Homegrown theatre company gets its "ski-bummery" on

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
January 12th, 2011

Here in the lifestyle bubble that is Rossland, one can often feel like they’re part of some sort of large scale reality show full of wacky characters. The Golden City sports a culture that is truly one of a kind. It has been said by many folks that Rossland is one of the last true ski towns with an active, non-artificial ski bum culture permeating its being, at least once the snow flies and the mountain bikes are put back in the shed. Heck, at times you may even find yourself looking around for the cameras it can be such a surreally unique place.


Local ski bums and creative types Tyler Bradley and Nadine Tremblay, along with the new Iron Mountain Theatre troupe formed in town over the past year, have taken a stab at grasping that “ski-bummery.” Many slow rides up the Motherlode chair later, what started as an inside joke among Bradley and friends has spawned what very well could become the next big international theatre hit. Ski Bum – The Musical, a born and bred Rossland creation, will be making its debut during Winter Carnival this year before heading out on the road and infecting towns throughout the Kootenays and beyond with their unique take on the culture we live in.


While there has already been interest from major ski magazines and towns are already lining up to host their travelling road show, the crunch is on to finish off this masterpiece before the curtain rises in a mere two weeks.


“Right now I’m trying to get it on its feet. Then I’ll worry about the exciting stuff afterwards,” explained a hurried Tremblay as she headed off to rehearsal. “We’re working like six days a week, eight hours a day.”


Fittingly enough, the creative frenzy around this project sparked while Bradley was procrastinating on other writing projects and spending countless hours and days on the mountain.


“Spending as much time on the hill as I was was eroding my writing time,” recalled Bradley. “While riding the chair, I started to make up some ridiculous songs. I’m not musical. I don’t speak music so putting the actual music together was beyond my realm of experience. Nadine started prodding me to put a proper story together. With Iron Mountain Theatre being formed they said you should take this idea of yours, which had been a joke up to that point, to start creating a plot from some of these silly songs. Writing the songs was really collaborative in that I had already come up with some dorky lyrics. Nadine really took those and put them to music.”


With traits pulled directly from every-day experiences in ski towns, viewers are sure to see people they know popping up among the eight characters played by the show’s cast of four. While the troupe has been careful not to give too much of the story away, the plot follows questing ski bum Jeff Snowden as he shows up at Big Snow Peak to win back the affection of his ex. Along the way he encounters a cultural anthropologist in town to study the ways of ski bum culture. Standing in the way of that reunion, however, is the harsh female ski patroller Sunny Summers, the best friend of the girl he’s after.


Just getting to the point of being able to pull together the full length two act musical was an exhaustive feat in itself. Over the past year the Iron Mountain Theater gang went from a loose idea to a new theatre group. During 2010 they formed a non-profit society and have written, scored, and performed two complete shows–White Star Lady and Ski Bum–the Musical. This Olympic-sized effort literally was spawned by the Olympics themselves after the group had put together an eight minute mini-musical tribute to mining.


“We had so much fun doing that, we thought, ‘let’s put together a full show, let’s become a not for profit so if it’s successful we’ll have some history’. So we applied for a grant through the CBT and we got a major project funding grant. We were accepted unanimously. People were really receptive to it because we are touring the East and West Kootenay, it’s original, and I’d already done some projects successfully through them,” explained Tremblay.


Grant in hand, they were off to the races. Bradley and Mark Pollard finished writing the script, Tremblay wrote the music, Jane Gaudet struck up the costumes, RJ Peters built the set and appropriately-named director Shane Snow from Vancouver was hired to piece it all together.


Throwing everything they’ve got behind the production, the company members have all either quit their jobs to go full time or dramatically cut back their working hours with rehearsals filling up 40 plus hours of their weeks.


For Tremblay, the experience has been several magnitudes greater and more challenging than Iron Mountain Theatre’s first production, White Star Lady. With two weeks left to go until the curtain goes up, however, she is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


“When I wrote White Star Lady I was injured and had broken my Achilles tendon and was not doing anything all day, so the music came really easy. Now trying to juggle three or four part time jobs and do music writing is really trying. The thing is that at least I have some practice and White Star Lady gave me some confidence. It’s more complicated with Ski Bum because there are four people involved. Now we have to write music for four people and work around everyone’s schedules, so logistically it’s more complicated. It’s tons of work but I think so far there have been some glimpses of how much fun it can be and I hope that that will continue to build.”


The show will debut in Rossland on Thursday January 27th at RSS with an adults only show. Saturday the 29th will bring an all ages second showing for the whole family. From there the company heads out on the road with hopes of touring ski towns around the continent. It doesn’t stop with the stage show however. Writer Tyler Bradley is already thinking about the next steps.


“My next big project is taking the stage version and adapting it for screen and then try to shop it around. Given the abomination that was Hot Tub Time Machine, John Cusack kind of owes us as a subculture a solid, so I’m going to try and submit it to him and his people because he’s also a producer. I can definitely see a trip down to LA in the next six months though to shop it around. Musicals are hot right now.”


Tickets to the show are $15 and are available at Pro Hardware until Thursday and then will be avaliable at Ross-Vegas.

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