The Venue: Pacific Theatre
The Venue is a profile series from Laura Murray Public Relations that ventures behind the scenes of Metro Vancouver’s foremost arts and culture venues, diving into the past and unveiling the unique stories and events that have made an indelible impact on our city’s creative community.
This week we spoke with Andrea Loewen, Communications Manager at Pacific Theatre.
Perhaps one of the most unique theatre venues in Vancouver, Pacific Theatre has been asking tough questions about life and faith from the bottom floor of the city’s historic Chalmers building for the past 19 years.
First established in 1984 by a group of actors looking to explore work that delivered meaning to them as Christians, Pacific Theatre has evolved into an award-winning theatre powerhouse, seeking truth within deep questions and presenting thought provoking and challenging works.
After 10 years as theatre nomads, Pacific Theatre was invited to build a permanent home in 1994, in partnership with the historic building’s new owners, Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
“Our mandate of exploring spiritual questions was a perfect fit for the church,” notes Communications Manager Andrea Loewen.
Construction took place to replace the existing swimming pool with a lobby and a brand new theatre. While the company intended to build a classic proscenium-style theatre, space limitations forced them to be creative.
“Founder and artistic director Ron Reed realized the only way to make the space work, and keep the intimacy he was looking for, was by making it an alley theatre, with the audience on both sides of the action,” notes Loewen. “That means actors on our stage get to face each other instead of the audience and actually have a conversation on stage – something that you can’t experience in a traditional theatre.”
Non-traditional theatres can sometimes have their drawbacks, however. Case in point: when a play calls for hundreds of pounds of gravel, it takes a crew of nine to bring it in one bucket at a time, and a notice to audience members to forgo high heels when walking across the alley-style stage to their seats.
“We still find gravel around the theatre in the most unexpected places,” laughs Loewen.
Up next is the world premiere of Leave of Absence, a production five years in the making. Dubbed as “quintessential PT,” the play explores themes of spirituality and sexuality when a young girl challenges the steadfast beliefs of a suburban community.