‘Small but powerful’ Surrey theatre company entering 25th season

Surrey Youth Theatre’s production of A Little Princess took the stage in 2012. (Contributed photo)Surrey Youth Theatre’s production of A Little Princess took the stage in 2012. (Contributed photo)
Cat in the Hat cast performed in 2016 for the Surrey theatre’s rendition of the Dr. Suess classic. (Contributed photo)Cat in the Hat cast performed in 2016 for the Surrey theatre’s rendition of the Dr. Suess classic. (Contributed photo)
One of the very first productions from Surrey Youth Theatre was Alice in Wonderland in 1999. Susan Pendleton’s daughter is pictured centre-front in the tea cup. (Contributed photo)One of the very first productions from Surrey Youth Theatre was Alice in Wonderland in 1999. Susan Pendleton’s daughter is pictured centre-front in the tea cup. (Contributed photo)
Skin-suit costumes were necessary for Surrey Youth Theatre’s 2020 production of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, the book by Mo Willems. This was the last production Pendleton directed just days before the pandemic was declared. (Contributed photo)Skin-suit costumes were necessary for Surrey Youth Theatre’s 2020 production of Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, the book by Mo Willems. This was the last production Pendleton directed just days before the pandemic was declared. (Contributed photo)
A mood-setting backdrop set the stage for the theatre’s 2019 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Crown Jewel. (Contributed photo)A mood-setting backdrop set the stage for the theatre’s 2019 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Crown Jewel. (Contributed photo)

What began as a group performing small-scale productions in a church basement has transformed, with the successful completion of 24 seasons, into regularly staged shows for the “small but powerful” Surrey Youth Theatre Company, now entering its 25th year.

Over its 24 seasons, SYTCO has seen many actors come and go from the stage, but the passionate director has been a steady hand since she founded the production group in 1998.

Originally from New England, Susan Pendleton moved to South Surrey when her children were young.

They were also interested in taking on roles in theatre.

The closest avenues, however, were in Vancouver and Richmond, and so, Pendleton’s children and their friends would carpool together to get their fill of acting.

“I thought, ‘Well this is silly. I have a Master’s degree in educational theatre, why don’t I do something here?’” Pendleton recalled.

The decision changed the trajectory of live performances in South Surrey.

The ‘Company’ in Surrey Youth Theatre Company actually refers to the old English tradition of having a company of actors together before deciding on the production they will perform, which is the established route Pendleton chooses to take for most of her shows.

The first production consisted of roughly 15 people with homemade costumes for a 1998 production of The Hundred Acre Wood.

A large-scale production for SYTCO didn’t come until the year 2000, when Pendleton directed her production of Pippi Longstocking to a sold-out crowd at Ladner’s Genesis Theatre. The demand for tickets was so high, that shows were added to the run.

Planning for the production took Pendleton all the way to Sweden.

“I found out that there is indeed a script for Pippi Longstocking, but it took all this research to Scandinavia to find that out,” Pendleton said.

“So we premiered the musical version of Pippi Longstocking in North America and I got permission from Astrid Lindgren’s (author of the Pippi Longstocking books) estate.”

Although the classics are irresistible, the director said, she also wanted to introduce more obscure productions to the Surrey community, which SYTCO did in 2001, with a production of Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, another Lindgren original.

A more recent production – Mo Willems’ book Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed – was staged in the final days before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, before the theatre company was forced to go virtual.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, SYTCO will celebrate its entrance into the company’s 25th year – and a return to in-person productions – with a special alumni-packed, one-act play, which will include dinner and a slideshow of productions through the years.

To make looking back on old times even more special, Pendleton is still trying to get in contact with the earliest members of the theatre group.

The ones Pendleton with whom has re-connected have taken many different paths since acting under her direction, including becoming doctors and teachers, while others stuck with acting all these years.

Tickets for the entire event are sold out, but tickets to the alumni-packed play are still available through SYTCO’s website.

For other inquiries, email Pendleton at sytco20@gmail.com

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