Project X's Theatre Under the Trees will return in full force this year, with actors hitting the Prince Charles Park stage on July 4 for nearly a month of nightly performances.
The two main shows this year include an all-ages presentation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and a musical adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood that caters to younger audiences.
An adults-only improv night is also set for July 22 at 9 p.m.
Theatre Under the Trees includes 18 days of performances featuring a cast of local actors and other talent.
Project X artistic producer Randi Edmundson said people keep returning to these stories for their high stakes, magic, adventure and fantasy.
Edmundson's role began in 2020, just as the pandemic set in, delaying that year's shows until now — though Theatre in the Park also ran in 2021 in a single show format.
This year's pair of shows will return to the stage set amongst the trees in Prince Charles Park. That stage, designed by local set designer and TRU instructor Leon Schwesinger, serves both plays in its design. That's something The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe director Catriona Leger said creates opportunities for actors.
"This is my favourite kind of set to direct on, because anything can happen. A staircase can become a mountain, a spot under the stairs can become a cave. It's a wonderfully flexible space and it's a playground for the actors," she said.
Those actors include Brendan Law and Brittney Martens, performing in Little Red Riding Hood, and Rem Murray, Jakob Kopytko, Jessica Buchanan and Morgan Benedict in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Kopytko, one of several cast members who studied theatre at Thompson Rivers University, said he's enjoyed the experience while playing multiple characters. He said he's also looking forward to doing some puppeteering in the show — a first for him.
"It's a great opportunity to just kind of grease the wheels and see what feels good, what's fun and what the kids might like," Kopytko said.
Jessica Buchanan, who developed her acting skills in Kamloops and honed her improv comedy skills at Second City Toronto, said it's important to treat the puppets as real, knowing her audience's imagination will see it that way.
"You look at them in the eyes, like it's an actual, living, breathing thing," she said.
Buchanan is also behind this year's improv night, which will include the actors on stage, some of Project X's technical crew and other staff.
"It's a true Project X event, with people just getting together, having fun and trying stuff," she said, noting many of those taking part will be first-time improv performers.
Shows run Monday to Saturday until July 23, with most performances at 7 p.m., but other special performances, including the Rivertown Players, take place earlier in the evening or throughout the day.
For tickets and a complete schedule, go online to projectxtheatre.ca. Tickets will also be available at the new box office in Prince Charles Park, 1145 Nicola St., from noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday, as well as an hour prior to each night's shows.