 25 to 50 (for a panto!)

When asked, people volunteer for many reasons. The actors are interested in taking a part in a play that they like. Other “off-stage” volunteers say it is because of working together in a team towards a common goal, a sense of accomplishment, interest in a particular aspect of the production, and the friendly atmosphere.

How many volunteers, typically, work on a production?

When you count the heads of each production department, I would say about a dozen. Once you figure in the myriad of volunteers that work on Set Construction/Painting, Concession and Front of House duties, it could easily be 30-40-50 volunteers, depending on how much time each can give.

How (or why) do people choose to become involved? Do you have any “famous” current or former Players?

Most new volunteers become involved because they are encouraged to join by existing volunteers. With more advertising on social media and other communications, we are attracting volunteers through other sources and hope to expand on that in the near future.

Actors look at all the auditions being held around the city and make their choices, depending on the timing of shows and their interest in what is available at any given time.

As for “famous”, I think the closest we can come is having Tim Gosley design and project the Cheshire Cat’ for our “Alice in Wonderland” Panto 2011. Gosley is world renowned for the puppets he created for “Sesame Street”.

Can you comment on the unique relationship the Players have with the church?

Over the years, St. Luke’s Players has contributed much to the Church. Each year at least 80% of the net profits are handed over in lieu of rent. In addition, the Players have upgraded the stage facilities by purchasing new lights and improved sound equipment. In the past we have provided stage curtains and the hall with 120 comfortable chairs. We very much appreciate the support, cooperation and assistance provided by St. Luke’s Church.

The Players have an excellent working relationship with St Luke’s Church. They enjoy almost exclusive use of the stage for rehearsals, constructing & painting sets and, of course, the performances. There are dressing rooms and storage areas in the basement and other parts of the Church property. The Players participate in Church functions, such as Pub Night and the annual Family Fun Day. Much help is provided by the Church Secretary and support from the Minister, Rev. Daniel Fournier and other members of the Church Council and congregation.

Tell me about your most recent run-away hit—the show that captured everyone’s attention.

“Nana’s Naughty Knickers” was enjoyed by over 1,000 people during 12 performances in October 2011. It is difficult to explain the initial popularity of this production – maybe the intriguing title – but word soon spread and audiences grew even larger in the second week of the run.

Last year “Steel Magnolias”, our first show last season was also popular. The director really knew how to get the most from the actors, and they remain a close-knit group to this day.

What prompted the choice of this year’s plays? Is there a theme?

No theme, as we try to provide a comedy, panto, mystery and drama each season (in no particular order, apart from the Christmas Panto). Our play selection committee read and evaluated dozens of plays using a weighted rating system. From that they made recommendations to the Executive Committee who then approved or requested additional recommendations until it was satisfied we had made the best choices we could for the upcoming season.

Any final words, or questions I haven’t asked you?

We are always looking for new volunteers, and especially at this time people with an interest in the more technical aspects such as set, lighting and sound design. Experience is helpful, but not necessary.

The first show of the season opens October 14th. Opening Night, a comedy by Norm Foster (one of Canada’s most popular playwrights) is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

Opening Night, a comedy by Norm Foster
October 14–25, 2015

The antics begin as Jack and Ruth Tisdale celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary with an evening at the theatre. It’s a dream come true for Ruth and an imposition for Jack, who would rather be at home watching the World Series. However, after the events both on and off the stage that fateful night, their lives and those of all involved are irreparably altered.

Mother Goose, A Panto by Sheila Coultish, Peggy Harris and Ian Matthews
December 18, 2015–January 2, 2016
individual tickets go on sale November 2nd and the shows sell out very quickly.

Mother Goose, her large family and their goose Priscilla are happy living in their big old boot, but the King’s evil Chancellor plots to evict them all and take their land. Will his wicked plan succeed, or will good triumph over bad?
This traditional Christmas panto tells the tale with singing, dancing and plenty of laughs along the way. It involves many well-known nursery rhyme characters such as Mother Goose (Dame), Jack and Jill, Bo Peep, Mary Mary, Little Miss Muffet, Boy Blue, Tommy Tucker, Simple Simon, Old King Cole, Queen of Hearts and so on.

Cliffhanger, a comedy/thriller by James Yaffe
March 9-20, 2016
Mingling suspense and humour, this ingeniously plotted thriller follows all the unexpected twists and turns which result when a seemingly mild-mannered professor of philosophy is driven to apparent murder to protect his reputation and career. Thereafter, as the professor and his wife plot a foolproof way to dispose of the body, complications arise in the form of a rather sinister young student who happened to witness the professor’s violent action. Add in a suspicious police lieutenant and you have all the ingredients for a series of suspenseful, unexpected and frequently funny developments leading to a denouement which will catch everyone by surprise.

Bull in a China Shop, a comedy by C.B. Gilford
May 18-29, 2016
Six old ladies—presumed sweet until they prove otherwise—have a unique solution to the problem of getting that handsome homicide detective, Dennis O’Finn to pay them a visit. You’ll find that a nice genteel homicide, with a cup of tea as the murder weapon is all it takes.

However, when Detective O’Finn discovers he’s the motive for this murder, and he decides to distance himself from the ladies, what are the sweet dears to do?


About @lacouvee

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  1. […] year, members answered a few questions for me which will provide more background on the troupe’s mission statement and […]

  2. […] 2015, members answered a few questions for me which will provide more background on the troupe’s mission statement and […]

  3. […] This article from 2015 outlines the philosophy of St Luke’s Players and delves into aspects of producing community theatre. […]

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