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‘Gin Game’ intoxicating fun

Posted on November 7, 2018 by Richard Amery

To paraphrase the opening of the ’80s TV show “The A Team,” “If you’re a dramatic group, dance troupe, musician or an artist and have no place to perform, rehearse or display your work, maybe you can hire — the Blank Space (located at Unit 3, 1416 2 Ave. S.).
The new artistic venue opened its doors Nov. 1 with live music and a scene from their first production of Hatrix Theatre’s upcoming presentation of “The Gin Game,” running Nov. 13-18 and Nov. 20-24.
The 1976 Donald L. Coburn-penned Pulitzer Prize-winning production, which won the 1978 Pulitzer for drama, stars two experienced actors, Vicki Gibson and Dave Ranson.
“It’s a two-hander, so it’s two people on stage for two acts,” described director Brian Quinn.
“I did it once before in 1981 or ’82. I wanted to do it again because it is a good play, a funny play and it’s even more relevant now to me as a baby boomer and a lot of people of the baby boomer age,” Quinn described.
“It’s about two people, Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey, who meet in a nursing home and talk about their lives before and at the nursing home. It’s a very funny play.
“ It’s very well written and witty, too,” he said, adding he had trouble casting actors for the parts.
“The first time I did it, I had to age my actors, who were in their late 20s and early 30s, with latex and makeup. We’ll have to age these actors a little,” he said, adding the play requires a lot from the actors, if only because of the number of lines to remember.
“In community theatre, they have to balance work and finding time to learn lines. I’ve had actors who read lines in the bathtub because that’s the only time they have to do it or else right before bed. They have to create the characters on top of that,” he said.
Both actors been involved in other Hatrix productions as Ranson was also in “Little Shop of Horrors” and several LMT shows. Gibson was in “12 Angry Jurors” and “Les Miserables.”
“It’s reflective of what happens as people age,” Quinn said, noting the two irascible seniors end up bonding over a game of gin rummy.
Quinn has been looking for a space like the Blank Space for several years, as, like many local groups, finding places to perform and rehearse can be a challenge, not to mention expensive.
“But it isn’t just a Hatrix space, it is for any group who want to use the space,” noted Quinn, who started really looking for a space after overcoming the the challenges of trying to stage Spamalot at the Yates in 2014 as they had to work around other organizations and schools who had priority at the Yates like Lethbridge Musical Theatre
Finding a space became all the more important as a long standing relationship with the Moose Hall deteriorated at the end of last year.
So Vittorio Oliverio and his investors group found the old Faith Electronics building.
“As soon as I saw it, I saw the potential of it,” Quinn said.
“The group isn’t charging us anything for the mortgage and utilities, but we’ll have to start paying in January, which makes these fundraising shows all the more important,” he said.
“We’re planning on applying for an operating grant in January,” he added.
After “The Gin Game” closes, Juanita Devos is staging a unique production of “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 5-18 and 12-15, which will showcase some of the other capabilities of the Blank Space including black lights.
“But it’s nowhere where we want it to be, we’d love to have the walls painted all black, and more importantly we need to install more toilets to get our permit from the city for a 100-person capacity room,” Quinn said, adding because the space is difficult to categorize, which has provided additional challenges, such as getting a change of occupancy permit from the city, as the old electronics store underwent a big transformation.
“We’re not a bar, we’re not a cafe, we’re not a theatre and we’re not a private club like Club Didi. We don’t fit in any category. We just wish someone from the city would come down and see what we’re doing here instead of just opening a binder and running down a checklist,” he continued.
“We’ve got a lot of support from the community,” he added, noting rental rates are very reasonable, at $25 for a four-hour time slot in one of the rooms available, $250 for a seven-hour evening booking utilizing the full space, $95 for weekdays until 5 p.m. utilizing the full space, $125 on the weekend during the day until 5 and $1,500 for seven days, 24 hours for the full space.
“Bands can use the space, though not big bands like the symphony, theatre groups, and you can use it for workshops and meetings.
“Even the lobby can be used for an art gallery,” he said.
Seating, lighting and the stage are all included. There is even a piano on site than can be used.
“Eventually we’d like to have a small cafe or coffee shop in the lobby, just so there will always be someone there during the day. Though it won’t be Java the Hut (his coffee shop). I’m not planning on expanding Java the Hut. So I don’t have an agenda,” he said.
Tickets for “The Gin Game” can be purchased at Java the Hut for $20 or online by Googling “The Gin Game Lethbridge” and clicking on the Eventbrite page though they are having a few technical difficulties.

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