With 60 performers and about as many Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards among them, Sketch in Time 7 gathers some of the city's best acting, singing, and sketch-comedy talent together at one location: the Arts Club Theatre's Granville Island Stage, on Saturday night (September 26).
Producer David C. Jones promises the seventh annual installment of this ALS Society of B.C. fundraiser--billed as The Shiny Shiny Happy Fun Time Show--will be something completely different. "That's sort of been a goal of mine," he told the Straight by phone. "After the third one I was like, okay, we really have to top it because people will go, 'Well, didn't I see that show before?' So every year I rack my brain."
Past events have seen Double Exposure and 30 Helens announce their retirement, and 2003's edition brought the CBC comedy troupe Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show back to the stage after almost two decades. Since nobody was willing to enter or exit the pasture this year, Jones faced a challenge. He realized that successful local sketch troupes like the Helens and Gut Wrench weren't performing together anymore, mostly because it's a lot of work for very little pay.
So the actor and director took a closer look at the scene. "As I was trying to raise more and more money for the ALS Society," said Jones, who moved his Lou Gehrig's disease--stricken mother into his one-bedroom apartment and cared for her during the last six months of her life, "I was noticing newer sketch groups who, although really talented, weren't a box-office draw. So I could say someone's going to be there [at the show], but people would go, 'I have no idea who they are! I'm not going to pay $25 a ticket to go and see them!' The city is filled with funny people, so what if I just found these funny people [some] material?"
Jones launched a national sketch-writing contest, drawing 61 entries from across the country. A panel of 16 judges chose five finalists and passed the scripts on to several of Vancouver's premier theatre directors, who cast them with top box-office names. For example, Playhouse Theatre Company artistic director Glynis Leyshon is producing a sketch called "Tazza di Vita" with actors Jillian Fargey, Bob Frazer, William MacDonald, and Bill Dow, who "have something like 40 Jessies between them", according to Jones.
Those five sketches are featured in the first act; the audience will vote on which one is the funniest and best-realized. Act 2 spotlights more established sketch artists such as Full Figure Theatre Co. and Shawn Macdonald and Ellie Harvie. And making a special pre-opening appearance is the cast of Tomfoolery, the revue of Tom Lehrer songs that opens at the Firehall Arts Centre in late October. Bill Richardson hosts. (For the full lineup, see www.sketchintime.com/.)
Although the evening is for a good cause--the fight against "a disgusting, horrifying disease", in Jones's words--you won't get a lecture. Or at least not much of one. Remember, it's a shiny, shiny, happy fun-time show.
"I really try hard not to make it so much about the disease," Jones explained. "I make it more about the show. In fact, we only really mention the ALS Society in the middle of Act 2. We do bring them [the crowd] down a little bit, but then we bring them back up again."