David Underhill as George Gibbs and Hailey Conner as Emily Webb in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which explored the possibilities of Peninsula Productions’ ‘black box’ theatre space in August of 2019. (John Prowse photo)

Peninsula Productions’ Guy Fauchon shares post-pandemic vision for theatre company

New artistic director has strong roots in the community

Actor-director Guy Fauchon is daring to dream the dream of what a post-pandemic theatre landscape looks like.

Fauchon, newly appointed as artistic director of White Rock’s Centennial Park-based Peninsula Productions, says he and the company’s board of directors are preparing a 2021-2022 season that offers maximum flexibility to the company, no matter what regulations are imposed or restrictions eased in the coming months.

In announcing the appointment on March 18, Peninsula Productions’ president Grig Cook noted it has been five months since Peninsula was forced to close its doors to the public after more stringent public-gathering rules were imposed.

“As for so many of our valued organizations, the required pause has been a period of reflection. For Peninsula Productions, it has been a time to ready ourselves to once again present ‘extraordinary performances.'”

“The board is fantastic – a very strong board,” Fauchon said. “Everybody has been in the dark and not sure what will happen, but we have a purpose now, and long-term goals are part of that. I’m very excited.”

Part of the excitement, he said is working with a ‘black box’ theatre space that lends itself to alternatives to traditional proscenium arch shows, allowing audiences – in non-pandemic times – to be part of the staging and more intimately involved in the theatrical experience.

Current plans for the new season are for first production this May, although the ‘hows’ and ‘wheres’ of presenting it to the public are still, of course, up in the air.

While none of the plays on the list for this season can be named yet, until rights are cleared, Fauchon said, “four out of five are one-person shows and for the other one, I’d like to think that we could at least offer a two-actor show by the spring of 2022.”

Interestingly, a number of the current choices seem to deal with different themes of isolation, Fauchon noted. This was more accidental than conscious, he said.

But it can be argued that part of the role of theatre, dating at least as far back as the classic dramas of perpetually war-torn ancient Greece – such as Sophocles’ Antigone – has been to help people process their own recent experiences, he said.

“It’s not about solving the problems of the world but understanding the problems of the world.”

Fauchon succeeds original artistic director and company co-founder (with Geoff Giffin) Wendy Bollard and interim artistic directors Rebecca Walters and director and lighting designer Matthew Bissett, who were responsible for the production of Our Town in the summer of 2019 (Bollard, who has been pursuing theatre and teaching assignments in Europe, was back to direct the brief run of Spine starring Kate Besworth in January of 2020).

Holding a BFA in acting from University of B.C. and an MFA in Directing from the University of Alabama, he also works in the world of corporate public relations.

He’s no stranger to Peninsula Productions – after appearing as an actor under Bollard’s direction in Ariel Dorfman’s harrowing drama Death and the Maiden, in 2014, he subsequently directed five of their popular staged-readings productions; How I Learned to Drive, by Paula Vogel; Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, by Tom Mula; The Nether, by Jennifer Haley; Frozen, by Bryony Lavery; and Private Peaceful, by Simon Reade.

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Becoming artistic director of the company marks a return home in many ways, he said.

“I began my theatre training here, under stalwarts of the arts, such as Carol Kennedy and Rose Lougheed at White Rock Elementary, and Rick Harmon at Earl Marriott Secondary. After high school, I helped create Xempt Theatre with the likes of Dean Paul Gibson and Michael Gall, and my first professional acting job after university was with Arena Theatre – in the building directly across from our present space – under Anna Hagen and Terry Kelly.”

As he sees it, he said, his role in programming Peninsula Productions is matter of balancing theatre of regional interest with developing pieces offering a local voice, and also matching traditional entertainment expectations with alternative viewpoints.

For Christmas, for example, he’d like to present one production that fulfills expected holiday fare, and one that offers a different take on the season. “Not everybody has a ‘Dickens’ Christmas,” he said.

“Having grown up here, and because I do have an eclectic background, I like to think I understand the needs of box office,” he said.

“I think I understand what constitutes the audience for Peninsula Productions, but I also want to be sensitive to the needs of the community, and how to involve other people who may not know what it is or where it is.”

Peace Arch News