The Creative Team
Bringing new work, established touring artists, and full home-spun productions to the Sunset stage
(Nee Planden) is a theatre professional of over 30 years. Juggling her passions between acting, producing, directing, designing, writing and being an arts administrator, Karen is also the proud owner of the historic Sunset Theatre in Wells BC which she purchased in 1999 on her credit card while still the Executive Director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival responsible for moving it to Granville Island. Besides producing a total of eight years of Fringe Festivals, Karen was also the General Manager of 25th Street Theatre in Saskatoon after graduation from Arts administration at Grand McEwan in Edmonton. She has also worked in theatres in Toronto, Stratford, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and even spent some time in Nashville, living in a tent pursuing a career as a country and western singer. Not afraid of new frontiers, Karen has worked for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and most recently the 2015 Canada Winter Games creating cultural programming for both and working with First Nations artists and Protocol. Karen now splits her time between the Sunset Theatre in Wells, and Lions Bay BC, where she calls home with her two younger children, and her husband Dave.
Resident Stage Manager
Director of Presentations
Julia Mackey was born in Birmingham, England, and grew up in Beaconsfield, Quebec, in the 1970s & 80s. Both her maternal and paternal families have had strong ties to the performing arts for many generations. Julia first began creating and writing theatre in the mid 1990s in Victoria, BC, with an exciting independent theatre company called Theatre SKAM. Since 1997, Julia has worked as a professional actor in theatres across Canada. In 2007, she and Dirk Van Stralen created Juno Productions. To date, they have toured their multi-award winning play, Jake’s Gift, to over 250 communities across Canada, including stops in the US, the UK and Normandy, France. When not on the road with Jake’s Gift, Julia lives in the historic town of Wells in the Cariboo District of BC. Earlier this year, she finished a run of ‘The Occupation of Heather Rose’ at Theatre North West in Prince George to acclaimed reviews. Jules joined the Sunset Theatre creative team as Director of Presentations, a position that was developed as part of the Sunset Theatre’s long-term strategic plan.
Dirk Van Stralen
Director of Productions
Dirk was in the original production of Cariboo Magi as the Reverend William Teller at Pacific Theatre. A four time Jessie Richardson Theatre Award Nominee for acting, Dirk is also an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator. His single panel cartoon, vanstralen, appeared in Vancouver’s The Georgia Straight for 17 years. He is the illustrator of two wordless kids books: Ben’s Big Dig and Ben’s Bunny Trouble. He directed 17 by Morag Northey, which premiered at the Sunset Theatre in 2017, having been developed through the Sunset Theatre’s Exploration Series. Dirk’s own art show, Failing Better, a retrospective of Dirk’s 30+ years of work as a visual artist, cartoonist, illustrator and graphic designer, had a lengthy exhibit at Island Mountain Arts Gallery in Wells, BC. He also directed Mamma’s Boy, by Mike Delamont (God Is A Scottish Drag Queen). Most recently, Dirk finished a successful run as director and designer of The Occupation of Heather Rose at Theatre Northwest. Dirk has joined the Sunset Theatre’s creative team as Director of Productions, a position that was developed as part of the Sunset Theatre’s long-term strategic plan.
The Sunset Theatre Society Board
Founding Chair & Board Member