Arts cuts prompt playwright to pen play

Mireille Urumuri is Athena, a character in a play-within-a-play, in the new comedy ‘Little Little Little Theatre,’ which opens tonight.  -
Mireille Urumuri is Athena, a character in a play-within-a-play, in the new comedy ‘Little Little Little Theatre,’ which opens tonight.
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Blows from a B.C. government axe proved fatal for some arts groups including the decades-old Richmond Concert Association, which presented its final concert one year ago.

Arts advocates say even with recent government moves to restore partial funding, cash per capita for the arts in B.C. is well below the national average.

And when 90 per cent of a small arts company budget is slashed, there’s little left to work with. Playwright William Maranda couldn’t help but see the humour in it.

“You couldn’t ask for a more topical issue for the arts,” said Maranda, 70.

The longtime Richmond resident’s latest work is Little Little Little Theatre, opening today at Studio 16 in Vancouver. Maranda penned the comedy in response to the recent cuts and teamed with director Mackenzie Gray to stage the play that speaks to their impact on Metro Vancouver’s local theatre scene.

The show follows the brains behind a small Vancouver theatre company that faces extinction when its annual grant is cut to a measly $30. An obsessed playwright fights for his script’s survival, an out-of-work actor wants to eat and a landlord is demanding rent.

Maranda, a longtime arts advocate and founding chairman of Gateway Theatre, wanted to explore the “very tight” world of little theatre, which faces a host of constraints. Such small organizations usually have two employees—a general manager and artistic director—an office, and some history of doing stage shows.

His play is fiction, but real is the initial budget shock for small companies, which may have unsuccessfully sought corporate support to save them.

“None of them can make it on their own. The box is not big enough,” said Maranda. “They really require (ongoing) funding.”

Maranda originally wrote the script for his second annual 48 Hour Theatre contest last fall. Volunteer up-and-coming actors were divided into four groups to memorize, prepare and stage one act each of the four act play.

Little Little Little Theatre was performed with each act starring different actors from the last. After an audience vote and a private audition, six were cast to perform in the play’s official debut this week.

Maranda said despite the arts cuts, there’s no dampening these actors real-life enthusiasm.

“So many people in the industry, they call them wafters, because they’re waitresses/actors. That’s what they’re doing just to make ends meet. Their dream is to act on stage, and they really sacrifice a lot. They really depend on these little theatre companies, otherwise they just don’t get employment.”

The play’s venue has been set up alley-theatre style—seating on both sides of the stage—so audiences will get to see the foibles of a small theatre company while attempts are made to produce a play with a budget-friendly script.

Little Little Little Theatre by William Maranda

•April 21 to 30 at Studio 16 (1545 West 7th Ave., Vancouver); April 25 proceeds go to Alliance for Arts and Culture

•Tickets, $10 to $20, at brownpapertickets.com or at the door (cash only)

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