The summer of 1994 was rather mild, temperature wise. October rolled on the heels of a warm September, carrying something exciting and new with it. In October 1994, Theatre SKAM began to form in the minds of our original SKAM artists when Amiel Gladstone asked Matthew Payne if he was free to come to Victoria to be in a show in January.

The brainchild of four emerging theatre artists, Sarah Donald, Karen Turner, Amiel Gladstone, and Matthew Payne, Theatre SKAM was officially established on January 11th 1995. The first show was at the Grace Bistro in Chinatown. It was called Table for Two and written by David Ives & Norm Foster. Sarah Donald recalls, in Theatre SKAM’s upcoming book, that the restaurant only had a toaster oven to cook gourmet meals for a full audience and the show was lit with used tomato cans over lights.

Many things have changed since then, including our lighting design. In a recent interview, Matthew Payne remarked that throughout these years, “[t]he most special thing is that we’re still here. There are major successes that come: booking an international tour, winning awards, landing the exact cast you wanted, pulling off some ridiculously adroit administration that only a few people will ever know about. There are the lows: when provincial funding was slashed in 2008 under the former government, when an international tour fell apart, the, um, you know, five-letter C-word we’re in now. Through all of that, we have stayed the course towards building capacity and year-round operations to a point where the company has a steady stream of reliable work made by adventurous artists. With the pop-up theatre and the drama school, the opportunities just keep growing. After all the highs and lows, we’re part of a steady heartbeat of the arts in Victoria. That’s pretty special.”

Theatre SKAM’s contribution to the thrumming arts scene is guided by the central concept in our vision statement, drafted in 2009 by Allison Bottomley and Matthew Payne, and as Matthew explained, “that the work we do should always, in some way, involve community.” As we continue into this new year, with the 14th SKAMpede; our Pop-Up Docs project; and numerous other shows and exciting developments, this rings especially true. “As the company has grown, our outreach has increased to involve more people from more walks of life. When I look at SKAM, and the Victoria arts scene, I can see the tangible and visible changes that have occurred in our community and field over that time. The artistic output in this city is growing so much richer.”

Theatre SKAM is one part of an alive and growing theatre scene. Though navigating COVID-19 has been challenging, we are so grateful to continue to be a part of the theatre and arts community. We are looking forward to our Twenty-Eighth year and all the SKAMs still to come.