Theatre History by Val Patenaude

I am pleased to welcome "Guest Blogger", Val Patenaude to the Pig Pen. She sent me a couple of great articles about the history of theatre in Maple Ridge. I'll post the other one separately. It's written by Claus Andrup. I'll try to get some photos up here also.

Theatre History  

By 1916, theatre had arrived in Maple Ridge.  Its earliest forms were simple sketches, skits, or short plays called “Dialogues”.  A few people with little or nothing in the way of props or sets could perform these in a small space – even in a home –.  The first full costumed play on a stage appears to have been the performance at the Sampo Hall in Webster’s Corners of “The Karkurit” or “The Fugitives” which took place in January of 1916.  This popular Finnish legend was performed by some of the early Finn arrivals in that community including members of the Skytte, Toikka, and Katainen families. 

Maplr Ridge Glee Club 1928: The Maple Ridge Glee Club on the stage of the Hammond Hall, ready to perform “The Geisha” in February of 1928. 

Maplr Ridge Glee Club 1928: The Maple Ridge Glee Club on the stage of the Hammond Hall, ready to perform “The Geisha” in February of 1928.

By the 1920’s, an increased population and the existence of some sort of hall with a stage in each historic neighbourhood inspired the development of theatre and musical performance groups.  The Maple Ridge Glee Club, the Trinity Dramatic Society, and church youth groups like the St. Andrew’s Youth Group, were all performing in venues around town.  A “glee” was a vocal composition for three or more parts sung ‘a capella’ or without instruments.  However, Glee Clubs did not restrict themselves to this form and also did other types of musical performance, orations, dialogues, and plays small and large.

In the photo of the Maple Ridge Glee Club performance of “The Geisha”, the size of the cast, their detailed costume and makeup, and the stage dressing show that this was no thrown together affair.  Other plays performed included “The Mikado”, "Ain't It the Truth", "Lady Be Good", and "Gilded Youth".

An unusual form of entertainment at the Sampo Hall was a “mock wedding” where the community would be teased with tid-bits about these mysterious upcoming nuptials, ending with a farcical performance on the stage at the hall as the two – inevitably two men – were joined in mock matrimony.  The Finnish Youth Group also performed plays in Finnish.  These were usually based on Finnish legends and taught history while they entertained.

In later years, groups like the “Merry Makers” took up where the Glee clubs left off.  Formed in the early 1950’s, the club performed vaudeville routines and comedy sketches as well as song and dance routines, mostly for charitable fund-raising events.  Former Mayor Belle Morse was a leading light in that group and drew current mayor, her daughter Kathy, into performing when she was only seven years old.

Another interesting form of local theatre was the Puppet Theatre of the University Women’s Club.  Performing plays often written by club member and high school teacher Louise Poole, the group entertained children and adults alike in local schools and libraries.

Probably the worst time for theatre in Maple Ridge was when the Maple Ridge Players lost their performance and practice space in the old church on 228th Street.  Prior to that, the active and professional theatre group had performed in their own space as well as at the Fair and other venues for many years, winning awards at the provincial level.  After struggling for a few years with a critical lack of storage and practice space, the group folded. 

It is interesting to note that our new theatre – the ACT – is about to open just a stones throw away from the location of the old Aggie Hall where so much theatre was performed, followed by the sound of happy, dancing feet.

Associated photo: P01014

The Maple Ridge Glee Club on the stage of the Hammond Hall, ready to perform “The Geisha” in February of 1928.

 

Submitted by Val Patenaude, April 17, 2003