The Portal Players Dramatic Society in Port Alberni is hoping to draw some new faces to the Capitol Theatre with a night of performances and entertainment.
The Portal Players will be hosting a members’ night on Friday, June 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Capitol Theatre (4904 Argyle Street). The bar and concession will be open and a “wide variety of entertainment” has been arranged for the evening, according to Portal Players board member Liane Fitzpatrick. Performances range from stand-up comedy to monologues to music and swordfighting.
Admission is free for Portal Players members. For non-members, the entry is only $10—which includes a membership with the Portal Players for the year.
The goal of the members’ night is twofold, says Fitzpatrick. It offers a chance for members to have some fun on the stage, and encourages new members to join.
Becoming a member isn’t just for people who want to perform on stage, said Fitzpatrick. “Most people in our group aren’t actors,” she explained.
The society’s most recent production of I Hate Hamlet, for example, only had seven actors. But there were 30-40 people working behind the scenes to put on the show. A Portal Players membership is open to anyone of any age says Fitzpatrick, and the society is willing to teach and train anyone who is interested in backstage or set work.
The theatre’s membership was already starting to wane when COVID-19 hit. For the Portal Players—like most volunteer groups in Port Alberni—the pandemic was a devastating blow. They couldn’t hold any shows for more than two years, which is their main revenue generator. Although the society owns the Capitol Theatre, rather than renting it, they still have to pay for utilities and upkeep at a cost of around $265 per day—or almost $100,000 per year.
“[The pandemic] took a toll on this group, and they’re kind of starting from scratch,” said Fitzpatrick. “Like most theatre groups, we have a core group of people who do a lot of work, and then they get tired. We’re trying to change that dynamic.”
The theatre closes down in the summer, due to a lack of air conditioning, but will re-open in September with more events. While the Portal Players put on a pair of comedies earlier this year, Fitzpatrick says the board wants to see the theatre hold different kinds of performances, like dramas and thrillers. Musicals are always popular, but the rights to the music can cost between $30,000 and $50,000, so sponsorships are usually required.
“We want to offer a little bit of flavour for everybody, no matter what kind of theatre they like,” said Fitzpatrick. “And we’re always open to other people submitting their ideas. We have good intentions and great ideas, but they can’t happen all at once.”
The members’ night on Friday will include some Portal Players updates, including the news that Port Alberni will be hosting the North Island Zone Drama Festival in 2024 for the first time in almost 10 years.
“It’s going to be a major undertaking,” said Fitzpatrick, adding that it will require a lot of volunteer work. “But everyone here is super generous with their time, so I have full confidence in this group.”
The members’ night is open to all ages, but Fitzpatrick warns that there might be some “adult” language in the performances.
“I always encourage people just to come out and see if they like it,” said Fitzpatrick.