The Studio Theatre is celebrating its 60th anniversary year with two plays by the club’s founder and noted Canadian playwright Gwen Pharis Ringwood.
The plays Still Stands the House and Garage Sale start a two-week run at the Studio Theatre next week and do so with the involvement of many people whose lives were personally touched by the late playwright.
Directed by Cathie Hamm, who grew up friends with the Ringwood family, Still Stands the House stars Sharon Hoffman as Hester, Amanda LeForte as Ruth, Curt Sprickerhoff as Bruce, and Tony Savile as Manning.
Directed by Sylvia Swift, Garage Sale stars Michael Rawluk who was mentored by Ringwood as a youth, and Gwen’s daughter Sophia (Susan Ringwood) Schneider.
The same team is working behind the scenes for both plays.
The producer is Mary-Jo Hilyer, stage manager Brad Lawryk, assistant stage manager and props manager Merla Monroe; set designers Sheryl-Lynn Lewis and Curt Sprickerhoff; lighting designer Micheal Hodgson and Alix Leary; lighting tech and sound design Alix Leary.
Gwen moved to Williams Lake in the early 1950s with her husband Dr. Barney Ringwood.
Together they raised four children here and were actively involved with many other established and new families in the community when it came to promoting cultural activities in art, music, and theatre.
In Williams Lake Gwen continued the playwriting career she started as a single university student. She wrote, directed, produced, taught and participated in workshops that continually brought people of many talents together, explains Sophia.
She says her mother never tired of her involvement with the theatre and with young people she mentored and inspired.
“They in turn inspired her to keep up with a changing world,” Sophia says. “To this day The Williams Lake Studio Theatre Society involves children and grandchildren of people Gwen enjoyed working with in so many varied ways. I know she would feel deeply moved by being remembered in this way for this anniversary year.”
The two plays selected for the 60th anniversary year reflect Ringwood’s work at the beginning and toward the end of her playwriting career, explains Sophia.
She says Still Stands the House was written in 1938 when Gwen was a young, single university student working on her masters degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Still Stands the House is a moving and dark reflection on the difficulty of life during the Great Depression and dust bowl years.
Both directors Hamm and Swift, have worked behind the scenes on various plays and are directing for the Studio Theatre for the first time.
Hamm, says she started reading Gwen’s plays over a year ago and realized that when she read Still Stands the House she just had to direct this play.
“When I read the play it jumped into my head,” says director Hamm, of her vision for bringing the sad implications of this play to life on stage.
Garage Sale is a more uplifting play about an elderly couple that Schneider says her mother wrote in 1980 and dedicated to her father.
“You just get caught up in an elderly couples’ world,” says Swift.
“And learn what is real and not real,” adds Sophia.
Sophia and her siblings have given the Studio Theatre the gift of permission to produce Garage Sale without royalties and for the first time in a community theatre production.
The plays will be staged on the evenings of March 11 to 14 and March 18 to 21 with a matinee on March 21 as well as the evening performance.
Tickets are available at About Face Photography, The Open Book, and Realm of Toys