DebuTheatre, a program that helps young adults pursue theatre, has made its grand debut at Surrey Little Theatre in Cloverdale.
And what a debut it has been — two one-act plays, running until Saturday night, feature a cast and crew that are nearly all twenty-somethings. There are some outliers, of course, including one tech designer, still in high school, and actor Brent Flink, in his 50s, who offers a more mature perspective in his role as therapist Dr. Challs. But the heart of the program, matching young people with veteran mentors and giving them the chance to break a leg on stage, remains true.
The idea for the program started with a conversation in a green room, remembers Surrey Little Theatre artistic director Margaret Shearman. Actors were discussing opportunities for young people one evening, backstage at the theatre’s winter production of Garage Sale.
“There’s not a whole lot of venues for people to explore,” was the consensus, said Shearman. When young actors are able to find a role on stage, chances are it’s for the character of Snotty Little Kid or Surly Teenager.
But what if you could get a program together that gave young people the opportunity to direct, stage manage, act and make their debut in theatre? That’s where SLT’s new DebuTheatre comes in.
For Shearman, DebuTheatre’s purpose is a personal one, as her life was transformed by her early entry into the arts.
When she was a high school student, she “found out community theatre existed,” she remembered with a laugh. She auditioned for a White Rock production, and the rest is history. She has, over the years, acted, directed, stage managed, and lent a hand with costumes and props as well.
“I learned to speak my mind. I learned confidence, being on stage. It was life-changing for me,” she said.
“You don’t need to change to go to the theatre,” said Shearman. “They like you just how you are — they need you just how you are.”
Whether your talents lie in acting, stage managing, photography or painting, there’s a role for you to play, she said.
DebuTheatre gives young people a chance to find their role, all the while pairing key players with mentors who have years of theatre experience behind them.
For the inaugural run, Shearman decided to go with two one-act plays, as it gives the experience of a “full production, but on a smaller scale.”
The idea, she said, is to have the program return each summer season, with an alternating format. Next summer, a farce. The summer after, one acts.
This summer’s lineup features Legoland and For Never Not Always.
Legoland is the story of a high school-aged brother-and-sister duo who have just returned from a cross-continent journey to see the sister’s idol.
“The story is about the misadventures along the way, and the vision that is shattered,” Shearman said.
As playwright Jacob Richmond writes in his stage direction, the play moves like “a clock with a soul” — a note that hooked director Sargil Tongol.
Actors Ashley Chodat (Penny Lamb) and Christian Krushel (Ezra Lamb) play against each other wonderfully, and the frenetic energy they bring to their characters is what makes the one act so charming. They fill the Surrey Little Theatre stage with a loud, colourful performance, using a simple set and masterful prop work to tell a story that is filled with laughter, bewilderment and bittersweet hope.
For Never Not Always is writer Jennifer Peters’ directorial debut. The short, sweet performance features a love triangle, following what happens when a young man breaks up his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, and how he reconciles the love he feels.
Each of the characters quickly becomes a favourite — Spencer Shearman as a go-with-the-flow Ryan; Natalie Peters as Brenda, the bride-not-to-be; Forrest Wong makes complicated confessions as Michael; and Brent Flink weighs in as mediator (at least for some) as Dr. Challs.
The shows run until Saturday evening. Tickets for the July 18–20 performances are still available at surreylittletheatre.com or at the door for $15.