A chance to perform on stage changed Karen Smith’s life.
It was 2001 and the director at the time, Colleen Whidden, was editing The guys and the dolls. At the request of a friend, Smith auditioned for a role and has been involved, to some extent, with every show since then. She is also the historian of the 100 Mile Performing Arts Society, keeping photo albums of her 35 productions.
“A friend of mine, for guys and dolls, said ‘why don’t you come audition’ and that was the start,” Smith, 69, said. “Of course, I was really very shy but this audition totally changed my life.”
At that time, shows were just passion projects, with people like Whidden – along with the Tupmans, Smith and her husband Gord and other members of the 100 Mile House United Church – investing their own money in sets, the costumes and the purchase of the scene. rights to their productions. They would only get that money back if ticket sales were good, which wasn’t always a guarantee.
The 100 Mile Performing Arts Society was incorporated in 2007 after Whidden and her husband moved to Alberta. Smith said they wanted to raise funds and receive grants so that their show budget would no longer come directly from their own pockets.
Whidden’s first non-directed show was in 2006 Once upon a time there was a mattress and it remains one of Smith’s favorites. She played the jester in the satirical story of The princess and the Pea and enjoyed prancing around the stage in a bright livery. The confidence she has gained from being on stage is something she is keen to share with other shy people and is part of her talk whenever she visits schools to recruit students for shows.
In 2011, Smith’s friend Margot Shaw, 58, joined the company after her son auditioned for a role in Anna. Unlike Smith, Shaw found herself drawn to the technical side of theatre, serving as stage manager and responsible for lights and sound in the technical booth. Shaw said she realized after Anne, where she was a member of the choir, that teaching at the same time was too demanding for her.
“There have literally been hundreds of people involved over the years in all the different productions in town,” Shaw said. “There is an incredible group of talented people here. When you start digging into it, there’s an incredible wealth of talent here for a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. We are amazing.”
Both Shaw and Smith have seen children grow up through theatre. Shaw’s son, Ben Pilger, is now a drama teacher, much to his pride.
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Until their last show, 2020 Disney’s Little Mermaid, Shaw said the company has largely stuck to smaller-scale productions. Great musicals and ensemble pieces like those of 2012 A funny thing happened on the way to the forum and the 2010s The sound of music were fun to put on but a bit overwhelming, especially for such a small group. Instead, they staged shows like the ones in 2015 The art of murder and The Melville Boys, move away from their musical roots.
The arts society has been unable to put on a show in recent years due to COVID-19 and flooding at Martin Exeter Hall, which is their regular venue.
However, they’re hoping to put together a music-focused pantomime in December this year, likely a classic fairy tale to adapt that would be family-friendly and fun to watch. A pantomime, Shaw added, also tends to be less expensive, so if it doesn’t go ahead, the company won’t run out of thousands of dollars.
“We have a lot of people who are really desperate to put something back together, but between the Martin Exter Hall flood and the pandemic (we’ve been stuck),” Shaw said. “We would very much like to return to big shows in the near future.”
100 mile house