Pacific Theatre season opens
by Keri Vermeulen
Developing and premiering new works has been part of Pacific Theatre’s core values since their inception over 30 years ago, and the faith-based theatre company is keeping those roots alive as they begin their 2016/17 season this month with A Good Way Out, written by former PT playwriting apprentice Cara Norrish. The young writer has drawn deeply from the well of personal experience, and combined it with her own imagination and research to tell the compelling story of a man, immersed in gang life, who makes desperate decisions to protect the people he loves.
Norrish, also the play’s producer, says someone very close to her was involved in gang activity and passed away when she was young. “I remember being fascinated by them and wondering what would bring someone to be in a life like that? What are the benefits and what draws them to that? Like, what were the things that went wrong?” It’s in asking these questions that Norrish takes a deeper turn in her play, moving past sensational headline-type writing and into the things of the human heart – the need for family, and belonging along with issues of survival and protecting the ones we love. “I think there’s this thought about people in gang life that they’re just sort of horrible low-lifes. And I really want to show the human side of these people and their experience and what compels someone to join a gang. I think people think it’s only about drugs and money, but for the central character of the story, it’s not about that. It’s about a need for a family and support system.”
Norrish earned a BA in Theatre from Trinity Western University, and began writing A Good Way Out about four years ago. She did a playwriting apprenticeship at Pacific Theatre, and later joined PT’s Working With writers group. She also did an advanced playwriting class taught by award-winning Vancouver playwright and actor Lucia Frangione, through Rosebud School of the Arts. After letting the play sit for about two years, Pacific Theatre’s Artistic Director Ron Reed asked to take another look at it. “Developing and premiering new plays and playwrights has always been at the core of Pacific Theatre’s work,” says Reed. “A few years ago I had a sudden realization: we had nothing in the pipeline. No authors I was working with, no new plays on the verge of production. This was a huge gap, and so we formed a writer’s group and called it Working With. We invited a handful of writers, both emerging and established, to meet twice a month.”
With her play now opening Pacific Theatre’s 2016/17 season, Norrish is having a hard time letting it sink in. “It’s incredible, I can’t even believe it’s real,” she says. “When Ron said he was doing it, I didn’t really believe it until the season announcement came out. It still wasn’t a real thing, but then the season artwork came out and it started to become more real, and casting and all those sorts of things. It still hasn’t fully sunk in. I’ll have to see it now to fully believe it’s happening.”
A Good Way Out is directed by acclaimed director Anthony F. Ingram (The Seafarer and The Whipping Man). It runs Sept. 23 to Oct. 15 at Pacific Theatre in Vancouver. Showtimes 8 pm, with Saturday matinees at 2 pm. For tickets or more information, call 604-731-5518 or check out pacifictheatre.org