This past Saturday in Barkerville we enjoyed the Gala opening of our Theatre Royal. In addition to being the day we open three of four main stage summer theatre shows, this day also marks the transition from a spring season dominated by our perennially popular school program to the main tourist season, which is dominated by legions of vacationing families and international travelers. Visiting dignitaries and special guests arrive for our gala day; they attend the three theatre shows, visit the other interpretive programs, hold important meetings and ceremonies, then eat, drink and toast to another successful Barkerville season.
I made a little mental tally, and I believe I have been witness to, or been part of, about 25 Theatre Royal show openings. This number astounds me, not only because it reinforces my long-standing relationship with Barkerville, but because I am always so amazed that any piece of theatre ever makes it to the stage, in Barkerville or anywhere else. After 30 years in the business, this still feels like a miracle.
Making theatre, any kind of theatre, is such hard work. It is wonderful, challenging and fulfilling work, but, man, is it hard. When you attend a show at the Theatre Royal (or, indeed, any of the theatrical interpretive offerings at our site) you are seeing the product of years of commitment, months of planning, and hundreds of hours of work shopping and rehearsing. To dredge up and old cliché: art is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
Every play or musical starts with an idea. Someone somewhere thinks: “hey, this would make a great show!” From that point forward the real work begins. In the case of museum-based theatre, weeks, months, often years of historical research precede the moment when fingers hit keyboard, or pen hits paper, and the script writing process formally begins. Script creation is all about writing and rewriting and revising in order to have a good working draft to bring to the first day of rehearsal.
A show is usually cast through auditions. Each performer who applies brings years of training – acting, dance, vocal – to that audition. Once the actors have been cast and the first draft is in place the show goes into rehearsal, where the joy and sweat of collaboration begins. The actors and director (and, in the case of a musical, a musical director and maybe a dance coach) all come together to workshop the script until it takes the shape of a show.
Rehearsal rooms and rehearsal stages are places of epiphanies, problem solving, stomping in frustration and rejoicing at discoveries, doubting yourself and amazing yourself. Then, one day, rehearsal time runs out and the moment arrives – opening day. On this day you must work your way through heart-pounding first live audience nerves, push that show out of the nest and let it fly.
The first live theatre shows in Barkerville took place in the early-1860s, so we are talking about a tradition that is 150 years old. There has been theatre in Barkerville for as long as there has been a Barkerville. It is almost as much a part of the place as gold.
– Danette Boucher
The above one-panel cartoon by Dirk Van Stralen, along with the accompanying editorial by Danette Boucher, is the fifth of twenty weekly entries that will be logged – and subsequently blogged – as part of a 2013 collaboration between Barkerville, British Columbia and The Prince George Citizen aimed at introducing some of the quirkier advantages to living, working, and playing in the Cariboo Goldfields. We hope you enjoy!