Shoring up Vancouver’s indie theatre scene
We at YVR Screen Scene are committed to celebrating the work of our local film and television artists, whether it’s created for the screen or in a wholly different artistic realm – which is why we’re chuffed to tell you all about 'Riverdale' actor Cody Kearsley's efforts to build community in the Vancouver theatre scene, beginning June 6 with the inaugural Vancouver Theatre Industry Night. –Ed.
Cody Kearsley plays Moose Mason on The CW’s Riverdale. That’s how I came to interview him in early 2017 in the first place: for an article in the Westender (RIP) in which Kearsley spoke with eloquence and energy about playing an iconic comic book character re-imagined for a Millennial audience (unlike in the comic books, Riverdale’s Moose is sexually fluid, and how).
During that same interview, Kearsley spoke just as eloquently and energetically about his lifelong passion for the stage. It’s a passion that the Okanagan-born, Vancouver-based actor and dancer nurtured in a Fame-type performing arts college in Los Angeles, and it’s one that Vancouver audiences are only just getting to see, most recently in November via Red Light Winter, the debut production of his theatre company Vagrant Players.
Now, Kearsley is turning his attention to shoring up the homegrown, mid-level indie theatre scene. He’s aligned Vagrant Players with a couple of other emerging theatre companies – the Group Van Theatre Company and Red Giant Theatre Society – to build community within the theatre scene and strengthen the audience outside of it.
“We’re social creatures, and we can only get so much from technology,” says Kearsley in a recent interview with YVR Screen Scene, Laird Reghenas of the Group Van Theatre Company, and Jake Croker from Red Giant Theatre Society. “At the end of the day, we need to get out and experience the real, human connections all around us. It’s completely different and important.”
The trio kicks their efforts into high gear tonight – June 6 – with Vancouver Theatre Industry Night, a party at Go Studios featuring barbecue, craft beer tasting, and live music (details about the event are available on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/217487082177608/).
“There’s almost this stigma around theatre in Vancouver, and it’s not that people think ‘theatre is bad’ or that people don’t do theatre out here, because it’s quite the opposite, but there’s this weird stigma that film and theatre need to be separate, especially as performers,” says Reghenas. “As soon as I tell an agent that I do theatre or I own a theatre company, already I can feel them getting their backs up. In New York, it wasn’t that at all, so if it’s not like that out there, why does it have to be that way out here?”
Mid-level, off-Broadway type theatre is already present and accounted for in Vancouver, adds Reghenas. “It’s just about being that spark that lights that fire, and bringing people together, which is why [the June 6 event] is perfect,” he says. “It’s about community. It’s about getting out and supporting each other, so that putting on plays is not as daunting as it appears to be.”
The June 6 event also serves as something of a launch event for the companies’ upcoming plays: the Group Van Theatre Company’s production of James McLure’s Pvt. Wars, which runs June 12-22 (and – fun fact – is directed by actor Geoff Gustafson of Signed, Sealed, Delivered); Red Giant Theatre Society’s Pizza Man, which runs July 10-15; and Vagrant Players’ Featuring Loretta, which runs August 7-11. The three plays will run at Go Studios.
“Supporting each other is the best way to go about it, rather than being competitive,” says Croker. “If that means organizing when we put stuff up so we’re not competing with each other for audiences, so be it. This is something that could be unique to Vancouver. If we help each other, we’re helping the community as a whole. We all win.”
Pictured above from left: Cody Kearsley, Jake Croker, and Laird Reghenas