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Troupe plots classic lineup

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre unveils ambitious plans for inaugural season

The new Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre is a million-dollar baby.

While the inaugural 2009 summer season requires a $750,000 budget, "this is ultimately a million-dollar idea," artistic director Brian Richmond said yesterday.

At a press conference at the McPherson Playhouse, Richmond, actor Thea Gill, actor/ director Janet Wright and other supporters formally announced the formation of the Blue Bridge theatre company at the McPherson Playhouse.

Next summer the company will stage As You Like It, Death of a Salesman and The Fantasticks at the Playhouse, running consecutively in June, July and August.

Blue Bridge's mandate is to stage masterworks from classical and modern European and North American theatre. This is an "underrepresented theatre niche" in this city, Richmond said.

In an interview, he said the non-profit company has already raised $200,000 for its first season. "And that's before we've sold a single ticket. So we're doing pretty good," he said.

A fundraising art exhibition for Blue Bridge takes place at Winchester Galleries Nov. 27 to 29.

Wright and Richmond (formerly married to Wright) jointly founded Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre in 1974. They said Blue Bridge is already further ahead at this stage in terms of community support and funding. Richmond is in discussions with the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society about the possibility of getting reduced rent for the civic-owned McPherson Playhouse.

Part of the new company's aim is to help revitalize the downtown core during the summer tourist season.

Meanwhile, the University of Victoria has established a new professional theatre apprentice scholarship program in conjunction with Blue Bridge and the McPherson society.

The program will allow young theatre artists to gain experience working with Blue Bridge professionals. Grants between $1,000 and $4,500 will be available for UVic students.

Emerging artists from across Canada will be invited to work with professional theatre folk, as is done in the British repertory theatre system.

Wright said this is a valuable opportunity because it's difficult for newcomers to break into Canada's insular theatre community.

The upcoming Blue Bridge season offers 30 jobs in acting, directing, design, administration and other areas.

Wright, known for playing Emma Leroy on television's Corner Gas, will either direct or act in a show next summer. And Richmond's wife Gill will play Rosalind in As You Like It.

"I'm really excited about it," said Gill, who played Lindsay Peterson on Queer as Folk. "I've never really had an opportunity to play too many classical roles."

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