Its been a rough summer for the Columbia Phoenix Players, but they’re hoping to see a light at the end of this tunnel.
The long-standing local theatre group has faced several setbacks over the last few months and now — two weeks before auditions for “Scrooge’s Christmas Carol” — they’ve received news that they have to move out of their home across from the Beaver Valley Public Library by the end of September.
Jean Wylie, producer and long-time member of the Players, is hoping it’s all just bad luck resulting from this being the 13th season the group will hold an annual show.
“It’s been a really great journey,” Wylie said. “I just hope it’s not the last.”
She’s not sure how the latest news will affect the production yet, but said she had asked for an extension on the eviction notice so the group will have enough time to search for a new home to house their treasure trove of props and costumes.
For the first time ever, the Players had to apply for a grant from Columbia Basin Trust after last year’s ticket sales failed to generate enough revenue to meet their expenses and production costs for this year.
Wylie put together a presentation for Montrose council back in June, outlining issues the troupe was facing at the time and why it was important that funding be awarded because of the impact the Players have on people in the area — especially youth.
“It encourages a lot of the kids to pursue their dreams … It’s like a stepping stone,” she explained.
Several former Players have gone on to pursue careers in the arts and theatre field, many of them attesting that their time with the group helped solidify their career choice.
Megan “Meggie” McKinnon attributes her passion for the arts to her time with the Players. She just got home from Vancouver, where she was performing in Theatre Under the Star’s production of “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“It was a good mentoring program and it showed me what theatre can be,” said the five-year member of the group.
Ashley Duggan will be starting her first year at Thompson River University in September, with a major in theatre.
That’s a far cry from carpentry, which is what she was originally going to study. Besides changing her career choice, she said the Players helped her grow as an individual.
“I became a lot more social in my general life and I find I have a lot more confidence speaking to people — I’m not as closed-in and shy as I used to be,” she explained.
While Wylie said that a lot of organizations have to apply for extra help these days and they’re grateful for the assistance, it’s still a hard pill to swallow.
“We’ve always paid our own way for these shows,” she said. “Everybody takes pride in keeping their own head above water don’t they?”
The Players are staying positive despite all the turmoil and will be holding open auditions for their Christmas production starting Sept. 8 at the St. Andrews Church in Trail. They’re looking to fill several roles, including leads, costume manager and a piano player.
Rehearsals will take place twice a week from September until the show hits the stage early December. For more information or to help the group out, contact Wylie at 250-367-6365.