Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Blue Bridge spans theatrical gap

New troupe links emerging talents with established professionals

Say the words "blue bridge" in this town, and most Victorians think "panhandlers" before "high culture."

And hey, who can blame us? (My last Blue Bridge encounter was with a homeless guy who urinated on my car, then politely apologized when he noticed me approaching. How Canadian can you get, eh?)

Anyway, the whole Blue Bridge image is about to get classed-up big time. On Tuesday a coterie of top theatre folk will stage a press conference at the McPherson Playhouse to announce the formation of the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre.

This professional troupe -- featuring Queer as Folk's Thea Gill, Janet Wright from Corner Gas and renowned stage designer Mary Kerr -- will open June 9 with As You Like It, followed by Death of a Salesman running July 7 to 26 and The Fantasticks running Aug. 4 to 23. Blue Bridge will operate out of the McPherson Playhouse, just as the old Bastion Theatre did.

It's an important development in Victoria's arts scene. Blue Bridge has been in the works for some time and is the talk of our town's artistic community. Leading the charge is Brian Richmond, former University of Victoria theatre chair and current UVic theatre prof. Richmond is both president and artistic director of Blue Bridge.

He's a great guy for the job. Not only an academic, Richmond has a national reputation as a director. He co-founded Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre, and served as artistic director for Montreal's Playwrights Workshop, Thunder Bay's Magnus Theatre and Toronto's legendary Theatre Passe Muraille.

Way back when, Victoria was home to two high-profile professional theatre companies. There was the Belfry Theatre, which today continues very successfully. And there was the Bastion Theatre, which fizzled in 1988, was revived as the New Bastion Theatre, then collapsed for good in 1995.

In some ways, Blue Bridge might fill the gap left by the Bastion. Like the Bastion, it will focus on classic theatre from around the world -- especially masterworks from the last century. The Belfry, on the other hand, specializes in new theatre with an emphasis on Canadian works.

There are differences between Blue Bridge and the Bastion, aside from the fact Blue Bridge is to be a summertime rep theatre. For instance, the new company will recruit young theatre artists hungry for experience to work with established professionals.

That's where the name comes from, says Blue Bridge board member Duncan Regehr, an artist and actor. "We're bridging that gap," he said, adding that the company hopes to attract young theatre folk from across Canada.

This approach will especially help Victoria theatre students, who'll benefit from a new UVic/Blue Bridge theatre-apprenticeship scholarship program.

Regehr is helping organize a fundraising art exhibition for Blue Bridge, running Nov. 28, 29 and 30. As well as his own art, works by Pat Martin Bates, Carole Sabiston and Herbert Siebner will be displayed at the Winchester Gallery.

He said Gill -- who has acted in several Belfry plays -- will be tapped to play Rosalind in As You Like It. There's also talk of having longtime Shaw Festival artistic director Christopher Newton on board to direct Blue Bridge productions. This would be a coup, as Newton is one of Canada's most esteemed directors. It's almost certain Richmond's Canadawide connections will lead to such high-profile alliances.

Others on board to collaborate with Blue Bridge are Victoria director Britt Small (known for Legoland and the Atomic Vaudeville shows) and Sarah Blackstone, UVic's dean of fine arts.

The Blue Bridge project sounds like a wonderful addition to our city.

And it's especially appropriate to have a new, tourist-friendly cultural happening in the summer, given the recent demise of Folkfest , the Latin Caribbean Festival and Centennial Square's Open Air Festival.

[email protected]