Thirty years after writing Cake Walk, playwright Colleen Curran still finds herself laughing while watching it.
Curran admits she has probably seen 20 or 25 productions of her play since it premiered in 1984, but still found herself laughing while watching a rehearsal in Penticton last week.
Director Judi Ritcey admits she was a little nervous that the author of the play chosen for the newly-formed Shatford Players’ first production would be in attendance.
“I thought, ‘what if I’ve done it all wrong?’” said Ritcey, explaining that she calmed down after meeting Curran in person.
“Once I met her, I knew it would be fine. I think the cast are more nervous now than I am because they want to do such a good job,” said Ritcey. “It was nerve wracking at first, but not now.”
Curran said she understands it can be a little scary, having someone come in and not knowing how they are going to react to any minor changes.
“It’s mine, but it is yours now, because every production is that group’s play, it’s their show,” said Curran. The only time she has ever insisted on a change was when a production replaced a joke with an off-colour one of their own.
“Often a line changed is because they have forgotten and are ad-libbing,” said Ritcey. Her cast, she explained, is a mix of experienced actors and first-timers.
“I have two people that have never done acting in their lives and they are so afraid. But they are good. It’s great for them,” said Ritcey.
Cake Walk, and Curran, arrived in Penticton via a suggestion from Leslie Manion, a childhood friend of Curran who plays Augusta Connors-Secord in the production, which centres on a Canada Day cake baking contest.
“It becomes life or death for all the participants,” said Curran. “They have all entered a cake and hope to win, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes.”
Ritcey explained that each of the characters is at a turning point in their lives.
“One is a nun that doesn’t want to be a nun anymore. They have all reached this impasse,” said Ritcey.
“And the cake is a symbol of what they want to be,” chimed in Curran. “The cake is them.”
Cake Walk deals with some complex interactions, but Ritcey said it is done with a light touch.
“People will fall off their seats. It is comedy. There is very little in there that isn’t funny,” said Ritcey. “Penticton needs humour on stage, I think. There is a lot of very serious drama still being done here.”
Ritcey said the Shatford Players came about due to a number of influences.
“It became very apparent there was a need for, not another theatrical group, but another medium for people that are getting a little older, that don’t get a chance to get into some of the productions that require young people,” she said.
Along with encouragement from Jane Shaak, executive director of the Shatford Centre, a read-through group was formed to provide a means for older folks to have an opportunity to experience theatre, without the full work of producing a play
That concept soon became the groundwork for the new troupe, with a focus on doing fundraising through their productions.
This first benefit is in support of the Shatford’s learning kitchen project, but Ritcey said she hopes they can manage one production a year supporting varied causes.
Curran will be present and meeting with the audience after performances throughout the run of Cake Walk from May 28 to 30 at 7 p.m. in the Shatford Centre, with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $20 or $15 for OSA members and are available at The Dragon’s Den and the Shatford Centre.