“We did it in three weeks”: Pop-up theatre production utilizes unique Kelowna performance venue

Thomas Fournier, a 22-year-old actor from Kelowna, first saw the musical The Last Five Years exactly five years ago.

He felt it was the perfect time to bring the challenging, two-person musical to the Okanagan.

“I immediately fell in love with it. I was going through a heartbreak at the time and it helped me through it, as I’m sure anyone who’s seen the show can relate,” Fournier said. “It’s a beautiful story. It’s sort of a musical theatre Romeo and Juliet and it’s got some great music.”

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Fournier needed a venue and that’s where Theatre Kelowna Society’s unusual space at the Rotary Centre for the Arts came into the picture.

“This is actually their set shop, where they build all of their fantastic sets and they’ve talked about using it as a performance space for a long time,” Fournier said. “So I wanted an intimate space and I approached them and said ‘we’ll be the guinea pigs’ and it turned out all right. We’ve got a good number of seats and it’s a very good intimate setting. We’ve been hearing nothing but good things.”

In keeping with the philosophy of pop-up productions, the show was created and polished in record time.

“We did it in three weeks, which I do not recommend,” Fournier joked.

All kidding aside, the play is already sold out, a complete surprise to the production team.

“Part of this was to encourage more people in Kelowna to do exactly what we’ve done. If you really want to do a show, do it,” Fournier encouraged. “You can do a pop-up show just like we did. We’re here for six nights only and that’s it. And if we can do it, anyone can.

The Last Five Years tells the story of a disconnected relationship. Although the musical has two actors, they’re rarely on stage together at the same time.

“Cathy is a struggling artist and her timeline goes backwards,” explained 19-year-old actor Megan Edwards, who plays Cathy. “So she starts at the end of her relationship and finishes at the beginning, whereas Thomas does the opposite.”

Edwards started acting in Kelowna during a school musical in Grade Seven.

“It was a very small part. I was a baker and I got one line,” Edwards remembered. “But the next year, I auditioned for Annie Junior and I got the part of Annie and that’s when it really stuck with me.”

The young artist had to adjust to performing in such a small venue.

“I didn’t think I would like it at first, because I’m not used to intimate settings for shows, but it’s really nice,” Edwards said. ”It’s great to see everyone’s faces and see how they’re reacting to things.”

Fournier also fell in love with acting at school, in Grade One.

“I love stepping into other people’s shoes and I’ve found storytelling, and especially theatre, has been the best way that humans have come up with to teach empathy to each other,” Fournier said. “So for acting, every time I take on a role, I feel like my empathy for other people grows because I learn a different perspective of the world.”

While The Last Five Years is sold out, its success will likely make it possible for other pop-up performances to be held at the Theatre Kelowna Society’s set shop in the future.

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