The Williams Lake Studio Theatre’s 2019 festival play Cherry Docs returns to the stage for two encore performances July 2-3.
This production has received widespread praise and acclaim from audiences in both Williams Lake and at the regional zone festival, where it was chosen to go on to the Mainstage provincial competition in Port Alberni in July. To get back into the swing of the play and give lakecity audiences one last chance to see the production, the cast and crew are putting on two last encore performances next week.
The doors open at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. shows, with entry both nights by donation at the Williams Lake Studio Theatre.
Cherry Docs is an intense adult political courtroom drama written by David Gow that focuses on the interactions between defendant Mike Downey, a neo-nazi skinhead on trial for the drunken slaying of a South Asian man, and his Jewish lawyer Danny Dunkleman, a man coming to terms with his own darkness. Themes of racism, bigotry and the paths that lead people to these places are explored, alongside themes of forgiveness and redemption.
It’s a meaty production, which Shane Tollefson as Danny and Gabriel Zamorano as Mike have been more than keen to tackle. Both men have been working on the production since the beginning of the year and have built intense onstage chemistry that does the source material justice.
In Zamorano’s case, he’s been involved in Studio Theatre productions for over 10 months come July, having made his lakecity debut in Table Manners earlier this year. It’s been an intense ride and not exactly what he planned for, but an awesome journey he’s greatly enjoyed embarking on.
“The script is amazing, I think we’ve all found that it’s really gripping, meaningful and powerful,” Zamorano said.
At Festival this year, Zamorano won an award for best actor which he said was a great part of the experience. Overall, he felt the show has garnered a ton of positive response and feedback, including from the adjudicator at the event. Zamorano said the show has helped promote conversation about issues that have been around for thousands of years and still persist to this day.
Zamorano is looking forward to Mainstage this year and said their performance in Port Alberni will be the “pinnacle” of the show, as he feels all of their previous performances have been building towards this moment.
“We’re going to go out with a bang, I think, so it’s going to be pretty fun to do that as well,” Zamorano said. “It’s just a thrilling experience.”
Tollefson, meanwhile, has enjoyed working with Zamorano the most on this production and especially likes how they continue to find new things to tweak and add to each night’s production in preparation for Mainstage. He enjoys going to Festival for the adjudication part of the performance and the chance to make connections with theatre communities across B.C.
He encourages the whole community to come out and see the encore performances for a “hell of a show” while supporting local theatre. As for Mainstage in Port Alberni, Tollefson feels confident and is ready and raring to go.
Cherry Doc’s stage manager Stacey Poirier said she’s been incredibly lucky to take part in this production and help bring it to Mainstage, a task she thinks of as an honour. Poirier is a lifelong member of the Williams Lake Studio Theatre who has been involved in the community for the last 17 years.
As the stage manager, Poirier provides the backbone of the play by organizing actors, props and making sure everything goes smoothly on and off stage. The biggest challenge with Cherry Docs is making sure the stage is clean clear of sharp objects, as Zamorano spends much of it barefoot.
“You’re kind of the girl or guy Friday of the play,” Poirier remarked.
Moving a set to a new location, Poirier said, is always a challenge on every level from reworking the actors’ projection, disassembling and reassembling the entire set and reworking the lighting to name but a few. That being said, she said they’re incredibly lucky to have a supportive theatre community who steps up to help mitigate these concerns. Donations from the broader community especially have been a big part of their efforts to bring this to Mainstage by helping to pay for the truck, trailer and fuel required to move the set.
Fifteen Studio Theatre people will be heading to Port Alberni to support and help the production, Poirier said.
Those in Williams Lake haven’t seen the production yet should take the opportunity the encore performances provide, in Poirier’s opinion, and those who have should watch it again to look for the changes.