Santee Smith performs in NeoIndigenA

Video: Nanaimo’s Port Theatre unveils upcoming Spotlight Series

NANAIMO - The Port Theatre's Spotlight Series features a diverse range of artists, starting with Fred Penner on Oct. 29.

Bringing diverse cultural and artistic works to Nanaimo audiences is at the heart of the Port Theatre’s Spotlight Series.

This year’s season features artists from coast to coast and is aimed at celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.

“It’s by embracing these artists, it’s one way we can break down barriers, break down prejudices and build tolerance and respect,” said Bruce Halliday, general manager of the Port Theatre. “The spotlight series truly is geographically, artistically and culturally diverse and consciously diverse around gender.”

Halliday said it’s important to bring artists that expose audience members to new aspects of Canadian culture and give people the opportunity to “really understand our cultural identity.”

Featured artists are chosen because they are culturally diverse and fit the Port Theatre’s venue. Some artists aren’t available for bookings for one to two years so the process can be long in getting these artists to perform in Nanaimo.

Halliday said rarely will spotlight viewers see a well-known rock performer in the series because there are promoters in Nanaimo who provide that service.

“A big part of the Spotlight Series is finding that unique surprise, that way to offer something different,” said Halliday. “And yet sometimes we bring artists that you all know and love … we have Fred Penner coming.”

This year’s Spotlight Series features 12 shows, the Classical Coffee Concert Series and a new offering, the Offstage Theatre Series.

The Classical Coffee Series has been running for five years and was hosted by Sarah Hagen. This year, the series is being hosted by Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann.

“They are every bit as engaging,” said Halliday.

The Classical Coffee Series is performed in the Port Theatre lobby. Halliday said because chamber music was usually performed in salons, the lobby was chosen to create a more intimate experience.

Hagen will be featured in a solo concert Feb. 21, performing Rachmaninoff’s Preludes Opus 32.

“This is amazing and intense, absolutely beautiful,” he said.

The Offstage Theatre Series features four plays: Lost and Left Behind, Brain, Village Ax and Kraft Singles.

“With the Offstage Theatre Series, it’s about celebrating the up-and-coming amazing artists that aren’t super well known yet, in a different kind of venue,” said Shelley Johnstone, marketing and community outreach coordinator for the Port Theatre.

The theatre series will be performed in the Port Theatre lobby.

Halliday said it will allow people to see the type of theatre that will be performed once the Port Theatre builds a studio theatre as part of its community performing arts centre project. Fundraising is still underway for the project.

“It’s interesting to use a space that wasn’t designed for it. It’s what theatres do. We are basically empty spaces that try to transform them for every performance into something unique,” he said.

The Port Theatre’s Spotlight Series features Fred Penner on Oct. 29; Montréal Guitare Trio Nov. 2; Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery Nov. 15-16; Buffy Sainte-Marie Nov. 20; Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Nutcracker Dec. 5-6.; International Guitar Night Jan. 22; Les 7 Doigts: Cuisine and Confessions Jan. 31 and Feb. 1; Santee Smith in NeoIndigenA and Cris Derksen Feb. 3; Sarah Hagen Solo Piano Feb. 21; Kiran Ahluwalia March 1; Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal: Minus One on April 5 and DakhaBrakha on April 19.

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