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Whistler children taking to stage

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While Whistler awaits the release of a strategic arts development plan, young members of our community are confirming the need for just such an expansion of the arts.

Under the umbrella of the Whistler Dance Society, June Taylor has been sharing her drama expertise with local children. Taylor organized drama workshops last month at MY Place and both she and MY Place officials say the response was significant from the 6-12 year old crowd. Taylor speculates it’s because there are no courses consistently offered in area elementary schools.

"I was offering ‘drama’ as opposed to acting classes," explains Taylor. "Each class would start off with some type of warm up and the children getting to get to know each other. We would do physical exercises, vocal exercises, tongue twisters. These are the type of things that you do to get kids relaxed."

The body of the class is actually decided by the students. Taylor offers several options, such as putting on a short play, poetry recitals, or even how to audition. Last month’s class chose a play around the theme of cats. Students – and parents – showed a great deal of enthusiasm and dedication to the workshops by rehearsing and creating costumes outside of class time.

"I searched high and low for an appropriate book, and I found one that was full of poems of classics for children. I told them to take it home and select a section which they could memorize or read aloud. And one girl was actually a tree," she laughs. "She lamented the fact of why all these cats were being worshipped."

Taylor comes by her experience in much the same way she teaches. As a shy teen, practical dramatic knowledge and a "just-do-it" attitude took Taylor almost immediately to the stages in her homeland of New Zealand, as well as Canada, where she spent nearly 10 years. As an adult, her theatrics extended to television, where she was the hostess of Auntie June, a children’s program picked up by American cable channels.

"I wanted to read to the children. Mom’s busy getting tea ready and the kids have just come home from school and there’s usually a young one who also needs attention in that rush," recalls Taylor.

And that knowledge has also been captured in print. Her book, The Drama Process, outlines all the theories and practices used in her workshops.

Taylor is offering a second drama program this month. It will be held over a three-week period, with a two hour class on each Saturday. For registration fees and more information contact MY Place at 604-935-8410.

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