The cast of Concord Floral, presented by Theatre SKAM and slated to run for a month, July 31 to Aug. 28. Pamela Bethel Photography

JANIS LA COUVEE: Summer theatre options abound for youth

Young people can find stage experience in various places around Victoria

Janis La Couvee

Monday Magazine columnist

Arts training schools, summer camps and programs for children and youth abound in the Capital Region.

What about performance opportunities that go beyond an end-of-term showcase?

In the holiday season, young people perform in such traditional shows as A Christmas Carol at The Belfry, It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 42nd Street radio plays at Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, and Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People’s community production – this year, it’s Pippi Longstocking a family musical. Or there’s the fun pantomimes at St. Luke’s and Peninsula Players. Aside from those options, where do young thespians, many with years of training, perform?

This summer Theatre SKAM stages a bold experiment: Concord Floral by celebrated Toronto playwright Jordan Tannahill. It’s double cast with 20 youth in an outdoor location that remains a surprise.

Artistic director Matthew Payne first saw the show at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.

“To find a project that is written in today’s vernacular and was workshopped and developed by teenagers is amazing,” he says. “It’s pretty edgy – there is sexual language and one character takes off most of their clothes – it’s not a play for kids, but will appeal to teens, since it’s written in their language and represents their world.”

Concord Floral re-imagines Giovanni Boccaccio’s medieval allegory The Decameron in a contemporary Canadian suburb, in which 10 teens must flee a plague they have brought upon themselves. Running July 31-Aug. 28.

Since 1975, Four Seasons Musical Theatre has been offering the chance for young people to get involved, not only onstage but with technical aspects of productions, too.

Renowned opera singer Richard Margison and Fraggle Rock puppeteer Mike Peterson are Four Seasons alumni. Auditions for the November show, 43 Years in the Making, featuring snippets of numbers from past productions, take place this summer. New members are welcome, says president Kathy Middleton who adds “it’s fun to watch people develop their skills”.

Doug Crockett of the Victoria Operatic Society says the organization always “takes youth into consideration when we are picking our shows – is it a family-friendly show, and are there roles for young people?” The 2018-19 season includes Shrek. Often families get involved: young people because their parents have roles, or, vice-versa. The company encourages teens backstage, too.

At Langham Court Theatre production co-chair Pat Rundell will be directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee next winter (Jan. 16-Feb. 2, 2019) and is hoping to cast younger actors in some of the roles. Auditions will be held soon; contact the theatre for more information.

As the Victoria Theatre Guild and Dramatic School, Langham Court Theatre is committed to building and developing the arts community. The current wave of early career artists in Victoria features many actors and playwrights who first performed on Langham stages in their teens, with notable roles in The Crucible, That Face, Next to Normal, Pride and Prejudice and Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, among others.

Camps and workshops for children and teens are on offer this summer at Theatre SKAM, Langham Court Theatre, the Victoria Operatic Society, Four Seasons Musical Theatre and Kaleidoscope Theatre for Young People.

Don’t be surprised to find some of these students on local stages soon.

Janis LaCouvee

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