Vancouver's Arts Club Theatre Company is preparing to celebrate its 50th season this fall, with shows and programs on all three of its stages until early spring of next year. 

The new season kicks off tonight with the first showing of the play Other Desert Cities by playwright Jon Robin Baitz, who has written for television shows such as The West Wing and Alias

The Arts Club began in 1964 on a single, small stage in a converted gospel hall at Seymour and Davie Streets. It was here the troupe put on its first show, Light Up the Sky.

The big break came a bit later, however, according to Bill Millerd, the company's artistic managing director. 

Millerd told CBC Radio's On The Coast the company's 1972 production of Jacques Brel (Is alive and well and living in Paris) featuring Leon Bibb was the catalyst for the Arts Club's longevity as a theatre group. 

He also said a key factor in making it to a 50th season is that the Arts Club owns and operates its own performance venues, and thus has more control over its future. 

Today the company has three stages and subscription rates are still high, says Millerd. 

Big names such as Michael Bublé, Jackson Davies and Michael J. Fox have all performed on the Arts Club stage. 

The Arts Club's 50th season includes:

  • The Canadian premiere of Other Desert Cities by television writer Jon Robin Baitz 

  • Venus in Fur, a Broadway hit in 2012

  • A perennial favourite, Mary Poppins

  • A revamp of It's Snowing on Saltspring by local writer and actor Nicola Cavendish

  • The world premiere of Helen Lawrence, by visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock, a noir drama set in Vancouver 1948

  • Also: Driving Miss Daisy, The Odd Couple and Monty Python's Spamalot