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Urban Arts Productions is a new Victoria theatre company that presents historical plays in a unique location. It was started in June 2010 by Pat Rundell, a Victoria-based actor and director, and the artistic associate at Kaleidoscope Theatre.
“Urban Arts is an independent theatre company established just over a year ago, with the sole purpose to provide innovative, imaginative, quality theatre experiences for Victoria in historical settings,” says Rundell.
What sets Urban Arts apart from other Victoria theatre companies is the setting. Urban Arts is the resident theatre company at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, where they present plays in the historic Victorian courtroom on the third floor.
“Going to see an Urban Arts show in the courtroom is a true theatrical experience. We don’t stage in a presentational style; we stage around the audience, above the audience, behind the audience. There’s no privileged seat. Things are happening everywhere. You might not even see everything. Nothing is off-limit for our actors. They’ll be standing on top of tables, in the prisoner’s box, up in the balcony, on the windowsills. Everything is happening all around you,” says Rundell.
Since the company was founded in 2010, Urban Arts has presented four productions at the Maritime Museum, and one at the Victoria Fringe Festival. At the Museum, they have presented Nevermore, a musical about the life and women of Edgar Allan Poe; Marie Antoinette: The Colour of Flesh, a political love triangle set during the French Revolution; and productions of Peter Pan and Treasure Island for kids by kids. At Fringe, they presented a musical about writing a musical called [title of show].
“Our main goal is to present historical productions. Granted, our production of [title of show] at the Victoria Fringe Festival was not historical, but when we’re in the Maritime Museum, we have a mandate to present historically accurate and historically intriguing productions that complement the space. Really, the space becomes another character in the show,” says Rundell.
Urban Arts Productions are remounting their inaugural sell-out show Nevermore this October and November.
“Nevermore is a dark, haunting musical using Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and poems set to music to tell the story of his life and his shifting obsessions with the women in his life. It’s Edgar and the five women in his life: the ghost of his mother, who died when she was 21; his first true love; his 13-year-old bride and cousin; his mother-in-law; and a figment of his imagination, a whore.”
Urban Arts Production’s focus is always on creating a local production, including casting actors from Victoria.
“For Nevermore, we have a fantastic local professional cast: Tara Britt, Fran Bitonti, Sarah Carle, Stephanie Geehan, Heather Jarvie and myself with music direction by Steph Sartore.”
Rundell has lofty ambitions for his company’s future. He is working on putting on a Christmas production, and is eagerly searching for more local historical content to present.
“We’re looking at commissioning a play about the ghosts of Bastion Square, and we’re also hoping to present a beautiful play called Cause Celeb, which is the story of the murder of Francis Rattenbury.”
Urban Arts Productions is a welcome addition to the Victoria theatre scene, offering something new to Victoria audiences.
“Our main goal is to provide innovative experiences to Victoria audiences. Theatre can happen anywhere. It doesn’t have to happen in the McPherson Playhouse. Theatre can be in the street, in a courtroom. We want art to be everywhere. We’d really love Urban Arts to continue to be part of the vibrant Victoria theatre scene, and continue giving people unique experiences.”
Urban Arts Productions’ remount of Nevermore runs October 27-29 and November 3-5 at 8pm, with a midnight performance on October 29. All performances take place at the Maritime Museum of BC. Tickets are $20*.
*Students can go to the October 28 performance for $10 with valid ID. At the door, or enter the code ‘oct28’ online.
For more information and to buy tickets: urbanartsproductions.com