A scene from the 2018 production of the Cabin of Curiosities. Canoers meet The Collector at his cabin – Faith (Joey O’Neil) and Keeton (Sam Connolly) meet The Collector (Robin Sharp)
The Friends of the Palace Grand (FotPG) has existed for a number of years. Originally under the umbrella of the Dawson City Arts Society (DCAS), its aim was to restore live performance to the Palace Grand Theatre, following the demise of the decades-long run of the Gaslight Follies.
For two seasons, a show operating on a model resembling Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion (called A Klondike Home Companion) featured a combination of local music and short skits, as well as some acts that arrived from Whitehorse and Outside. These seasons were pleasing to audiences, but not financially successful without the grant money that had allowed them to be developed—funding that stemmed from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s economic assessment plan, which recommended reviving the use of this tourist attraction beyond what Parks does with it.
For two seasons following these initial forays, the Palace Grand was not available for anything due to a program of upgrades and renovations undertaken by Parks Canada. During this time the FotPG split off from DCAS, formed its own society, and continued working on developing material that might work in a revived Palace Grand. When the theatre was available again in the summer of 2018, the Friends were ready with a show they had field-tested in the more confined venue of the KIAC Ballroom.
The Cabin of Curiosities featured local stories and legends told within the framework of a story about a pair of lost urban river travellers who encounter a strange man called “the collector.” They find him in the wilderness, not too far from the Klondike, and he rescues them after their canoe capsizes. While staying in his cabin, they experience a series of visions that tell the history of the area.
More than 30 locals were involved in the four performances that made up this short season. FotPG knew even then that this size of cast and crew was not sustainable, but they have been working on the project since that time. They’re now prepared to offer a series of 21 shows this summer.
The membership discussed the summer project at its recent annual general meeting. It was determined that the season this year will begin in early July, and will run shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until the middle of August.
Jim Taggart said that one of the reasons they’ve picked these days is that summer weekends in Dawson tend to be busy with high-profile events. This plan doesn’t conflict with anything and still provides a series of scheduled evenings during the peak of the summer season.
This year‘s production is being partly funded by the Yukon Arts Fund and Lotteries Yukon. Key members of the production team will be Ange Bonnici and Justine Hobbs, who will be sharing producer and director responsibilities, and Robin Sharp, who will be involved in writing and script duties. As with the previous season, locals are being asked to submit script and sketch ideas. The hope is to come up with a revolving series of sketches that can be changed up during the 21 performances, so that there will be some variety to the shows.