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Presentation House Theatre pulls back curtains on new renovations

Where the Wild Things Are set to open Oct. 11

The performance floor may now be flat but the productions will continue to be well-rounded.

That’s the message Kim Selody wants to get across in the lead up to Presentation House Theatre’s 2017/2018 season, following a set of extensive renovations completed this summer on the 40-year-old theatre space.  

“The public won’t notice but, boy, do the artists notice it – our floor is now flat and level,” Selody says with a chuckle.

He has been the theatre’s artistic director since 2012, carrying forward with pride the organization’s legacy and mandate for doing work that connects the whole community together.

He also notes that since the theatre first opened in 1977, no major renovations have been undertaken on the performing space. “Nothing’s been touched,” he says.

While the theatre has remained more than functional throughout the decades – and production staff devoted to the theatre’s mandate – its need for an overhaul meant there could be a limit, in theory, to what could be produced.

“It’s huge for us in the inside,” he says about the recent revamping. “One of the frustrations I’ve had since I got here is when the seats were fixed and the orientation in the room had to be one way, I’d see something somewhere and I’d go, ‘That would be perfect for our audiences here, except it won’t fit into our theatre.’”

That’s all changed, Selody says.

When the previous season ended in July, they got to work on renovating the space to their liking.

A wall has been knocked done, seats were replaced, and a reconfigurable riser system capable of changing up the configuration of the space in order to suit a production’s needs was installed.

“The opportunity to now be able to reconfigure the space and make it appropriate for the type of work that’s being done, I think the audiences are going to notice right away a difference,” he says. “We can increase the possibilities of what our venue can be used for.”

Heading into the theatre’s upcoming season, those possibilities seem endless.

Back by popular demand is Where The Wild Things Are, which is directed by Selody and will kick the season off in October. The play is a highly interactive guided piece that encourages adults and young children to experience it together as they help transform lead character Max’s bedroom into different landscapes that represent his imaginative adventures.

“You need a big open play area,” Selody explains. “We set up three islands and the audience gets to pick an island they want to sit on, and then they go on Max’s journey.”

Selody’s no stranger to Wild Things. It’s a perennial favourite that Presentation House Theatre has produced five times. But the former limitations of the space prior to the renovations could make putting on the technically demanding show a challenge.

“We brought it back to open our season with because we’ve toured that all across North American actually – we’ve taken that all through the U.S. and across Canada and we’ve taken it to Japan,” Selody says.

He laughs when explaining that putting on the show at their own venue at Presentation House Theatre was often the most arduous experience. “It was the hardest place to do the show at, and so we’re really happy now that our venue is now the best place to do the show.”

Selody says to expect several international collaborations this season, in addition to productions geared towards younger audiences and also those seeking an experimental flair.

In January, audiences can catch Sleeping Beauty Dreams, a co-production with the Marionetas de la Esquina, a Mexican puppet company.

The production’s humorous storytelling and whimsical puppetry is geared toward slightly older kids, Selody advises.

He also mentions plays The New Conformity, showing in November and December, and the season-closing Inner Migrant.

While both productions borrow elements from physical theatre – New Conformity features circus skills, juggling, and silent characters – Selody stresses the unifying elements of the plays and theatre’s ability to help people connect.

“It opens the door for people perhaps who are interested in live theatre but struggle with English as a language,’ he says about New Conformity, while Inner Migrant focuses on the experiences of those who recently arrived in Canada and uses an acrobat company that stresses physicality, not the barriers of language and dialogue.

On Sept. 30, Presentation House Theatre is producing a free event at Waterfront Park in North Vancouver that lends credence to its push to connect community.

The First Welcome Hych’ka is an outdoor event that will feature a First Nations singing and dancing troupe, a feast, and a four-metre-high Coast Salish puppet. It’s an effort, Selody says, to connect First Nations communities, recent immigrants, and longstanding people in the community with one another.

Although the theatre is producing the event, this “first welcome” isn’t about introducing people to its newly renovated space.

“It’s less about Presentation House Theatre and more about North Vancouver and this community,” he says. “We wanted to have an event that would help remove barriers for people meeting each other.”