Seats or Smiles?

an editorial by Penelope Johnson

As a representative from the arts council, I was recently invited to attend a joint meeting of School Board #53, the Town of Oliver, Oliver Parks and Recreation, RDOS, and community groups who all had a vested interest in the rebuilding of the auditorium at Southern Okanagan Secondary School. The architect and structural engineer were also in attendance to present some early designs, based on the existing footprint of the previous auditorium. While many of the financial details are still in negotiation and not yet released, there were some illuminating threads in the discussion. Here are some of my personal reflections.

A Multi-Use Facility: There was a strong desire for a space that could serve many purposes and thus attract not only theatre, dance, and concerts but also weddings, funerals, and corporate events. A large airy lobby is proposed, including display areas, concession, kitchen, washrooms,  and a box office. Behind the stage are dressing rooms and a “black box” style performance space intended as a drama classroom, rehearsal area, or even a “green room” area for shows with large casts.  Many of these proposed areas can fulfill more than one function.

An Accessible Facility?: The present theatre design incorporates stairs rather than ramps, as had been present in the old Venables Auditorium. The rationale is that the theatre can be fitted with more seats if the rake (angle of  the floor) is steeper. As the angle increases, ramps become unsafe. Long,  shallow steps descending to the stage are the alternative. The stairs prompted much discussion about universal design and access. An elevator could take patrons to disability seating at the top level (back) of the theatre, but such seating will be limited and could separate families and groups. After community user groups expressing the need to accommodate the large percentage of senior patrons, the architectural firm agreed to consider some minor design changes.

Seats, Seats and More Seats! … or Not?: The current theatre design has about 12 rows of 30 seats, or 364 in total. While most users agreed that figure was plenty for current needs, some discussion focussed on how to increase the number of seats to 400 without compromising the proposed generous legroom between the rows. The consensus was that, to do so, “something’s gotta give”. If  even one more row were to be added, the theatre would lose space somewhere: at the front (the orchestra pit, the false proscenium, the depth of the stage, or the backstage and dressing rooms) OR at the back (the lobby area).

The concern was that Oliver needed the option to have “more bums in seats”, especially for big events attracting big bucks such as business conferences, weddings, or touring professional performers.  The crux of the discussion came down to … What is more important?  What is the chance that the difference between 364 seats and 394 seats would determine whether an event was booked at all? What attracts client bookings and patrons anyway — the number of seats? or having an overall space that balances seating with technical equipment and proper lobby, stage, and backstage dimensions?

A point I raised at the meeting was that, having talked to theatre managers and touring professionals, I have found that performers  overwhelmingly choose a venue based on three things:

1. Technical Specifications : The venue needs to have good lighting and  sound equipment, stage, backstage area, and acoustics.

2. Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff: The rental agent, theatre manager and stage technician need to be welcoming, accommodating, and well-trained. If there are time-consuming hassles, performers go elsewhere.

3. Warm Receptive Audiences: Size doesn’t matter. I’ve talked to performers who will play happily to an audience of 40 or 50, and return over and over again. Why? Because they love the people. Not the seats. The people IN them.  Many pros prefer the intimacy of a smaller venue because the “feel” is totally different.

Now, not even a week after this meeting, a comment arrives at Oliver Daily News, the popular blog “where Oliver gathers to chat”, as its banner headline reads. The comment is from Catherine Laub, a member of the Kallisto Trio who performed here on November 25 as part of the South Okanagan Concert Society series.  The temporary venue was the Oliver Alliance Church. Good sound system, elevated stage, and adequate lighting for a musical concert. “Intimate” seating, seating maybe 300 in a pinch. Here’s what Catherine writes, in response to reading a review of their performance on Oliver Daily News:

“Fabi, Karen and I are in Calgary this week, continuing to perform the music we sang first in Oliver. We just discovered this wonderful and very touching review and would like to thank the whole community for your attendance and support. This was one of the best concerts we have ever sung, and we’ve been talking ever since about how much we enjoyed our trip. Everyone was so kind, genuine and enthusiastic. Furthermore, you really understood what we were doing, and that makes an incredible difference. We loved our time with you so much that we were discussing moving to the Okanagan, and we’re certainly looking forward to coming back to sing again as soon as you’ll have us.”

Now THAT is what draws performers, not once but repeatedly.   Can we provide good technical equipment for most needs? With support from the Ministry of Education, Town and RDOS, and good fundraising by Adopt-a-Seat, yes we can. Will we have a good theatre manager and stage technician in place? I, for one, hope so. Will we have warm receptive audiences that ensure bums in seats (even if only 364 of them at a time)? You betcha!

Got Your Tickets Yet?

Meet Olive Madison: “I love sports, I like to paint. I like photography. I don’t like to clean up. When I got married my wedding dress had CocaCola stains on it.”  Separated and man-crazy, more concerned about bringing home the bacon than frying it up in a pan, Olive is the epitome of the word SLOB.

Meet Florence Unger: ” Just you wait. I’ll turn this apartment into something out of Architectural Digest. You’ll see furniture you never knew you had. ” Separated and still missing her “short, hairless cowboy” husband, Florence channels her insecurities about singlehood into cleaning up…. after Olive.

Olive’s big mistake? Allowing Florence to move in. Florence’s big mistake? Underestimating Olive’s frustration. Your big mistake? Missing this hilarious comedy. Get your tickets today!

Tickets on sale for SOAP’s Twelve Angry Jurors

Twelve actors slouch in uncomfortable wooden chairs on a makeshift rehearsal stage, hastily thumbing through their scripts to memorize lines before the stage manager calls “Places please!”

