Defining an upcoming season is much more than going with the moment’s muse for Mark DuMez, although artistic propensity does play a part.
No matter what types of factors the Chemainus Theatre Festival artistic director considers, ultimately he ends up being tickled with the lineup.
This year’s highlights includes bringing big-hit Buddy Holly impersonator back, staging for the first time epic musical Les Misérables and scooping Canadian premieres of Jeeves in Bloom and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.
“I love the season as a whole,” DuMez said. “It has balance. There are classics, drama and some really funny material as well.”
“There will be artistically arresting moments, some tears, lots of laughs and intrigue to boot,” he predicted. “I think there will be deep and emphatic engagement in every show, which translates to a really great experience for our audience.”
But before season pamphlets hit streets, behind the scenes DuMez is knee-deep in his research and gaining rights.
“It’s a long and engaging cycle with two to three years lead time on some plays,” he explained.
“I always start with considering the mission and goals of the Chemainus Theatre Festival Society, which in a nutshell is to ‘create exceptional theatre that explores and nourishes the human spirit, with three goals: enrich the region, advance the arts and build community.’
“This is the philosophic beacon for me. That and finding shows that have a generally life-affirming and uplifting quality,” he added, noting this is when personal aptness as an artist arrives into the equation.
“I then read lots of plays, consult with other artists, and look at New York and London playbills. If the summer permits, I visit Shaw or Stratford and other theatre companies here in the West, talk to playwrights, talk with other theatre companies, volunteers, board members, staff members, and read our patron surveys.”
There’s also budgets to consider.
And part of the equation is DuMez asking: “Does the show tell a convincing story? What is at its core? Where is the heart of the story? Who will be interested in the work? Is there balance in the season — something for everyone? Will we be pushed artistically? Will the audience be engaged? Do we have the capacity to handle it?”
This year’s crop answered all thosse questions.
“Each show has a great feel to it and a central story,” said DuMez. “It has followed a pattern we’ve cultivated over the years of a revue to open, engaging comedy in the spring, along with an all-Canadian story, a big summer musical and then something different for the fall before the holiday show.
“A newness comes from the two shows that are Canadian premieres (Jeeves and Sherlock), from the scope of the summer musical (Les Mis) and when we open a studio stage in the summer with a short run of a New York hit (Freud’s Last Session).
“There are some components we haven’t had before.”
The season’s kickoff is a proven hit: Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story (Feb. 11 to March 8) featuring Zachary Stevenson’s tribute to the ‘50s rocker which was a hit last spring.
Next is comic adventure Jeeves in Bloom (March 21 to April 26) which sees a peaceful English countryside turned upside-down after Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet, Jeeves, pay a visit.
That’s staged before the Second World War dramatic comedy Waiting for the Parade (May 9 to June 1).
DuMez is very excited about the Les Mis run. Based on the Victor Hugo 1862 novel this musical classic hits the stage June 20 and wraps up Sept. 7.
The theatre’s also promoting its annual KidzPlay show with the 2014 selection Robert Munsch-based Munsch-ercise (July 19 to Aug. 16).
Meanwhile, Freud’s Last Session, involving an adaptation of legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud hosting rising academic star C.S. Lewis as a guest to his home in London, begins Aug. 10 and runs until the 20.
Family comedy Over the River and Through the Woods (Oct. 3 to Nov. 8) will entertain audiences before the annual Christmas show, with this year’s holiday mystery, Sherlock Holmes and the case of the Christmas Carol (Nov. 21 to Dec. 22).
To learn more about the Chemainus Theatre’s upcoming season, visit: here.