Behind the Scenes: Little Women


To me, this story has a beautiful kaleidoscopic effect. When you meet these characters at a different time in your life, the images shift; relationships and moments that slipped by you previously come into focus in brilliant, moving detail. The words are the same, but you are different; therefore the story is, too. For those of us who worked on the 2005 production, we’ve all experienced this. We’ve seen and felt new things, shaped by how we’ve grown – who we’ve become – since we last visited the world of Jo and her family. It’s wondrous and exciting, to realize how our perspective shifts, how capable are brains and hearts are, of growing, increasing, transforming.

Given this, the show has something for everyone, even for those who’ve seen it before – and it’s great for families, for mixes of generations, because there’s something for all stages of life. For children who are so rich in imagination, always ready to play and make-believe; for young adults new to love, marriage and all its complications; for those of us who are caretakers, grappling with the inevitable loss of loved ones; for parents (and grandparents!) who recognize, and share, the gifts of hard-earned wisdom.

What’s more, this show is a great reminder of the potential of this holiday season. When families gather, it’s powerful: our capacity to love one another despite our faults, our ways of supporting and inspiring one another to become the best

version of ourselves. It’s a time of rest and celebration, yes, but also of transformation, and renewal.

These are the ideas that inspired the design and staging of our brand-new production. Rooted in Jo’s power to create and transform herself and the world around her, we begin simply, with the image of Jo at her writing desk, a single lantern in the darkness, the artist imagining how to fill the empty page. As she writes, people pour onto the stage, their voices, and stories emerging from the shadows, growing brighter and more distinct as Jo’s storytelling gains force. And with this, there’s the potent juxtaposition of the warm heart of the March household, and the darker realities of the Civil War battlefront.

This tension between hopefulness and despair lingers throughout, which feels so true to me – because

that’s life, isn’t it? And always, that ineffable human ability to make something out of nothing, whether that’s weaving a story seemingly out of thin air, or how capable we are of finding the plenty in the scarcity; that way we have of finding something to share and celebrate, even when it seems we have very little.

It is our stories, and our relationships, that make us rich. And it is my hope that audiences will leave the theatre thinking about this, about the countless little gifts and privileges that surround us. “What do I have to celebrate? What do I have to share?” Likely more than you think…

Julie McIsaac, Director

By |December 6th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season|0 Comments

A Glorious! Connection to Vancouver Island

Pay attention during our upcoming performance of Glorious! and you will catch the name ‘Tallulah Bankhead’. Our main character, Florence Foster Jenkins, ran in a well-known New York circle during 1940s that included Miss Bankhead as one of her close friends and supporters. This amazing and wonderful true store of Miss Jenkins is one you will be glad you saw!

Dola Dunsmuir

Tallulah Bankhead, a well-known actress of her time, had a long-time friend and companion in notable Vancouver Island resident, Dola Dunsmuir. Dola’s grandfather and grandmother, Robert and Joan Dunsmuir, built the coal industry on Vancouver Island, the E&N Railroad and Craigdarroch Castle. Her father, James Dunsmuir, continued running the family business and built Hatley Castle. She even has few connections to the Cowichan Valley, James Dunsmuir also owned a cabin on Cowichan Lake and Dola’s Uncle, Henry Croft, founded Chemainus’ neighbouring town of Crofton.

Tallulah Bankhead at Dolaura House

Tallulah and Dola met in London. Dola was a great fan of the theatre, and of Tallulah, and eventually went backstage to meet her. Dola would visit Tallulah frequently (perhaps even catching one of Miss Florence Foster Jenkins famous performances). When Dola wasn’t following Tallulah on tour, Tallulah would visit Dola at her Vancouver Island home, Dolaura, where they would throw wild parties! Dola passed away in 1966 but her story is part of the legacy of the Dunsmuir family on Vancouver Island.

Don’t miss Chemainus Theatre’s production of Glorious! running September 14th – October 6th.

Photos courtesy of the Craigdarroch Castle archives.

By |September 17th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season|0 Comments

Grease All-time Best Selling Show

Grease is the word and it is now our all-time best selling production…This is the first time we’ve sold out an entire production run – remarkable considering it’s nearly three month’s long.  This likely places us in a small group of North American theatres that have experienced a complete sell-out over a continuous run of this length – 98 performances,” says Randal Huber, Chemainus Theatre’s Managing Director.

Produced by the theatre 40 years after the hit 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, the songs and story have not lost their appeal for audiences on Vancouver Island. Summer visitors and locals to the Cowichan Valley have been flocking to the theatre and to enjoy favourite tunes such as ‘Summer Nights’ and ‘Greased Lightning’. Throughout its show run, even the town of Chemainus has worked to support this particular summer hit with events such as the downtown Classic Car Show, hosted by Tourism Chemainus.

