Women In Business

Sharon Stearns, Artistic Producer of Wishbone Theatre Productions

Marie Birkbeck
Sharon Stearns on right with Monica Zeiper.
Sharon Stearns on right with Monica Zeiper.
Marie Birkbeck photo

Sharon Stearns is an actor, writer and playwright, having been a professional theatre artist since she was 19. When she first moved to the Robson Valley she found that she was not living here much as she was on the road a lot touring and working with other theatre companies across Canada. She goes on to say that so often is the case that life changes and you find yourself in a place you are not really sure you want to be, but you roll with it; the longer she lived in the Robson Valley, the more she realized that this is where she wanted to be.

Stearns established Wishbone Theatre, a non-profit organization based in the Robson Valley in 2001. The Theatre has played to various small communities across British Columbia but since 2008 Stearns has mostly focused on the Robson Valley, putting together The Robson Valley Theatre Collective, a group of about five creators that brainstorm and come up with a wide range of ideas, almost always incorporating some aspect of historical significance or touching on an issue that it is relevant to the communities. The writer and the playwright in Sharon allows her to imagine characters in her mind about how they all fit into the story; as she writes, she has people in mind that will fill a specific role and what she can write for them that will challenge them to learn and grow.     

Although Wishbone Theatre does have a central group of actors since the 2012 production of “Valemountia”, there has been a lot of interest from people wanting to get involved in the Wishbone Theatre. Ranging in age from eight to mid-60 with a broad variety of interests, there is no shortage of talent in the Robson Valley.

Through funding from BC Arts Council, Stearns is excited to have the opportunity to mentor and share her vast knowledge with Miwa Hiroe over the next few months through all aspects of putting together a production; from writing grants to writing shows that will mean something to the Valley to acting, directing, and stage management. 

One of the major hurdles Stearns has to deal with is the fact that community theatre is different than professional theatre and she cannot pay a living wage to her cast. She does however try to pay each of them an honorarium from the box office revenue. She also admits that community theatre by its very nature is difficult because everyone, including herself, works at least one job, so scheduling fourteen people from three communities is quite a challenge. She emphasizes that people need to learn that becoming involved in a community theatre production is a team sport and requires commitment to build a sense of ensemble spirit.

Stearns is very grateful to the local Community Forests and CBT for their ongoing financial support, the local support through in-kind donations, all of which helps immensely when she applies to outside sources.  

Her five-year succession plan for Wishbone Theatre is to grow and establish it as an arts presence in the Valley and create a permanent home base in the Dunster Fine Arts School, and with funding, eventually acquire their own lights, sound system, and portable staging. 

Congratulations Sharon on bringing Wishbone Theatre to the Robson Valley and wishing you continued success as you reach for your dream.