Writer/actor unveils an original play

As an artist, revealing your work to an audience can be just short of terrifying.

Members of Fraser Valley Stage rehearse for their upcoming show

Members of Fraser Valley Stage rehearse for their upcoming show

As an artist, revealing your work to an audience can be just short of terrifying.

Just ask Paulina Harskamp – a first-time scriptwriter who is having her original play, Stranded at Westcliffe, unveiled next week at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium by Fraser Valley Stage (FVS).

The long-time actor with FVS recently presented the work to her peers for consideration.

“They had to rip the script out of my hands,” she said, adding that she felt extremely vulnerable.

Following a supportive response, Harskamp is gearing up for the public’s reaction next week.

“It all starts on a warm spring evening,” she said of the 1910 English drama/comedy.

A three-day storm caused a large oak tree to fall on the church, leaving the Little Fotheringham-by-the-Moor Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society with nowhere to perform their show. In addition, the famous opera composer Sir William Schwenk Gilbert had been invited to speak.

The meeting is quickly reassigned to the local manor house of the Lord and Lady Westcliffe.

Sir William explains how he came to write his most famous piece – Pirates of Penzance. He continues to narrate the plots of several operas, which mirror the lives of numerous society members.

The storyline was devised by FVS president Tony Roper, and suggested to Harskamp.

She filled out the tale starting with the characters, which include a lawyer, a town solicitor, young lovers and a spinster.

“It’s very much an English drawing room drama and comedy,” said Harskamp.

Fifteen years of theatre experience helped Harskamp during the writing process, which lasted from May to September of last year.

While she had to research the costumes and history of Sir William, her love for Jane Austin books helped her round out the play.

As an actress, Harskamp wrote herself a part, but ended up awarding it to someone who gave a brilliant audition.

Opting out of the production was a good decision, she said, as it would have simply been too much work.

“This totally makes me appreciate the acting and the people who have been directing me for all these years.”

So far, it’s been an amazing experience to watch the play unfold on the stage.

“It was even more than I had anticipated, because the actors have taken the characters and made them their own,” said Harskamp. “It’s been a thrill to watch it evolve and take shape.”

She looks forward to watching the show from the audience, where she’ll be trying not to mouth the words.

Stranded at Westcliffe will run from Wednesday, May 11 to Saturday, May 14 at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium, 32315 South Fraser Way. Shows take place at 7:30 p.m. each evening with an additional matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are $18 for students and seniors and $22 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at Prospera Credit Union, West Oaks Branch; The Reach, 32388 Veteran’s Way and Kariton House, 2387 Ware St.

For more information, visit www.fraservalley stage.com or call 604-853-4164.