The reviews for Grease have been outstanding; the Cowichan Valley Review said: “The production is anchored by fine performances and excellent musical numbers that highlight both the vocal and dance skills of the cast.” Local theatre critic Janis LaCouvee stated: “Grease is about “a time, and a place” and—most assuredly—“a feeling”— it’s arguably this feeling that brings audiences back, time and again, to experience it.” Even audiences loved the performances, leaving feedback such as: “Loved Grease. Very professional and very entertaining. I would recommend a visit for anyone who loves musicals.”

Earlier this summer, Chemainus Theatre announced that we have secured the rights to Mamma Mia, and the response has been outstanding. Audiences are using social media to tag friends and have begun to plan a visit to Chemainus next year to see this popular musical. The rest of the 2019 season will be announced this fall, followed by season ticket sales, and single tickets to go on sale in the New Year.

Congratulations to the hard-working cast and creative team of Grease for putting on such a successful and fantastic show! Time and time again we have heard compliments about the set, costumes and how incredible every cast member was in their performance.

The Chemainus Theatre, a not-for-profit theatre company, is happy to announce that the success of Grease has put us back on track for our 2018 season targets. We would like to thank everyone who has supported local theatre in the season so far, and look forward to seeing you for our future productions.

Grease in Chemainus

Julie and Barbara take a quick break during Grease rehearsals on the (in-progress) set.

Thank you to Barbara Tomasic and Julie Tomaino, the Director and Choreographer of our upcoming production of Grease for answering a few questions!

  1. This is the 40th Anniversary of Grease! What is it about this show that has stood the test of time?

Barb: I think the spirit of being a teenager, trying to figure out who they are, is still the same.

Julie: I think there are so many popular fifties songs in this show that are still widely listened to now.

  1. Do you have a favourite memory of watching this show? Either a stage production or a movie?

Barb: When I was in grade 7 I watched the movie 8 times in one night at a sleepover. I remember thinking it was such a risqué movie, and marvelling at the freedom and joy of the teenagers.

  1. This show is so popular and well-known, what creative touches are you planning to bring to the production at Chemainus Theatre Festival?

Julie: there is such iconic choreography in Grease, and of course I’m going to pay homage to the original, but with a twist. I like to challenge myself as a choreographer with movement that tells the same story in the style of the show but with my stamp on it.

  1. The 50’s are such a fun part of Grease, how is the creative team working together to bring this decade to life on stage?

Barb: our set designer Lauchlin has based the set on a photo of Sandra Dee that I chose. I think this photo is a strong representation of the colour palette and style of the time period. We’re also using images from advertising from the fifties and of course the costumes.

  1. Be honest, do you constantly have the soundtrack going through your head? Any songs in particular?

Julie: yes. Because I need to know all the accents and orchestrations so well I had ALL the songs running through my head for over a month. Today, it’s We Go Together.

Barb: Freddy My Love is the one I’ve had over and over in my mind.

We’re both happy to back in Chemainus, a town we hold close to our heart.


Kim’s Convenience Video


We were lucky enough to sit down for a short interview with James Yi, who plays Appa in the play. You also get a peek at the stage design and some of the other characters you’ll meet. This play is on until May 26th, don’t miss your chance to see this moving and funny play that audiences are falling in love with!

By |May 4th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season, Videos|0 Comments

The Little Prince Feature

The Little Prince has been adapted for the stage by Roderick Glanville. Thank you to Roderick for answering our questions about our upcoming summer KidzPlay. To get tickets for you and your favourite child click here!

Question: Our young audiences are looking forward to this show! Can you tell us a little bit about this show and what makes it unique?

Answer: This story is magical as it works on two levels.  For the most part, The Little Prince characterizes narrow-mindedness as a trait of adults. In the very first chapter, the narrator draws a sharp contrast between the respective ways grown-ups and children view the world. He depicts grown-ups as unimaginative, dull, superficial, and stubbornly sure that their limited perspective is the only one possible. He depicts children, on the other hand, as imaginative, open-minded, and aware of and sensitive to the mystery and beauty of the world.  The Fox is one of my favourites as the teaching are very faith based but not specifically Christian, more pure inclusive spirituality.

Question: Why are you drawn towards developing children’s theatre?

Answer: As a young person creative self-expression was critical to my fitting in.  I found community in theatre.  A place where I was accepted and not judged.  And later I was quite moved by a touring companies production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The exception and the rule’, from that point on I knew I wanted to be a professional actor.  I approach my work through the lens of a child, because I haven’t really grown up!  Engaging youth and their imagination is pure joy, and a young audience is the most honest audience.  Every set of eyes and ears are open to story.  Creating stories that resonate with their lives keeps me present in my own life.  This is why The Little Prince speaks so strongly to my spirit.

