Members of the cast of Don't Dress for Dinner. Photo by Mark Bergin.
Members of the cast of Don't Dress for Dinner. Photo by Mark Bergin.

Theatrical co-productions are becoming more the norm as funding for the arts becomes scarcer. While sharing costs of mounting a show between two companies in the same city are commonplace, Richmond’s Gateway Theatre has teamed up with Kamloops’ Western Canada Theatre and Gananoque, Ontario’s Thousand Island Playhouse in a tri-production of Don’t Dress for Dinner.

“This what I call a BFF co-production,” says Thousand Island Playhouse artistic director Ashlie Corcoran, who also directs the Marc Camoletti bedroom farce.

Originally from White Rock, Corcoran has found herself in Gananoque by way of studies in Toronto, the U.K., and undertaken a large portfolio of work across Canada.

“I went to Queens and that is what tore me out of B.C.,” she says. “When I graduated I worked in Toronto and then did a Masters in England and returned to Toronto where there tends to be more work in theatre and opera. I started Theatre Smash in Toronto and did some work with the Canadian Opera Company, and about three and a half years ago Thousand Islands was looking for a new artistic director and I applied for and got this job.”

Landing the role as AD at Thousand Islands Playhouse hasn’t slowed her down though. Described in a recent interview with the Globe and Mail’s Kelly Nestruck as a “workaholic”, she remains one of the most in-demand theatre professionals in the country.

“That was his word,” she says with a laugh. “I prefer to think of it as having a strong work ethic.”

Whatever you call it, there is no denying she is busy, having undertaken twelve shows in just the past year alone.  And despite her move to Central Canada, she is no stranger to the West Coast, having just recently been back as director of The Gay Heritage Project at The Cultch last month.

Corcoran returns to the area in April with Don’t Dress for Dinner at Richmond’s Gateway Theatre, a play she describes as “frothy and fun”.

“I read Don’t Dress for Dinner and literally in the first half of the first page I laughed out loud,” she recalls. “It is a classic farce, with mistaken identities and people kissing the wrong people all the time. There is so much in it for audiences with all the plot twists and turns.”

A sequel of sorts to Camoletti’s Boeing-Boeing – which Corcoran programmed at the Thousand Islands Playhouse last year in another co-production with Western Canada Theatre – Don’t Dress for Dinner reunites four of the cast including Vancouver-based actor, Todd Thompson.

“It is so great to have these four back, and three of them also worked together on a production of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Playhouse,” she says.

Ashlie Corcoran returns to the Lower Mainland as director of Don't Dress for Dinner
Ashlie Corcoran returns to the Lower Mainland as director of Don’t Dress for Dinner

Despite her diverse work in theatre, this is Corcoran’s first stab at directing a farce, something she says that was not without its challenges.

“I was just saying to another director how tricky farces are you because you have to keep the game alive,” she says. “It is important to keep the story as clear as possible, living among the confusion when the characters are so confused, and the incredible timing that is required on the actor’s part. It was as much fun to orchestrate, as the play itself.”

Having already played the Playhouse in Gananoque and Western Canada Theatre in Kamloops (both cities coincidentally mean “meeting of two rivers” in aboriginal languages of the area), Richmond’s Gateway Theatre is the show’s final stop.

“I admire Jovanni [Gateway AD Jovanni Sy] and Darryl [Western Canada Theatre AD Darryl Cloran], and how similar our audiences and our tastes are,” says Corcoran, who not surprisingly has history with both those organizations.  “We get to save a little bit of money – and I mean a little since it is expensive to ship things across the country – but the biggest pleasure is in helping to introduce new actors to new audiences in different parts of the country.”

Don’t Dress for Dinner plays Richmond’s Gateway Theatre (6500 Gilbert Rd, Richmond) from April 7-23. Visit http://gatewaytheatre.com for tickets and information.

Vancouver Presents

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