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Sailing theatre ship makes its last port call in Sooke

Caravan Stage Company performs here Aug. 17-21
The Caravan Stage Company brings its unique show to Sooke from Aug. 17 to 21. The shows are perfromed on ship decks and riggings while the audeince watches, sitting on the shore. (Contributed - Caravan AStage Company)

After decades of sailing around Canada, Europe and the United States, the floating Caravan Stage Company will come home to Sooke this summer for its final voyage.

Caravan performs its final season this year.

The theatrical troupe presents original works that engage current topics through poetry, music, aerial dance, puppetry, and video.

From Aug. 17 to 21, the 90-foot Amara Zee will dock in Sooke and present Virtual Rogues, a production focusing on digital future ethics and ethos, which a publicist calls the troupe’s “largest spectacle to date.”

The show depicts a world in which humans are ruled and populated by AI Dataist Automates, who have incorporated the methods of organic biology into their algorithms to preserve the few remaining species of Virtual Rogues in an organic regeneration cloud.

Beginning at 9 p.m., Sooke residents can enjoy the show from land at the government pier at the foot of Maple Avenue South each night. Tickets are unavailable before the show, but you can pay what you can afford at the door.

Amara Zee is a flat-bottomed vessel modelled on a Thames sailing barge that’s been jazzed up to look like a vintage pirate ship. The floating stage set is outfitted with high-tech lighting, sound and video.

Kirby and Adriana Kelder founded Caravan as a “one-wagon puppet show” in Sooke that travelled around southern Vancouver Island in 1970. In 1972 they moved to the B.C. mainland, slowly expanding into a seven-wagon troupe that travelled around the province, pulled by Clydesdale horses.

In 1978 Caravan bought a farm near Armstrong as a base, which now operates as the Caravan Farm Theatre. But Kirby and Kelder tired of the sedentary life and split to form the “nomadic” Caravan Stage Company, which travelled throughout the Western U.S. before settling for a month-long run at Expo 86 in Vancouver.

In 1987, the Caravan Stage Company moved to Wolfe Island, near Kingston, Ont. In 1993 Kirby came up with the idea of a ship that could stage more elaborate productions. The $2 million Amara Zee was launched four years later.

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Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
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