‘I just love the thrill of it:’ Youth take centre stage in theatre program

Avari Coleman (left) and another member of the senior group perform a skit from Aladdin Jr. at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on August 23, 2019. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

Twelve-year-old Avari Coleman hopes to pursue broadway in New York one day.

But for now, she’s shining on the stage of Prince Albert’s E.A. Rawlinson Centre, learning how to sing, dance and act from local leaders.

Coleman was one of about 50 youth who attended the Broadway North Youth Company’s summer intensive this week.

The seven to 18-year-olds did a variety of exercises to learn more about theatre—they even went to the gymnastics centre to learn about tumbling and tricks such as handsprings and cartwheels.

“I just love being on stage and I just love the thrill of it. I love singing and I love dancing and I love acting, and I love it all together. And it’s really great being with all these people because every one’s so talented, especially the teachers,” said Coleman.

Sam Malenfant, on the other hand, doesn’t see himself pursuing broadway. He loves it as a hobby, and it teaches him more than just how to sing, dance and act.

“It helps in every single thing you can do in life, like confidence,” said the 13-year-old, who’s been coming to the camp for four years.

“It’s helped a lot. Especially in school when you’re doing presentations in front of the class. You can use the (techniques) to help the nerves.”

In terms of theatre, Malenfant said this year he’s learned about controlling his breath when he’s singing.

He also said the instructors have taught him how to emphasize certain letters, such as Ts and Ds, when he’s speaking on stage—that way, people in the back rows understand what he’s saying.

Roxanne Dicke, general manager of the Broadway North Youth Company, said the students also do improv games and audition workshops.

“Being creative allows them just to play. Sometimes we expect students and youth to not necessarily be playful anymore. We want them to be serious and start to be responsible, but being able to play makes you a more creative thinker,” she said.

Dicke taught the drama portion of the camp.

On Friday afternoon, she introduced the different groups as they performed for their parents.

As part of the showcase, the juniors did exercises like making different things in 10 seconds with their bodies, such as a garden or a plate of bacon and eggs. They also did what they call ‘family portraits,’ where the students pose as a family of dentists or cowboys, for example.

“A really important aspect of the program are these kids come from all the schools, so they get to see kids from across the city and the region, as opposed to just what they’re used to in their everyday education world,” said Dicke.

She added that, especially when the students are new to theatre, they can be a bit shy at first. By the end of the week, they open right up.

“I’ve seen an enormous growth in confidence, again, this week because they’re expressing (themselves). They find out maybe they’re really funny or maybe they’re a really creative voice or maybe choreo is something they didn’t realize they could do so well.”

Dicke said it’s been a lot of work with the adult company—the Broadway North Theatre Company—in the middle of their summer production shows of Mamma Mia.

Its opening night took place on August 15 with the last run on Saturday night.