James Bowlby is recognized for his contributions to theatre in the Shuswap at the Okanagan Zone Drama Festival awards on Saturday, May 27.-image credit: Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer.

Okanagan Zones wrap with gala award ceremony

Shuswap Theatre hosts successful, weeklong BC Interior drama festival

Joyce Henderson is giving the week long 2017 Theatre BC Okanagan Zone Drama Festival hosted by Shuswap Theatre rave reviews – the plays and the people involved.

The theatre hosted a successful festival with the theme Canada 150 and theatre groups from all over the Kamloops-Okanagan presented their plays on the Shuswap Theatre stage from May 20 to 27.

“I’ve been thinking holy cow, it doesn’t matter who wins Saturday night; this whole thing was an opportunity to learn,” said Henderson, OZone co-chair with Bea-Kirkwood-Hackett of adjudicator James Fagan Tait. “He is a brilliant guy; everybody loves him, he compliments them on the strengths of their plays then suggests ‘maybe do this, or have you thought about that?’”

Henderson said Tait, a regular actor/director at Caravan Farm Theatre, is well-qualified in the role of adjudicator and gives producers, directors and actors information that allows them to do their jobs better.

“He really believes in building on people’s strengths and is cognizant of people’s feelings,” adds Henderson, who explains the pressure each theatre company is under to get their production on the OZone stage.

Set-up is strictly regulated and takes place from noon to 5 p.m., after which crews leave the theatre until the evening performance.

The adjudicator may make a 10-minute adjudication following a play, returning to the theatre the following morning to spend two hours going over a scene he wants to improve on with the previous evening’s cast and crew, Henderson says.

“He presents alternatives that expands their understanding of their role and does same thing with costumes, set decor, directing, sound and lights,” she adds.

Henderson says the event brought about 110 people to Salmon Arm, some of whom stayed for the whole week. Two shows were sold out and others were at least 60 to 70 per cent full.

“People love the intimacy of our theatre,” she said, raving about the colourful OZone program created by Lisa Bennett. “And I am really appreciative of how the community has supported us with sponsorships.”

By last Thursday, an enthusiastic Henderson had seen five of the seven plays, had enjoyed them and was hopeful Shuswap Theatre’s Kaitlan Hunter would win an award. She did – the talented actor received an adjudicator’s Special Merit Award for Best Solo Performance in Jewel.

And the winners are:


Best Production: Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton Theatre, Kelowna

Runner Up: Since You Left Us, South Okanagan Players, Oliver

Best Director: Rob Mason-Brown, Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton Theatre

Best Actor: George Young, Half Life, Asparagus Theatre, Armstrong

Best Actress: Janet Anderson, Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton Theatre

Best Supporting Actor: Rob Mason-Brown, Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton Theatre

Best Supporting Actress: Destiny MacWatters, Sisters, Powerhouse Theatre, Vernon

Set Design: Bruce Turnbull, Half Life, Asparagus Theatre

Lighting Design: Vanessa Lomas, Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton Theatre

Sound Design: Trevor Leigh, Since You Left Us, South Okanagan Players

Costume Design: Anne Ramey + Kerri Younie , RAFT: a Rock Opera, Theatre Kelowna

Props: Allen Bensmiller, Half Life, Asparagus Theatre

Set Décor: Bill Haidei, Rob Mason-Brown, Jenn Mills, Eric Dennis, Brad Hull, Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton

Best Ensemble: Sisters, Powerhouse Theatre

Best Newcomer: Valerie Heathman, Since You Left Us, South Okanagan Players

Adjudicator’s Special Merit Awards 1. For Courageous Minimalism: Possible Worlds, Crimson Tine Theatre, Princeton 2. Best Musical Direction: Randal Robinson, RAFT, Theatre Kelowna 3. Best Solo Performance: Kaitlan Hunter, Jewel, Shuswap Theatre 4. Best Original Score: Goran Sukunda, Age of Arousal, Fred Skeleton Theatre 5. Best Musical Ensemble: RAFT, Theatre Kelowna


Shuswap Theatre took a few minutes during Saturday’s OZone Festival gala and awards ceremony to present a special trophy to founder and longtime member, James Bowlby.

Bowlby recently stepped down from the artistic committee, a post he held for many years.

A driving force behind the founding of Shuswap Theatre, Bowlby loved period pieces, costumes, sets and beautiful stage pictures that flow into each other.

He was a major force in the acquisition and renovation of the current theatre building from an old radiator shop and was ambitious in his efforts to get large productions to the local stage.

Bowlby was also ambitious in his efforts to create theatre opportunities for young people and served as OZone chair and president of Theatre BC, where he received the prestigious Eric Hamber trophy for “outstanding contribution to community theatre in B.C. over a long period.”

He also won an Ozzie Award for “an outstanding contribution to the Okanagan Zone and to community theatre in B.C.”

Bowlby continues to produce plays for dinner theatre and is preparing a short play for Theatre on the Edge this July. As well, he continues as president of the Shuswap Society for Arts and Culture, with the aim of constructing a performing arts centre in Salmon Arm.

“There are very few people who have been more dedicated to the art and practice of community theatre. It has been his life,” reads a Shuswap Theatre press release.

“Thank you James.”


In other Shuswap Theatre news, the Laughing Gas Improv Troupe and Vernon’s Monkey with a Button kick off the adult-only Improv Super Summer at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 3 in a show that also features live music with Rod Schumacher and a bar that opens at 6:30.

The two improv groups will also perform at Theatre on the Edge, Shuswap Theatre’s summer festival, which runs July 21 to 23. Seven fresh, new 60-minute theatre productions alternate with sets of live music outdoors on the patio from noon to night all weekend.

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