Question: Your version of The Little Prince has been produced for Kaleidoscope Theatre. How did audiences respond to this show, have you made any changes to bring it to the stage at Chemainus Theatre?

Answer: This will be my third production of the story.  The first was a table top puppet version for our Family Theatre Festival in our giant inflatable Igloo theatre.  The second production was a bi-lingual version presented at the McPherson Playhouse and featured live music composed by Oliver Swain.  Quite a contrast to the first one!  Everyone loves the Prince.  How could you not? The important part for me is the acting of the Prince.  It must be a female.  The child’s spirit is pure, and I find women far more empathetic.  This does not exclude men.  But children respond differently to a female voice.  It is more soothing and safe.  And the Prince is seeking emotional understanding.  Both shows were amazing.  The bi-lingual version was an experiment that really worked for both English and French and opened up new audiences for Kaleidoscope.  The show we are bringing to Chemainus will be the English version with Oliver returning to bring his magic to the show.  The scale of production will be similar to the McPherson staging.  I will have to edit some of the sections as the running time is too long for the traditional Chemainus programming, but nothing will be lost.  The story will remain intact.

Question: What about the story of The Little Prince resonates with both adults and children?

The need to question the importance of our place in the universe and how important loyalty and love are to our survival.  Timeless themes and fun characters.  Plus, everyone loves a puppet that can fly!

Question: Do you have any words of wisdom for young people hoping to make their careers in the theatre, either on stage or behind the scenes?

Answer: Follow your dreams.  Break through barriers and be kind to oneself and others along the path.  Never give up. If it makes you happy, you cannot turn away.  The art’s will heal and enlighten.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Critical thinking is so important and we can all contribute to our community through self-expression in many forms.  So, just do it!




By |April 23rd, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season, About the Shows|0 Comments

Kim’s Convenience at Chemainus Theatre Festival

You’ll get more than you bargained for at Mr. Kim’s downtown Toronto convenience store. Along with his enormous variety of groceries and knick-knacks, he dispenses amusing folk wisdom, quizzical Korean trivia, and a peculiar type of pride. The hilarity and the business may be short lived if a big box store invades the neighbourhood, his daughter rejects the family shop, and his prodigal son returns. Is there a future for Kim’s Convenience?

Kim’s Convenience debuted at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival, where it won the Best New Play award. Written by celebrated Canadian actor, playwright, and poet Ins Choi, he also directed the play and acted the part of Jung in the debut production. The play has been produced all over North America to outstanding reviews. It has since become a ground-breaking CBC TV series which you can also catch on Netflix. As one review of an earlier production of this play states: “the comedy is funny, and the emotions genuine, and at its best, the play combines the two”.

Delivering amusing folk wisdom, quizzical Korean trivia, and touching on themes of immigrant experience, change, and generational conflict, Kim’s Convenience is as poignant as it is humorous. It breaks through boundaries and explores some universal truths in a way that brings the powerful combination of both laughter and learning to the audience.

Appa and Umma speak to each other in Korean, treating one another with tenderness and humour as they lead their little family toward the future while forgiving the past. Janet and Jung speak English, asserting themselves with the sharp wit of youth who identify with two cultures. What comes of it all are hysterically funny jokes and comedic situations which help the audience to more comfortably question our assumptions of stereotypes, immigrant experience and family conflict.

Bringing the hilarity to life for this production of Kim’s Convenience are: James (Jimmy) Yi as the fiery and proud Appa; Susan Hanson bringing quiet warmth to the role of Umma; Agnes Tong playing artistic daughter Janet; John Han brings poignancy and laughs as prodigal son Jung, and Michael Clarke plays the amusing array of minor characters.

Rounding out the creative team for this socially relevant satire are Director Mark DuMez, Set Designer Craig Alfredson with Associate Set Designer Coralee Draginda, Costume Designer Michelle Lieffertz, Sound Designer John Han, and Stage Manager Lois Dawson. Matinee and evening shows for all ages run April 27 to May 26.

To purchase tickets call our friendly box office at (250) 246-9820 or our easy-to-use online box office.

By |March 29th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season|0 Comments

Interview with Daniel Kosub from Once & Million Dollar Quartet

Hi Daniel,  thank you for agreeing to do an interview with us.  We really appreciate it!
Thanks for having me!
1. One of the special things about living in Chemainus is spotting actors around town while they are here for a show. What are some of your favourite spots in Chemainus to spend time between rehearsals and shows?
I’m a homebody, but I like Kinsman Beach Park, and the Willow Street Cafe quite a bit. Their scones are my kryptonite, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. 
2. The role of Guy suits you. What drew you to this character and how do you identify with him?

