Jane Walters (centre), as dance instructor Mavis, leads her class in the Nanaimo Theatre Group production of Stepping Out. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Theatre Group stages ’80s British play ‘Stepping Out’

The shows runs at Bailey Studio from Feb. 21 to March 10

Theatre director Sheila Coultish and actress Jane Walters are revisiting a play they last brought to a Nanaimo stage in 1996.

Back then Coultish directed and Walters played the role of chorus-girl-turned-tap-dance-instructor Mavis in the 1984 comedy Stepping Out by British playwright Richard Harris for the Yellowpoint Drama Group.

The play follows the activities of an adult dance class in a local church hall over the course of two years.

“It’s a mixture of fun and personal stories that are sometimes quite moving…” Coultish said, adding that while it takes place in the ’80s, the play’s message is still relevant.

“It’s the idea that people … join things for a variety of reasons and hopefully come out at the end of the experience having had a good time either learning something or sharing or making new friends. Just being socially active, I think that’s the message. The other message is the face the people, all of us, present to the outside world are very often hiding things in our private lives.”

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 21, Coultish is back in the director’s chair and Walters returns as Mavis for Nanaimo Theatre Group production of Stepping Out, which runs until March 10 at the Bailey Studio.

Walters, the only returning cast member, said she views the play differently coming back to it after two decades.

“My perspective is very different. I was so much younger at the time and I now have a much more grown-up perspective on it. And my character in the play hasn’t had kids but I have had kids. I’m a lot different now than I was and I definitely do see all of the characters differently,” Walters said.

“I think I relate to more of the characters because a lot of the characters are more like me now, whereas I was quite young at the time, so I do see it I think much more deeply than I did the first time for sure.”

This will be Walters’s first play with speaking roles in 17 years due to the incompatibility she said theatre schedules have with raising a young family. Now that her children are older that is no longer a concern.

Walters said she decided to step back into her old role because she has a strong dance background and likes the energy of a large, ensemble production. But she adds that it is a challenge.

“It’s sort of a simple, sweet, relational comedy, but it’s actually quite a difficult piece of theatre to put on which I had forgotten because you forget the rehearsal process and you just remember the show,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … Nanaimo Theatre Group production of Stepping Out comes to the Bailey Studio Feb. 21 to 24, 28 and March 1 to 3, 7 to 10 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 25, March 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20, available at www.nanaimotheatregroup.ca or 250-758-7224.


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