After being cancelled last year, Rossland’s popular summer theatre company is back with a play addressing the overlooked role of women in history.
The Gold Fever Follies present The Great Invention Tuesday through Saturday at the Miners Hall until Aug. 28, with two shows daily at 3 and 7:30 p.m.
The road to this year’s show was complicated, longtime president and creative director Lisa Henderson explains. With some adjustments, the play is the same one that was supposed to be performed last year before COVID-19 hit.
Casting was complete and contracts had been signed when the decision was made in mid-spring 2020 to cancel the show for the first time since the Follies were founded in 1987.
However, those contracts were honoured and the actors got paid even though there was no show.
All those expecting to be part of the last year’s production were promised positions this year. Most agreed to come back, but two chose not to and those parts were recast. During COVID’s second wave, Henderson says they feared they would have to close for another season, but decided they could conduct rehearsals online via Zoom and produce a show recorded on smart phones.
The play’s title refers to a contraption devised by Ethel Padonka (Mimi Hicks), who works at the saloon but doesn’t get the respect she deserves for her brilliant, inventive mind. She wants to work in the mines and be treated as an equal, so she invents something to increase production, resulting in unintended consequences.
“We feel quite justified because we know women have been written out of history lots of times,” Henderson said.
“They should have been given credit and weren’t.”
The struggles of women to be recognized as equals in that era was inadvertently mirrored in early Follies scripts, which tended to focus on the men.
“When we started off, the females were just dancers,” Henderson said. “They just had first names, and often no development of character at all. It was all about the guys. But what about the women? They need to be developed more than just ‘I’m going to dance for you.'”
Henderson says she has watched with interest as the scripts have evolved over the years, gaining depth while remaining humorous and appealing to young and old.
Follies alumnus Chris Coutts wrote this year’s play, including music and lyrics, while another alumnus, well-known Nelson funnyman Lucas Myers, is the director. Kevin Wasilenkoff, who is back for his fourth year, is musical director, provides piano accompaniment, wrote some of the songs and revised others, and also appears in the cast. Choreography is by Mimi Hicks and Madeline Jane.
Tickets are $15 general admission (ages 13 to 64), $13 for seniors (65 to 94), $10 for children (five to 12), or free for those under five or over 95. Season passes are also available. You can reserve tickets at least one day in advance by going to https://www.goldfeverfollies.com/online-tickets and paying by e-transfer.
Seating is limited to 48 people per show and each group is seated at least six feet apart. The show runs about an hour and a half and you can take your mask off when sitting down.
Overall ticket sales are expected to be down this year as a result of COVID restrictions, but Henderson says they felt “it was so important to have some live theatre that we’ve been craving.”