LOOK BACK: The first play produced in ‘New Alberni’

Take a peek at Alberni Valley history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Portal Players Dramatic Society was supposed to be hosting Mainstage 2020 for the second year in a row in July 2020, however, COVID-19 health restrictions forced the provincial festival’s cancellation. We thought it was fitting to share an image from the first play in New Alberni: Babes in the Woods. Circa 1903. People in the picture are identified as: front row left to right: A. Barfoot, L. Withers, S. White, Mis Ann Wood (teacher), H. Porritt, Dr. C.T. Hilton, R. Blandy, A. Carmichael, C. A. Moorhead. Back row left to right: Marion Watson, Clara Grandy, Miss Liza Scott (teacher), Vesta McIntyre, Margaret Grandy. (WRIGHT PORRITT, PHOTOGRAPHER/ PN02976 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

Port Alberni’s amateur theatre group, Portal Players Dramatic Society, was supposed to host Mainstage 2020, the B.C. provincial drama festival in early July 2020. The festival debuted in Port Alberni in 2019 to great fanfare, and theatregoers were looking forward to the encore presentation at the ADSS Theatre and Capitol Theatre.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, however, TheatreBC was forced to cancel this year’s Mainstage. Honestly, which scriptwriter could beat a worldwide pandemic anyway?

We thought it only fitting that for this week’s A Look Back with the Alberni Valley Museum, we feature a photo of the first play to debut on a live stage in New Alberni, in 1903: Babes in the Woods.

Photographer Wright Porritt, whose images are among some of the 24,000 in the AV Museum’s online digital archives, captured a group photo of the cast.

Portal Players began as a concept with 20 community members in 1978, according to a history on their website. Their first venue was the North Island College gymnasium, and they were allowed to use a couple of additional rooms as well.

Their first production, in the late 1970s, comprised three, one-act farces. Ray Noble then directed the first “full-length” production, You Can’t Take It With You.

Besides having to cancel Mainstage, Portal Players closed the Capitol Theatre to The public and cancelled the rest of its 2019-20 season. More information can be found online at http://atthecapitol.org.

This photo is one of nearly 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s collection. See more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com/ Many of the history books cited in the Look Back series are available for purchase at the AV Museum. Call 250-720-2863 for more information.

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