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L.A. Beat

Blank Space opens for local performers with A Gin Game as first show

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To paraphrase the opening of the’80s TV show the A Team “If you’re an 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).Vicki Gibson and Dave Ranson perform a  scene from the Gin Game at the Blank Space opening gala, Nov. 1. Photo by Richard Amery
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 The Gin Game, 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 bath tub 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.
 They have both 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 was in Les Miserables.
“It’s reflective of what happens as people age,” he noted, the two irascible seniors end up bonding over the 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 said.
After the Gin Game closes, JuanitaGabriel Thaine playing the opening  gala for Blank Space, Nov. 1. Photo by Richard Amery 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.Dancers perfomering at the Blank Space opening gala, Nov. 1. photo by Richard Amery
“But it‘s no where 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,” he 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 event brite page though they are having a few technical difficulties.

A version of this story  appears in the November 7, 2018 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times/Shopper
— By Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor

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