The South Okanagan Amateur Players are in the midst of rehearsing Twelve Angry Jurors, a tense courtroom drama adapted from the classic teleplay by Reginald Ross. Tickets are on sale now for the November production.

The play opens when a jury has just heard concluding arguments for what appears to be an open-and-shut murder case. Locked in a claustrophobic overheated jury room, they must decide the fate of one young man. Tempers mount to a tense climax as each juror is challenged to look at the facts without prejudice.

Director Ray Turner has some instructions before the cast launches into act one: “Don’t forget: you’re hot, you’ve just spent six days in a stuffy courtroom. You don’t want to debate this murder case, you want to get home. Let’s see that on your faces,” he exhorts.

Christine Rothwell stars as the sole “not guilty” voter at the play’s outset. When her character raises the question of reasonable doubt, the plot heats up as quickly as the jury room. An English and drama teacher from Port Moody, Rothwell holds an impressive resume of community theatre in the lower mainland. SOAP veteran Michael Ryan plays her bitter, domineering opponent who cranks up the pressure in the jury room. Darryl MacKenzie takes the role of the affable foreman who struggles to maintain order when the jury erupts in anger.

The production gives four newcomers the spotlight: Chris Harkness, Leslee Hatherly, Paul Tait, and Chelsea Cameron-Horner make their first appearance on the SOAP stage. Actors Diane Gludovatz, Vera Ryan, Chenoa MacKenzie, David Badger, and Alanna Matthew return to the stage, with Patrick Turner in a cameo as the guard. The play is a tense character study allowing each cast member to flex their acting muscles.

Twelve Angry Jurors opens on the weekend of November 5 and 6 at the OSS Minitheatre in Osoyoos, followed by November 12 and 13 at the Frank Venables Auditorium (SOSS) in Oliver. The curtain rises at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults and $12 seniors and students, available at Sundance Video (Oliver) and Your Dollar Store with More (Osoyoos). For more information, call 250-498-3597 or email //+{pzt0AD^~1m-wSCn\"qbu3\\9,YB2x_r@Z}[87k!oj:y5#Vl|.a=$6`<];?KU0xfKKU2aU>`fKzV52p+2_\\ZCZ~-pxp+]j3n]|\\.C:9ZC#~-z_9+28\\#$[\\ZCZ~Cy}3n>83{m:^x\\j\\ZCy3+>_b-B:q#]}0 pxt-![t \\;Sl]4S>5|AsvlA{m@3/m|\\l1k3ZClz#$#b\"4!qnD@t ]/0.\\!n#px\"C!y\"-r80}z@\\+52q.S[0|yk0.\\!px=xt-rkz|y}px4:3Z|:9\"D@3aCl~-zlu+@V0Z2#bnq]\" 9\\z#p;~@D~1->1zxD=A /yAs1y^#>lb->!9\"A2zxD=Asz@^.$@9sy:qw=}0}z@\\+52q.S[0#/:b#yxpxrvKd09`W-2+Q:6RReeZaRFQ@)W38./Bx0Q>`W-2+Q:6TZRReeZ[RFQ@)W38./Bx0Q>`W-2+Q:6T[RRee_RF@)W38./Bx0Q>`W-2+Q:6T\\RRd0xTf|><381W0<97l2+

Produced by special arrangement with THE DRAMATIC PUBLISHING COMPANY of Woodstock, Illinois.

Tickets on sale for SOAP's Twelve Angry Jurors

Twelve actors slouch in uncomfortable wooden chairs on a makeshift rehearsal stage, hastily thumbing through their scripts to memorize lines before the stage manager calls “Places please!”

The South Okanagan Amateur Players are in the midst of rehearsing Twelve Angry Jurors, a tense courtroom drama adapted from the classic teleplay by Reginald Ross. Tickets are on sale now for the November production.

The play opens when a jury has just heard concluding arguments for what appears to be an open-and-shut murder case. Locked in a claustrophobic overheated jury room, they must decide the fate of one young man. Tempers mount to a tense climax as each juror is challenged to look at the facts without prejudice.

Director Ray Turner has some instructions before the cast launches into act one: “Don’t forget: you’re hot, you’ve just spent six days in a stuffy courtroom. You don’t want to debate this murder case, you want to get home. Let’s see that on your faces,” he exhorts.

Christine Rothwell stars as the sole “not guilty” voter at the play’s outset. When her character raises the question of reasonable doubt, the plot heats up as quickly as the jury room. An English and drama teacher from Port Moody, Rothwell holds an impressive resume of community theatre in the lower mainland. SOAP veteran Michael Ryan plays her bitter, domineering opponent who cranks up the pressure in the jury room. Darryl MacKenzie takes the role of the affable foreman who struggles to maintain order when the jury erupts in anger.

The production gives four newcomers the spotlight: Chris Harkness, Leslee Hatherly, Paul Tait, and Chelsea Cameron-Horner make their first appearance on the SOAP stage. Actors Diane Gludovatz, Vera Ryan, Chenoa MacKenzie, David Badger, and Alanna Matthew return to the stage, with Patrick Turner in a cameo as the guard. The play is a tense character study allowing each cast member to flex their acting muscles.

Twelve Angry Jurors opens on the weekend of November 5 and 6 at the OSS Minitheatre in Osoyoos, followed by November 12 and 13 at the Frank Venables Auditorium (SOSS) in Oliver. The curtain rises at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults and $12 seniors and students, available at Sundance Video (Oliver) and Your Dollar Store with More (Osoyoos). For more information, call 250-498-3597 or email //

Produced by special arrangement with THE DRAMATIC PUBLISHING COMPANY of Woodstock, Illinois.