First stop Langley, next stop Broadway

Local theatre programs offer youth a variety of on-stage opportunities

Bright lights? Big stage? No, you don’t have to go all the way to the Big Apple to kick-start a theatre career – this summer, ample organizations are seeing that youth get their chance to sing, dance and act right here in Langley.

With different passions, aims, and even theatrical backgrounds – each local company is trying to do their part to keep live entertainment alive while equipping kids with tools they can use on and off the stage.

Celebrating their tenth year with a revival of their first production, Bard in the Valley wrapped up another season of Shakespeare with Midsummer Night’s Dream.

They will keep the stage warm however, with a one-week theatre camp this August taught by camp leader Lauren Trotzuk in Aldergrove. The chance to develop an original play is open to 10 – 15 year olds from August 12 to 16.

Bard producer Diane Gendron said the camp is not just an exciting time to perform, it is meant to help develop tools kids can use in their everyday life.

“Memorizing and rehearsing a play helps them [children] learn to focus, and performing a play in front of an audience is a positive excitement like no other, and helps them learn to handle the inevitable butterflies. Improv games give children the opportunity to express a range of emotions in a safe environment.”

Professional Live Arts for Youth – otherwise known as The P.L.A.Y. Society – is a non-profit group promoting the arts with the platform of accessibility.

Now in its fifth year, executive director Brad Tones says the program’s goal is provide a place for everybody to play and access the arts.

“This experience is equal to the experience of a professional theatre program where kids learn about lighting and sound and different opportunities,” Tones explained. “Classes would normally cost $10 – $13 an hour, but with the P.L.A.Y Society, they’re only $5 dollars an hour to make them more accessible.”

Surrey Little Theatre celebrated 60 years with a new program aimed at showing youth the community theatre ropes. DebuTheatre mentored two productions – Legoland and For Never Not Always – which were written, produced, and performed by young burgeoning B.C. talent.

Rita Price, a theatre director from Walnut Grove who has worked in the business for 25 years took on a mentorship role with DebuTheatre. Having directed productions with SLT, Langley Players Club, and even Metro Theatre in Vancouver, she said her desire to see new blood in the community led her to the volunteer position.

“It’s time to pass on the torch,” Price said. “Don’t be afraid. Get that thought of ‘I can’t do this’ out of your head. We are all still learning – I’m still learning after 25 years. Theatre is a lot of fun and all very positive.”

Additionally, Langley youth are invited to the Surrey Little Theatre to give the performing arts a try with Cue to Cue Youth Drama Camp, taught by actor and director Linda McRae.

“My approach is not to make movie stars but to build self esteem, confidence, self actualization, imagination, and team work skills,” McRae said. “I introduce all aspects of theatre to give a glimpse of what community theatre is like.”

The teen camp geared towards improvisational skills, will go from Aug 12 to 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After the summer months wrap up, Theatre in the Country – Langley’s newest dinner theatre company – will offer two new youth-based programs. The junior program will have 7-12 year olds staring in an adaptation of The Lion King while teens between 13-19 will star in Aladdin.

Artistic director Reg Parks said Disney productions will be a great way of getting young people comfortable with performing.

“Disney is known to our students,” Parks explained. “Giving them there first theatre experience with familiar material helps them not to be overwhelmed by ‘putting on a show’.”

The programs run Mondays and Wednesdays after school from September to April and are currently open for for enrollment at www.theatreinthecountry.com/tic-academy.

“Theatre prepares you for life in all kinds of ways: it gives you confidence to be in front of people, it allows you to explore emotions in a safe environment, it gives you a chance to wear another characters shoes for while, and see how they see the world which is a great eye-opener,” Parks added.

Evident by the ample opportunities open for stage-starved kids, the curtain won’t be closing on any local theatre companies any time soon.

All instructors and enthusiasts have commonly said there is interest – it’s just a matter of fostering the theatre bug so kids carrying it long into adulthood.

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