The Lakeshore Players – Memories and Magic
By: Sharman Yarnell – mtltimes.ca
In 1965, a new theatre group grew out of the latent talents of West Islanders. From actors to crew, set and costumes, the company was comprised, for the most part, of amateurs. Lawyers, teachers, businessmen, housewives, they all jumped at the chance to perform.
The Lakeshore Players has been producing three shows yearly since then, and has grown into one of our most respected community theatre companies. It has remained a non-profit company and is run entirely by volunteers. It is community to the core. “The company has an enthusiastic Board of Directors who is focused on growth as well as maintaining a welcoming, family environment for all who want to join in the fun.”
The first show was Sabrina Fair, performed at John 23rd High school in Dorval during the fall of 1965. The company moved the productions to John Rennie High in 2002 and have remained there, in the Louise Chalmers Theatre, ever since. John Abbot Theatre students were also involved at one point, creating the sets from 1995 to 2000.
People already ensconced in professions related to Theatre and other Arts, have also been a part of the ‘Players’. Montreal playwright/director, Roger Peace, CBC costume designer, Peter de Castell, Montreal chef and restaurant owner, Michael Minorgan, to name but a few, all gave of their expertise. Peace and Minorgan worked together on stage in Master of Two Servants in 1977. De Castell worked on the first production with Barbara Hilton, who is still part of the team.
Minorgan, who was with the company for about six years, doing some set design and publicity, as well as acting, also served on the board for a couple of those years. His first show was Bequest To The Nation in 1974. He was Commander Frencham in Not Now Darling, that was eventually taken to Port Royal Theatre in PDA. Minorgan remembers his time with the ‘Players’ fondly. “Wonderful memories with a great bunch of creative people. It kept me out of trouble for many years!”
Peace has remained in the business with his latest efforts being produced at the Segal Theatre. He directed Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Forever Plaid, wrote and directed the Mahalia Jackson Musical and Songs and Stories of Judy Garland. He was President of Lakeshore Players for three years. In 1983, he directed Hobson’s Choice (“A Fine Production” – Myron Galloway) and, of course, acted. (Beckett and I can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.)
Peace also has some wonderful memories with the group. “It was great – I learned a lot during my time with them – it was better than going to Theatre School. They gave some of the professional theatres in Montreal a run for their money!”I
Peter de Castell left a tremendous mark in Montreal’s theatre community, professional and amateur. Peace remembers him as “One of a kind! You could always be sure he would come up with great ideas and costumes, whether it was an amateur or professional show. He always spoke his mind and would tell an actor that losing weight would make the costume look better if he felt so! He loved Glitter and Glitz!”
Bill Fletcher has volunteered his time since the early 90s. Part of a barber-shop quartet, he was asked to take part in the 1991 production of The Matchmaker. Directed by Bob Vereneiks, the original seven act play was cut down for the modern audience. During the set changes, the quartet rose from the pit and sang songs – songs prior to 1900! (Not an easy task to find!) In 1995 Fletcher was called in to audition for a production of My Three Angels – after that did one show a year. And…he’s still there!
And there is a reason he is still there! “…when it all comes together there’s magic. And while you’re trying to hit the magic again and maybe ending up just short, you aren’t alone out there, there are people with experience to learn from and talented co-conspirators to play with. ‘Succeeding’ is wonderful, but ‘Trying’ is pretty good too and the Lakeshore Players provides the opportunity…doesn’t it enrich the community in so many ways, all those people who have come and played and gone? All the people who bought tickets and sometimes saw magic?”
The longest membership to date is Brian Shepherd who, from the early years, served on the board, acted, and is now a Lifetime Member for his commitment to the group. Shepherd, worked on that very first show and over the years was part of the backstage work as well. He is considered one of those who are the “backbone of the group”.
Total involvement and giving of oneself, is the crux, the heart and soul of any group – It exists in droves here. Commitment to bringing theatre to an audience for the love of the Art, is Community Theatre at its best.
That…is the Lakeshore Players!
This season has already seen Shakespeare in Hollywood played to good reviews. Boeing, Boeing, Boeing by Marc Camoletti is running now. Coming up in the fall is The Curious Savage by John Patrick.
Auditions for The Curious Savage, are on February 16 & 18 at Chalet St. Charles at 7pm.
For more information: http://lakeshoreplayersdorval.com
514-631-8718 (open only before and during productions)