One thing Paul Moniz de Sá wants you to know about school shows is that they’re not just kids doing theatre.
“I think we underestimate the talent and the passion that young actors have,” says the artistic director of theatre and music at Arts Umbrella. “They’re very good at what they do.”
The preprofessional program in the theatre and music department at Arts Umbrella consists of four different troupes—junior theatre, senior theatre, musical theatre, and laboratory theatre—and one theatre intensive program. Audiences have previously been invited to one weekend of a year’s worth of work, but this spring, the program’s festival will enjoy an extended run.
Moniz de Sá says the expansion of the theatre and music Expressions Festival is partly to share the school’s young actors with more people, but it’s also a great learning opportunity for the students. Two weeks in the theatre “will [show] students what it’s like to really take a show through an entire run,” says Moniz de Sá. “Many of them are going to become the next actors in the theatre community here and we want to expose them a bit more and give them that chance.”
Arts Umbrella’s Expressions Festival will also feature the season finale and recital of its dance programs, as well as exhibitions and a showcase of its visual, applied, and media arts programs.
Works being presented as part of the theatre and music festival include the musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone, performed by the musical theatre troupe; Dangers of a Total War, an original work looking at the stories of children evacuated from England to Canada during World War II, created and performed by the laboratory theatre troupe; and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, tackled by the senior theatre troupe, which Moniz de Sá directs.
Moniz de Sá believes Shakespeare is important for every actor’s process. Classic repertoire, as well as shows like Story Stew: A Fairy Tale Revue, which will be performed by the junior theatre troupe at the festival, was selected in part based on what would be appropriate for touring to schools. By the time these productions hit the stage at the Waterfront Theatre during the festival, the students will have rehearsed during their visits to elementary and high schools across the Lower Mainland.
Experience adds up. Moniz de Sá himself is a graduate of the program, and bumps into fellow alumni on set and stage around Vancouver. The city will see Arts Umbrella graduates Luisa Jojic and Kayla Deorksen at Bard on the Beach this summer, and other graduates in recent films, like Roan Curtis in Before I Fall and Anja Savcic in Extraterrestrial.
Arts Umbrella’s theatre and music department has long been a training ground for a future generation of theatre artists and, beginning this fall, will go one step further by launching the Theatre Conservatory. The conservatory will be an intensive eight-month, 30-hour-a-week program, and will be an option for students who are not ready to enter a professional theatre training program at college or university, but want to further invest in their skills.
The programs at Arts Umbrella continue to grow, and not just as training for the local theatre community, but, as Moniz de Sá stresses, as an extension of it.
Theatre and Music at Arts Umbrella presents the Expressions Festival from Thursday (May 12) to May 22 at the Waterfront Theatre.