Community Theatre at its Finest

On June 24 and 25 The Friends of the Palace Grand Theatre will be presenting A Klondike Cabin Companion, a live radio performance, written, produced, and performed by Dawsonites.

Producer Justine Hobbs is excited to develop this project and bring community theatre to Dawson City.

“It takes a community to put on community theatre,” Hobbs says. “We have lots of people involved and everyone is so talented.”

The concept is simple: get a bunch of locals to write, stage, compose, act and be engaged in every aspect of theatre production, then see what comes out of it.

It all started with a few people who were passionate about theatre and wanting to get regular programming into the historic Palace Grand Theatre.

“It’s an underutilized building,” Hobbs says. “Everyone loves that theatre and were immediately on board when the idea came up for staging something regular in there.”

With lots of community support, the non-profit organization Friends of the Palace Grand was formed. The ultimate goal is to put a consistent show on the stage during the summer season, four times a week.

“We wanted a model to attract both tourists and locals. We figured the best thing was to have it locally written and produced with guest hosts. That would give variety for locals and fun for visitors.”

The play is modeled after Garrison Keillor’s radio show, Prairie Home Companion, broadcast internationally from Minnesota, USA.

A Klondike Cabin Companion will be a hybrid of radio and theatre, with local community radio station CFYT streaming live during the performances. The story itself is about the trials and tribulations of someone spending their first winter in Dawson City.

“We wanted to make a lighthearted comedy about what’s it like to live here,” Hobbs says.

Canadian entertainer Al Simmons is artistic director, as well as host and narrator of the play, introducing each scene for the radio audience.

Whitehorse musician Carolyn Mark does double duty as musical director, as well as playing a character and being a musician in the band. Three original songs are part of the repertoire.

Hobbs points out that even though lots of the locals involved have all had performance experience, putting radio and theatre together is brand new for everyone.

“The tech aspect is the hardest,” she says. “We have 11 mics to deal with.”

All in all, Hobbs feels that A Klondike Cabin Companion is coming together and will be a pretty good show, despite the fact that this year staging will be at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) rather than the Palace Grand, which is closed this summer for renovations.

Next year, Friends of the Palace Grand is hoping to apply for funding to hire someone year round to program, produce and market in advance of the following season.

“If we can hire someone like that, then we won’t lose the idea of hopefully being in the Palace Grand when it re-opens. We’re hoping to establish something regular in the future.”

Klondike Cabin Companion will be presented on June 24 and 25. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the show is at 7 p.m. at KIAC.

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