Tickets please – Jasmine Howes inside the front entrance of the newly re-opened Gabriola Theatre Centre. The first show will open on October 6 and 7 at 7pm, with workshops on Oct 8 and 9. Derek Kilbourn photo
The Gabriola Theatre Centre has been re-opened by Jasmine Howes, granddaughter of the late Antony Holland.
Holland opened the Centre in 1996, according to Howes. It was a staple of Gabriola’s live performance culture for years. Holland died in 2015. The Theatre Centre property was sold. Then in 2019, Jasmine and her husband Forman Howes were visiting Gabriola.
Jasmine explained they, “had had inherited some money from my father in law after he passed away. He was of the same generation and a friend of [Antony].”
The Howes came to Gabriola looking for a home to purchase, but weren’t able to find anything that fit what they wanted.
They went to Good Earth Farm to have lunch with Jasmine’s aunt Rosheen Holland. While lamenting that they couldn’t find what they were looking for, Rosheen told them to wait a minute, and called in Graham Bradley – who was in the process of taking over as owner of Good Earth, while living as a tenant at the Theatre Centre. Bradley knew the Theatre owners were seeking to sell. Jasmine explained, “when we came to view the space, we were told there were other buyers interested. I wrote a long letter, explaining how much I wanted to buy the space. In the end, we were able to get it. I think I was in shock. We took possession beginning of November 2019.”
Through that fall and winter, the Howes were still living in Vancouver, and had tenants living on the property.
They came over in March of 2020 over Spring Break to do some yard work.
And of course – as with the rest of the world – the Covid-19 pandemic brought everything to a standstill.
Jasmine says, “this thing was happening. I wanted to leave, I didn’t want to draw on the resources of Gabriola. We don’t live here, we should go.”
That being said, she explained that it was during the shutdown, “I realized my life should be on Gabriola.”
She moved to Gabriola in September 2021, living in a suite above the Theatre Centre.
In March 2022, the Howes decided to live on Gabriola full time, sell their home in Vancouver, and do renovations to the Theatre Centre.
Her background began as a Montessori preschool teacher. She was also in administration for a long time. In her final job, she opened a program in Vancouver which had never existed.
“So I have an understanding of preparing for launch.”
“I realize now – all those things I was doing in that job transfers right into this job. There were times [while getting the Centre ready], I realize my grandfather did these things. He opened schools. Started programs. He had a strong desire to see what was in each person.”
Antony was the first teacher for Studio 58, which is now a professional theatre training school at Langara College.
He passed away just before the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of Studio 58.
When the Studio 58 celebrations were happening, “I had this wonderful opportunity to meet people – there were people who said they were a pilot before and decided to be an actor, and Antony figured out how to pull out what was in them, and showed them how to shine.
“Antony did all these amazing things for people.
“There’s something about that legacy that’s so profound to me.”
Her memories of Holland go back to being a very young child.
“He brought me as a child to things. So I saw Romeo and Juliet when I was six. A Midsummers’ Night Dream.
“Anything he thought I’d like as a child, he’d take me to. For me, he was glamorous, there was something very special about him, I always felt so privileged he would include me in those things.”
This was followed up when Jasmine had her own children, and she would take them to Antony’s shows in Vancouver.
She was also able to experience being on stage.
“When I was nine, I was in the Scottish Play.
My grandfather was direting it. They cast me as Banquo’s son. I had three lines.
“After the first rehearsal, they switched me, but I got to be MacDuff’s son.
“I got to die every night on the stage. It was magical, being nine, turning ten, every night, being back stage. Antony spent a lot of time chatting with me.
“I did theatre as a child, and as a teenager for a bit.”
She also danced while growing up – with Jeni LeGon as her instructor.
“My mom made costumes, my grandfather would come to those shows. That was pretty special for me.”
The Grand Re-Opening for the Centre will be over Thanksgiving Weekend with a show on October 6 and 7 at 7pm.
Jasmine said she feels like opening with a dance performance is fitting.
“Having Daina want to do this, that ties the things that matter to me. Her performance is of such high calibre. My grandfather will be dancing for joy.
“My grandfather believed you had to train all aspects of the body. Fencing, Dance. I want that here, all aspects that you need. I really do want that here, I want to bring his past students here, I’ve reached out to a number of them who are interested. I want to produce some original work out of the space.”
Also in the works is a fall performance from the Gabriola Players, and other local groups.
The Theatre Centre is the only residential property listed in the land use bylaws allowing live theatre under Permitted Home Occupations Uses.
Jasmine says that – and the approved occupancy of 80 persons – makes it ideal for those small house-sized performances.
To get in touch with Jasmine, hit the Gabriola Theatre Centre page on Facebook, phone 778-866-5659 or email Jasmine@gabriolatheatrecentre.ca
The stage is set – Jasmine Howes, granddaughter of Antony Holland, has reopened the Gabriola Theatre Centre. Derek Kilbourn photo