New troupe has right chemistry
When the Vagabond Players presented the comedy Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) in April, the cast liked each other so much they formed their own theatre troupe.
Appropriately, they call themselves the Alchemy Theatre Ensemble. And they’re preparing to bring summer theatre back to the Bernie Legge Theatre with their first production, William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Karryn Ransom, one of Alchemy’s founders, said the chemistry was undeniable. So with the blessing and support of the Vagabond Players, they set out to build a production from scratch.
“We’re like a little offshoot,” said Ransom of their nascent group.
Vagabond is letting the newcomers use the Bernie Legge as they haven’t put on a summer production in years. Going forward, the new troupe is hoping to put on more avant garde productions that are outside the incumbent’s usual oeuvre.
Alchemy’s decision to launch with Twelfth Night is as much driven by their lack of funds as much as a way to ease into their new challenge with a beloved play. Shakespeare’s plays don’t come with royalty fees. But they’ve given the classic comedy a Downton Abbey twist, setting it in high society England during the First World War.
Ransom said the grueling nature of Goodnight Desdemona, a play that demands a lot of trust and collaboration between its actors, was a good proving ground. If everyone could stay friends through that experience, they were confident they could continue to work together.
Much of that comes from mutual respect.
“We’re all so vastly different and we have respect for those differences,” said Ransom of the troupe, who come from diverse backgrounds. “Nobody makes you feel weird.”
Of course starting a theatre company from scratch brings other challenges. When they’re not running lines or blocking scenes, the actors are building sets, sewing costumes, rigging lights.
“We know everybody has to pull together,” said Ransom. “Performing is almost the final thought.”
Director Matt Davenport, a veteran of many technical positions in community theatre but a rookie at reining a cast, said the time is right for a new troupe with adventurous aspirations to launch in New West.
“It’s a sign of momentum of the theatre market in the city,” said Davenport, who’s eyeing the new Anvil Centre as a possible home for future productions. “Performing arts are starting to gain momentum with younger audiences. People are realizing there’s another option than just always going to the movies.”
• Twelfth Night runs at the Bernie Legge Theatre Aug. 13-24 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. For tickets call 604-521-0412.