Chilliwack Cultural Centre announces next season of shows
“What do you do with a B.A. in English?” a puppet croons.
“Everyone’s a little bit racist,” sings another.
“The Internet is for porn!” belts a third puppet.
With a healthy helping of adult humour, innuendo, and full-on hilarity, the hit musical Avenue Q is the heavy hitter of the Chilliwack Cultural Centre’s 2014/2015 season, which was announced earlier this week.
“It’s a rude, crude, obnoxious, sex-driven, racist adventure—and really funny,” says cultural centre executive director Michael Cade, a grin stretching across his face.
The puppets tackle a variety of issues plaguing the wild world of adulthood—from sexuality to career satisfaction.
The rambunctious musical originally hit the Granville Island stage last year through the Arts Club—and was so popular that it was held over “somewhere in the neighbourhood of five times,” Cade says.
Now it’s coming to Chilliwack—and that’s just one show out of more than 30 acts the cultural centre will be bringing to town in the next year.
With this week’s grand reveal of the coming season’s line-up, one thing is clear: the cultural centre is so much more than a venue, acting as a combination of mission control and home-away-from-home for touring groups.
“A lot of things can’t come to a city like ours unless somebody helps them,” Cade says. “Unless there’s someone going to bat for it, the theatre, dance, children’s theatre—they don’t stand a chance coming into a community like ours.”
Which is exactly where the cultural centre steps in.
“We hire them, we pay them a set fee, and they don’t have to do any of the background stuff,” Cade explains. “All they have to do is put the show on stage; we look after the theatre, the ticket sales, the publicity, the hotel rooms, transportation, meals, all that kind of thing.”
All in all, the centre presents roughly three dozen shows from out of town every year, always with the aim of bringing the best of the best to Chilliwack.
Avenue Q, which hits the stage for two nights in October, is a prime example of the cultural centre’s mantra of onwards and upwards; with a $40,000 contract, it’s the most expensive show that the cultural centre has ever brought to town.
While all those zeroes are worth whistling at, Cade sees this as a new era for the centre.
“The audience has grown to the point where we can afford the best shows that are available to tour. We’re not having to say, ‘Well, one day we hope to be able to afford that show,’” he says. “We saw significant audience growth last year, and not just last year.
“You know that you’re doing something right when you keep getting more and more audience coming out.”
Cade says the cultural centre’s secret to success springs from tapping into Chilliwack’s strongest resource: community.
A supporting network is crystallizing around the cultural centre, Cade says; he points to the centrefold of their most recent newsletter, filled with columns and columns of local businesses and organizations that have donated to the centre in some way or another in the last year alone.
“It’s a phenomenally large list of participants,” he says, another broad smile sneaking onto his face. “Our goal with that is really to connect to the community—and not just on an individual basis but with the businesses, the organizations, the other not-for-profit societies. All of that’s really important to us.
“And it’s paying off.”