“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” — William Shakespeare
How very true that statement is. Most of us play our parts in everyday life without a stage, but if you live in Nelson, you can be onstage. Really. I walked the boards of the Capitol Theatre for the 26th anniversary of the Christmas Pantomime with a cast of wonderful players. We sang, we danced, we had fun poking fun — and it was wonderful.
I might not have auditioned at all if it weren’t for my friend Pat Henman. Pat and I have sung together for a long time and on a memorable road trip, we shared some stories. I told Pat that the theatre was a big part of my life a long time ago and that I missed it. Little did I realize that Pat would remember these words. This fall, when Pat returned to Nelson after months of hospital stays, I went to visit her. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Well, the pantomime auditions are coming up. Are you auditioning?” I don’t know if any of you have tried to say no to Pat, but let me tell you, no is not an option.
Suddenly I was in the thick of rehearsals, costume fittings, singing, learning dance routines and rubbing elbows with some very fine neighbours. There were Moms and Dads stretching their comfort zones so their kids could be a part of the excitement. Men who are not comfortable in women’s clothing were not only putting it on, but actually enjoying themselves. The kids were amazing. They threw themselves into their parts and were very patient with those of us who needed a little more time to loosen up.
After weeks of rehearsals, we had our first look at the stage set. Not only were we impressed, but I do believe the excellence of it all encouraged us to step it up. And the props! Brooms, axes, and the first ever perogies on a stick. They looked good enough to eat.
From Baba and Rapunzel to the Dame and the Wicked Witch, each character came alive. What started out as an impossible task with a cast of 55, became a reality with the guidance of director Karen Agnew. All too soon, opening night was upon us and all five performances flew by. There were a few glitches like the power outage at the Sunday matinee — the Baron did his amazing skipping routine in the dark. Or opening night when the Dame clobbered me in the eye — pictured above. We took it all in stride and each performance was too much fun, and over all too soon.
When people found out I was in the pantomime suddenly stories were told. Mel Reasoner, owner of the Willow Point Lodge, has photos and a news article from the early 1900’s of one of the very first Christmas Pantomimes in Nelson. Mel will be giving these treasures to the Capitol Theatre for everyone to see. Tom Thomson told me that he too walked the stage in his younger days. I fully expect to see Tom and his daughter in next year’s panto. Like Pat, I’ll be following up with him next Fall.
How very fortunate we are to have a place where young and old can gather to perform or to watch; to meet new people and come together as a creative community. Thanks, Pat, for reminding me that it is not only easy, but so much fun to participate. I’m wearing my “perogy on a stick” pin with pride and feeling pretty thankful to live here.
Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be seeing you at the Capitol in the New Year.
Deb Kozak is a Nelson City Councillor. She shares a column space in the Nelson Star with her colleagues around the table.