Theatre Manager Jason Asbell hams it up at the opening of Star Trek

COLUMN: Jimmy Stewart meets Woody Allen

If you’ve been to the movies, theatre manager Jason Asbell is the guy who’s often on stage, microphone in hand, introducing the film.

The Nelson Civic Theatre has developed into a unique community of volunteers, staff, board, committee members, and cinephiles.

Some you see, such as our in-house staff and volunteers. Others are more in the background, serving on committees, lining up ducks and lending hands. In upcoming columns we’ll give you a sneak peek into the NCTS community: the ones you see, and the ones you don’t.

If you’ve been to the movies, theatre manager Jason Asbell is one you see. He’s the guy who’s often on stage, microphone in hand, introducing the film.

It was in the nascent days of NCTS that I first met Jason, all great ideas and puppyish enthusiasm. With a degree in Contemporary Arts (major in film) from Simon Fraser University and experience working in operations at Vancouver Film School and as projectionist at Pacific Cinematheque, it became quickly evident that there was solid stuff behind all that infectious, easy-going we-can-do-it-ishness.

So what about the man behind the mic?

There’s a thing called a Proust Questionnaire that dates back to the 1890s when young writer-to-be Marcel Proust embraced the parlour game of the day, a sort of true confessions (there weren’t a lot of movies to watch, after all).

Recently, I gave Jason the Civic Theatre version of the PQ. Jason gets pretty verbose when it comes to what he loves most, so here’s an edited version.

1.  If you were on a desert island with nothing but a laptop and a movie on DVD, what movie would you want it to be?

“If I were on a desert island and had nothing, I imagine there would be extreme comfort in watching the bustle of New York life in glorious black and white, set to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

“I love the bitter-sweetness of life and beauty in loss in Woody Allen’s movies. It was actually my discovery of Woody Allen at the Edmonton Public Library in my final year of high school that started my love of film. I started collecting Woody Allen films: Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters… it was bittersweet and fitting that consistently I lost a Woody Allen video to every ex-girlfriend at the time.”

2. If you were a character in a movie, who would you be?

“If I could put on any persona it would have to be Jimmy Stewart. That guy had style. Aside from that I think it would be fun to be a character in a Wes Anderson movie. Be sure to look for Budapest Hotel coming to the Civic this spring.”

3. What has been your most memorable moment as Nelson Civic Theatre manager?

“The happy, huge crowd pouring out into the summer night after watching Kings of Summer and not dispersing for at least a quarter of an hour.”

4. If you had a magic wand, where in the Civic Theatre would you wave it first?

“My magic wand would create the extra theatre that would be dedicated to independent, documentary, foreign and classic films — and guess what? You can have a beer or a glass of wine at your seat.”

5. What is your motto?

“My daughter says my motto should be ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ as that’s how I’ve weathered most of the fires that have crept up so far.”


I think Gaby’s assessment of her dad is bang on. Sanguine steadfastness combined with puppyish enthusiasm is an infectious — and effective — combination. Could there be a bit of Jimmy Stewart or even Woody Allen in Jason?

Maybe. Just don’t ask to borrow his copy of Manhattan.


— Anne DeGrace is the past president of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society, which is working to develop a multi-venue community space for movies, live performance, and more. Want to join the NCTS community? Find out about volunteering and all things Civic at

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