Chemainus Theatre Festival turns 20 in 2012

The Chemainus Theatre Festival's 20th-anniversary season is full of music, comedy and celebration.

All Shook Up! is the next production in the Chemainus Theatre Festival's 20th-anniversary season.

All Shook Up! is the next production in the Chemainus Theatre Festival's 20th-anniversary season.

Sometime this year, the Chemainus Theatre Festival will welcome its one-millionth patron through the doors.

And that’s just one of many reasons to celebrate this season, as the theatre turns 20 in 2012.

“It’s our 20th anniversary, so we tried to bring in a lot of big shows for us; we’re using a lot of professionals this season with shows with large casts,” says artistic director Mark DuMez. “We brought back a few shows that were crowd-pleasers in the early years. This season also features a lot of partnerships with theatres in B.C. It’s a very musical season and a lot of comedy, very festive because it’s our 20th anniversary.

“As far as themes go, we are looking for shows that enrich the human spirit, and I think this season has a lot of shows that celebrate that.”

The 20th anniversary season started Jan. 20 with Ken Cameron’s Canadian comedic mystery Harvest, which just wrapped up Feb. 11.

Next up is All Shook Up!, which runs Feb. 24 to April 7. Inspired by and featuring the music of Elvis Presley, All Shook Up! follows a small-town girl who dreams of hitting the open road. Everything gets turned upside down when a guitar-playing roustabout rambles in, introducing her to romance, rebellion and rock ‘n roll.

DuMez says the next production, Noises Off, has been called one of the finest farces. This hilarious play-within-a-play depicts an ambitious director and his troupe of mediocre actors. It runs April 27 to June 2.

This summer, audiences will have many chances to sing along to the Broadway musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat June 15 to Sept. 1.

Animal Tales, from the theatre festival’s original Kidzplay Series, will run July 20 to Aug. 24. Join a confused and caring Naturalist, a fun-loving Sparrow, and their many animal friends in a lively romp through folk tales around the world.

Next, the Chemainus Theatre Festival brings back an audience favourite, former artistic director Lucia Frangione’s down-home musical Chickens Sept. 21 to Oct. 27.

Chickens was a real favourite in the early days of the theatre, and I’m pleased to bring it back,” said DuMez.

A bonus production of Rod Beattie’s third show, Wingfield’s Folly, will run Oct. 31 to Nov. 17. In his third year on the farm, Walt pinpoints the source of his economic troubles and embarks on a course which brings him to his most profound crisis to date.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 30, the Chemainus Theatre Festival will present the heartwarming Christmas musical The Gifts of the Magi.

The Chemainus Theatre Festival’s 20th-anniversary season will have a number of highlights.

Besides welcoming its one-millionth patron, the Chemainus Theatre Festival will also produce its 100th show this year.

“Thinking about our 20th anniversary and this season, it’s amazing the Chemainus Theatre Festival has been able to do what it has for 20 years,” said DuMez. “It’s an amazing amenity to have on Vancouver Island for the various communities it serves. Hitting 20 is quite something for an arts organization, particularly in this environment, so we’re real thankful for the people who’ve been patrons and sponsors and supported the theatre.”

In the past 20 years, the festival has welcomed hundreds of professional actors and designers to its stage, created 29 new plays and adaptations and produced 50 Canadian works.

DuMez is entering his third season as artistic of director of the Chemainus Theatre Festival. He has been with the company for more than 12 years, beginning as an actor and then becoming an artistic associate and now artistic director.

“It’s a great place,” said DuMez. “We get to work with great people. We get to serve great people as a non-profit. I just feel this Island and these communities are a great place to work and be an artist. We look forward to many more years of stability and hope to bring joy and inspiration to lots more people.”