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Youth Theatre Conservatory will be a stepping stone

Musical theatre, acting workshops aim to build stage performers of tomorrow

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Graham Abbey’s introduction to theatre was attending performances at his hometown festival. From observing to performing, the Stratford boy now commands the stages he once watched as a member of the Stratford Festival, including a role in this year’s production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.

"He got a chance to act as a young kid through the festival," said Zaib Shaikh, co-founder of the Whistler Theatre Project. "His opportunity to work at the Stratford Festival spurred his interest in theatre. He’s gone on to play title characters. The Stratford Festival is proud to call their local Graham Abbey one of their members. The community is proud. Our inspiration comes from that – that realization of a dream."

Whistler Theatre Project officials aim to leave a number of Graham Abbeys in their wake over the years to come with the introduction of the Youth Theatre Conservatory in Whistler.

The conservatory, aimed at youth 12 to 18 years old, includes two week-long intensive workshops in musical theatre and acting Aug. 7 to 18 at MY Millennium Place.

"One of the greatest focuses of the program is capacity building," said fellow co-founder Todd Talbot of building Whistler’s performing community. "The Youth Theatre Conservatory can be a stepping stone to an emerging artist’s development program."

Theatre professionals from the Midsummer Night’s Dream cast who will perform Aug. 4 to Sept. 3 at Ross Rebagliati Park will facilitate the two workshops.

Each class is capped at 14 students, affording students one-on-one time with their instructors. The workshops also include a guest speaker forum, enabling students to learn more about the challenges and triumphs of working in professional theatre. Both workshops will conclude with a community showcase staged on the festival mainstage at Ross Rebagliati Park.

The Musical Theatre Workshop Aug. 7 to 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will introduce the Sarah Brightman’s of tomorrow to Broadway hits. Students will train in singing, dancing and scene study. Students will produce a musical theatre revue for the festival mainstage.

The Acting Workshop Aug. 14 to 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will challenge aspiring Laurence Oliviers with a sophisticated program delving into the text and characterization of Midsummer Night’s Dream through improv and scene study. Scenes will be performed at the community showcase.

As the associate director for the Bluewater Summer Playhouse, Shaikh created the company’s first youth theatre program, XtraBlue, where he witnessed first hand the incredible effects of exposing children to professional theatre and professional actors.

"Rather than just a regular program, it gives kids exposure to professional theatre," Shaikh said. "Just to be around that type of world, gets kids inspired and excited."

The Musical Theatre Workshop is $375 and the Acting Workshop $325. Scholarships may be available based on registration numbers.

To register or for more information, call 604-935-8140 or visit www.whistlertheatreproject.com.

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