Allison Lynch & Daniel Kosub as Girl and Guy in Once

Guy is a musician at a crossroads that, as a singer/songwriter myself, I experienced in my 20s. That crossroads entails deciding whether or not you’re going to let fear and self-doubt dictate your decisions in life. It entails deciding whether or not you are going to let difficult circumstances stop you from pursuing your art, and your passions. The life of an artist can be very isolating, and sometimes you need a push in the right direction. That’s where Girl serendipitously comes into play. 

3. The response to Once has been positive, what do you think makes it such a special show?
There is so much to love about this show. The the sets, the talent of the cast and crew, the costumes. It’s all incredibly moving, and incredibly fun to watch. However, at its core, what makes the show special is that both the music and the story tap into a depth of honesty that as an audience member you can’t help but personalize. This story is such a specific and real experience between two people. We all cherish memories like this, and carry them with us. Even brief moments live on, as they inform our character as we move forward through life. That is the beauty of this show. 
4. You will be playing the part of Carl Perkins in our upcoming reprisal of Million Dollar Quartet. What can audiences expect from this play if they haven’t seen it yet?
The Million Dollar Quartet is a jukebox musical featuring the hits of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.  You can expect a rip-roaring blast of classic 50s Rock & Roll tunes, and a great night of music and laughs. I highly recommend it!
5. You have a music career of your own (check out Daniel’s CDs in the lobby after the play). How do your musical theatre roles influence your writing and performing of your own material and vice versa?
That’s a big question. My music career has greatly influenced my theatrical work. For the role of Guy in ONCE I’m drawing from a big well of personal experience as a musician, and as someone who has gone through my fair share of concrete and ambiguous relationships. Conversely, my theatre work has informed my music in subtler ways. Whether I’m watching or starting work on a piece of theatre, in the back of my mind I’m always paying attention to the arc of the story, and the craft of the text. When I’m taking in any art (visual, stand-up comedy, theatre, etc) on some level I’m always observing which elements connect with people, and considering how I might derive those to grow as an artist.  
Come meet me after the show and grab a copy of my CDs! 


By |February 27th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season|0 Comments

Chemainus Theatre Presents Once

From February 9 to March 10, visit Chemainus Theatre Festival and see the winner of 8 2012 Tony Awards® including Best Musical.

Emotionally captivating and theatrically breathtaking, Once draws you in from the very first note and never lets go. It’s an unforgettable story about going for your dreams and the power of music to connect us all.

Once is a story built on chance meetings and the connections that can form through the people who come into our lives unexpectedly. As an audience member the experience begins from the second you walk into the theatre. Instead of taking your seats and perusing the program as usual, you connect with the show and the cast right away – the stage is built to extend out into the audience, breaking down that invisible fourth wall that is so often experienced in live theatre. There is a bar set up on stage, not merely a set piece of an Irish Pub, but a functional bar where audience members can purchase a pre-show beer or glass of wine to enjoy on stage while the cast comes out and has a music session! This is as close to an authentic, energetic Irish pub experience you will get this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The audience sits down, already knowing from that first experience that this will be a special play. All the elements weave together through the lighting, the set, and the music bringing you into the lives of the characters and connecting your heart to them. Although the plot of Once takes place over a period of less than a week we see through the characters how those who we only know for a short time can change us forever. One of the beautiful things about this show is that the musicians are also the actors, always on stage, providing a rich, orchestral sound in an informal, personal way. The songs are unbelievably beautiful and integral to the plot and the feeling of the show. The music is almost a character all its own, a blend classic, folk, rock, Eastern, and Irish music – a truly soul-filling sound.

Chemainus Theatre Festival is proud of Once and the reviews have been positive. New for 2018 in addition to a variety of buffet options, Fridays nights are now featuring a ‘Table d’Hôte’ experience, having a selection of plated entrees while still experiencing the buffet salad and dessert. Delicious food and you can choose what suits you best. We can’t wait to welcome you in.

Helpful Links


By |February 16th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season|0 Comments

Video: Once at Chemainus Theatre

Romance and music blend charmingly in the smash-hit multi-award winning musical ‘Once’ – a new musical. From February 9 to March 10, visit Chemainus Theatre Festival and see the winner of 8 2012 Tony Awards® including Best Musical. Here’s a peek at our production, some of the music and background from the director. Enjoy!

By |February 15th, 2018|Categories: 2018 Season, Videos|0 Comments