Horst Jassmann remembers pretty much every show that has come through Lake Country’s Creekside Theatre.
When he started managing the theatre 16 years ago—moving to Lake Country from the Lower Mainland—only about 45 people showed up to the first event.
That was Canadian singer-songwriter Laurie Thain of Tommy Hunter Show fame. Then Robert Service brought in abut 90 folks before noted country singer Gary Fjellgaard packed in 150 people.
But that was just a precursor to the next show when Canadian boogie-woogie pianist, vocalist and composer Michael Kaeshammer came to Creekside. And the place was sold out.
“That was our first sellout and the support has never stopped,” said Jassmann, who’s contract to manage the Creekside Theatre will run out at the end of the year and he will be replaced by Lake Country’s new cultural development officer, a position the district is currently taking applications for.
“A lot of the shows we got were sold out or close to sold out,” he said. “We were lucky. In the beginning there wasn’t much going on. In Kelowna the Rotary Centre hadn’t been built and and the Vernon Performance Arts hadn’t been built. They came on in 2002 and it kind of knocked the wind out of our sales. But we slowly rebounded.”
Now 67 and “of a retireable age,” Jassmann says he has come to terms with the fact the Creekside Theatre will no longer be the top priority in his working life. Jassmann has been the theatre’s only manager in its lifetime. As he calls it, he has been the “head of a department of one,” logging countless hours at the theatre, booking acts, working the lights, selling tickets, replacing seats. You name it; Jassmann did it.
When he was hired, Jassmann had been working in Langley trying to get a theatre built in that community. Then he heard of the Creekside Theatre, a quaint 258 seat theatre attached to a school in a place called Lake Country.
“I was really impressed when I came up here,” he said. “I had worked at Expo 86 and at the PNE and had written three musicals and I was working in Langley trying to get a theatre built for 10 years. When I saw the (Creekside) Theatre they put with the school and found out there was only 12,000 people in the community, I thought ‘these people have a vision for the future.’ I really thought for the theater and cultural support, this community was ahead of other communities.”
The Creekside Theatre was built as an extension on George Elliot Secondary in the late 1990s and opened in November of ’99. There is a shared use agreement between Lake Country and the school district to operate the theatre inside the school. Prior to the opening of Creekside, community members had put on plays at the Winfield Memorial Hall before a movement began to push for a theatre. When it opened Jassmann was hired as the first manager and Lake Country’s recreation and community services supervisor says while there was some wrinkles over the years, it’s been a great ride for the theatre under Jassmann.
“I would say we’ve been really fortunate to have him and his vision for getting it off the ground,” said Sheila Gunn. “Having someone come in with the knowledge and energy and get it off the ground really made a difference. Was there growing pains? Yes. Having a shared use facility everyone has to communicate. But it has worked very well and I think we were fortunate to have Horst doing it for so long.”
Lake Country’s new cultural development officer will be in charge of the Creekside Theatre as well as the Lake Country Open Air Performance schedule as well as other culture and heritage community events. It’s a change in the way things have always been done in at Creekside and Jassmann won’t be running his department of one. But the theatre and Lake Country will always be in his heart.
“What you have in Lake Country is a lot of people who are involved in the arts and very dedicated to it,” he said. “You think of ArtWalk and the people running the art gallery. These things came out of nothing. It takes determination and dedication. Lake Country has a tight and well organized group of theatre attendees. I always said if you can give a person a positive experience in the theatre you will get them back.”
So as the schedule of events at Creekside runs its course over the rest of 2015, it would be worth your while to take in one of the last shows under Jassmann. He will likely go quietly and may not get a curtain call, but he deserves it. And when he does exit stage left, it will be with pride in building a community theatre from the ground up. Take a bow sir. Well done.