Low-cost theatre camp gives Surrey students a ‘Fringe’ experience (with video)

Teens at summer-long session to bring ‘Growing Voices’ to festival stage

Green Room Theatre camp leaders Jason Vander-Hoek

SURREY — This summer, nine local high schoolers have been getting an education in all aspects of theatre at a church on 96th Avenue.

The student actors have spent 15 hours a week at a theatre camp staged by Green Room Theatre, in preparation of a show they’ll stage at Vancouver Fringe Festival in September.

The fee to attend the six-week camp is a remarkably low $100, thanks to fundraising efforts and donations of goods and services. Similar camps can cost up to $2,500.

“The whole idea is to give students who otherwise might not have a chance like this to get an in-depth education in theatre,” said Jason Vander-Hoek, who teaches in Surrey.

The volunteer-run initiative was put together by Vander-Hoek in partnership with Jacqui Janzen and Chris Nash (of BlackJacq Productions) and Phil Miguel and Becky MacDormand (Clockwork Theatre).

The camp runs for three hours an evening from Monday to Friday, beginning each time with a shared meal and exercises.

The students auditioned for the chance to be part of the intensive camp, held at the Salvation Army community church.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” said camp participant Helen Pahou, 17, a student at Queen Elizabeth Secondary.

“We’ve really bonded as a group and have learned so much about putting on a play like this.”

(Story continues below video of Green Room camp participants)

 

Other students in the camp attend Johnston Heights and Kwantlen Park secondary schools.

MacDormand directs “Growing Voices,” the script for which is still taking shape in the hands of the students. The 75-minute show, billed as “a turbulent, fun-filled look into the issues facing youth in 2015, as seen through their eyes,” will be staged seven times from Sept. 10 to 20 at the Havana Theatre on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

At the camp, volunteer teachers with expertise in various aspects of theatre production – improvisation, scriptwriting, set design, production and more – are lined up each week to instruct the student actors, who by summer’s end will get close to 90 hours of theatrical education.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Pahou, a singer who’s aiming to compose a song for the production.

To offset camp costs such as venue rental, set construction, costumes, meals and transportation, a fundraising campaign on the IndieGoGo website was launched earlier this summer.

“We hit our target of $5,000 – actually, it was $5,107, which is so great,” said Janzen. “People have been really supportive of what we were trying to do with this camp.”

In a full-circle “pay it forward” move, 50 per cent of money from ticket sales during the run of “Growing Voices” will be donated to a charity of the students’ choice: Project Limelight, a free theatre program for kids who live in the Downtown Eastside area.

“We hope to do all this again next year, yes,” said Vander-Hoek. “I think for everyone involved, it’s been such a great experience. Teaching these kids and watching them grow and learn has been a pretty special thing.”

Tickets are $14 each for the “Growing Voices” shows, via Tickets.vancouverfringe.com. For more details about the company and camp, visit Blackjacq.com/theatre/greenroom.

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