Arts & Culture

Gateway brings Halloween fun to community

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 11:03 PDT, Thu October 21, 2021

Last Updated: 12:17 PDT, Fri November 5, 2021

Gateway Theatre’s inaugural production of the season, Hallows’ Eve, is bringing a take-home kit to life at two community sites.

This weekend (Oct. 23 and 24), the Gulf of Georgia Cannery will host the stage, and next weekend (Oct. 30 and 31) it will be at Aberdeen Centre. The stage and characters are a recreation of a paper theatre kit that was available last year for patrons to work on at home.

“The Hallows’ Eve paper theatre kit was inspired by listening to parents who were suddenly at home with their kids, and their kids were home from school because of the pandemic,” explains Jasmine Chen, Gateway’s artistic and community producer. “We were hearing from a lot of people that they were concerned their kids were spending eight hours a day, sometimes more, on screens.”

The kit was intended to bring the Halloween spirit safely to people in their homes, thanks to a partnership between Gateway and Richmond artist Keely O’Brien. Kits were mailed as far away as the U.S.A. and U.K. 

“We were amazed at how far our little theatre could go,” says Chen. “This year we thought, how magical would it be if we could have a life-sized version?”

The process of creating the kit was an adventure, as it needed to be lightweight and portable. Chen is grateful for FASTSIGNS, the company that made the pieces. She says the set fits in one standard moving van, and its assembly is very simple.

“It’s great, (and) in a lot of ways it is similar to the paper theatre kit because that was a parameter that we needed for the paper theatre kit too—that anyone could cut out these pieces and fit it together,” says Chen. “We really tried to bring that spirit forward.”

The Gateway team reached out to both locations, wanting to set up in places that would be busy and populated with families. The cannery was a good fit because of its own Halloween event happening at the same time, as well as the knowledgeable staff. And at Aberdeen Centre, there are many community events including visual and seasonal displays, so the interactive set also fits in well at that location.

“The cannery is ticketed, so we have a rough idea of how many people we can expect within an hour or a few hours because we know what their capacity is like and how many people they’re letting in at a time,” says Chen. “Versus Aberdeen, it’s a mall, so it might be a very busy weekend or it might be quieter. Part of it is staying really open and adaptable to what each environment is like. When we’re at our own theatre, we know how our venue works but part of the fun is learning how other venues work.”

Chen is glad to be able to bring accessible and affordable offerings to the community, being in places where people already are so they don’t have to go out of their way to enjoy entertainment.

“There is kind of an assumption or a historical understanding that theatre isn’t accessible or can be intimidating for people who aren’t as familiar with (it) not feeling as comfortable because they don’t know what it is or what to expect,” says Chen. “We’re really trying to make theatre for everyone, that feels like it doesn’t mater if you’re five years old or 85 years old, there’s something you can enjoy and something your family can participate in.”

And as for the rest of the season, Chen says she’s just looking forward to seeing people back at Gateway productions.

“Whether we’re at our theatre or if we’re out in the community, it’s really that human connection, that emotional connection that we’re really looking forward to. We definitely had that last season—I’m really proud of what we were able to do last season in terms of connecting online and in other ways, we tried to find as many ways to keep in touch as possible.”

To learn more about Hallows’ Eve, visit gatewaytheatre.com/halloween.


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