The latest production company in Victoria is borne of the 150th anniversary arts committee at Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue.
“I was on that committee and Zelda Dean was on that committee. … We got to know each other pretty well and she has quite a background in theatre,” said Oak Bay resident Annie Weeks. “She wanted to start a theatre company in Victoria, and she has always wanted to deal with the issue of loss in people’s lives.”
They teamed up with Lesley Wicks, and this month Dean directs the company’s first presentation – 17 Stories by playwright Caroline Russell-King, a fictional tale based on personal interviews.
“The playwright came out here and we set up a roster of 17 people who all sat and talked about the losses they’ve had in their lives,” said Weeks, who is also the production manager. “It was a very intimate situation.”
Each interview was about an hour long. Losses ranged from pets to personal identity to the more traditional loss of a loved one.
“It’s a fictional piece created out of the ideas that came out of that. There’s 17 scenes and she’s woven together these various ideas,” Weeks said.
Each actor in the ensemble of Michael Armstrong, Michael Bell, Melissa Taylor, Christine Upright and Jessica Van der Veen (also of Oak Bay) portrays multiple characters.
“Sometimes it’s funny, it’s kind of serious but it’s not that you won’t ever laugh, there’s moments of humour,” Weeks said. “The whole point was not people who’d suffered recent losses, but losses over time… And really how they had learned to just keep living their lives. How we all carry on.”
17 Stories is not “verbatim” theatre, but rather a weaving together of personal experiences into a dramatic piece.
Bema Productions presents 17 Stories at the synagogue sanctuary, 1461 Blanshard St. on Nov. 29 and 30. Tickets are $10, and are available at Russell Books in Victoria, at Ivy’s Bookshop in Oak Bay and at the door.