Masks, mayhem and medieval mischief 

The Vancouver Youth Theatre wants kids for local classes

What: Vancouver Youth Theatre at Whistler with Amy Clausen

Where: Our Lady of the Mountains Roman Catholic Church When: August 18 to 22

As a parent during school holidays, the old saying "children should be seen and not heard", just might bear some relevance as the long break draws to a close.

But thanks to some local moms, a professional puppeteer and Shakespearean actress, and the Vancouver Youth Theatre, there’s a plan in the works to take those lovable, restless terrors off your hands for a whole week in August with theatre sports and comedy-filled capers.

Two programs have been designed to keep kids aged 6 to 11 and 12 busy with the basics of acting.

The kids can expect less emphasis on remembering lines and more on improv in these specially developed workshops, aimed at letting the kids be loud, proud, imaginative and perhaps a little more appreciative of the arts.

The 6 to 11 age group will have "Around the World in Five Days" from 9 to 11 a.m. daily. They’ll explore ancient kingdoms, wild jungles, underwater worlds and colourful stories from other cultures, planets and times.

The 12 and over kids will take part in "Improv Shakespeare", from 1 to 4 p.m. daily with a funny and modern take on enjoying the classics.

Both classes will be run by local actor, teacher, professional puppeteer and youth worker, Amy Clausen. The ex-VYT actor recently spent three years directing the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival’s education program.

"So many kids are intimidated by Shakespeare and yet they inevitably have to encounter it at some point in their school life. It’s my goal in Whistler to show the kids how to have fun with the classics and relate them to modern times," said Clausen.

"They won’t do boring readings, chapter by chapter, but instead will be let loose with the main characters and timeless themes like love, adventure and honour. We’ll update the plays to a language they will understand and appreciate which I hope they can then take back to school with them."

Around the World in Five Days , will expose participants to different cultures and societies.

"It’ll be an anthropological romp through the ages, discussing themes like ancient Egyptian rituals, Greek mythology, puppeteering in Asia and contemporary Aboriginal storytelling. From making masks, to music, with spectacle and magic, the kids will come away with an understanding of how other people use their culture in celebration," said Clausen.

This specialised VYT programme was kickstarted by some local mothers whose daughters had taken classes in Vancouver. Dreading the drive every day, they decided to see if VYT would be interested in coming to Whistler to perform some tailor-made workshops.

It’s an unusual step to have local parents involved in a travelling workshop, but VYT general manager, Tamara Flick-Parker said Whistler was unlike other regions.

"From what the three moms we’ve worked with have told me, the kids needed something more focused on physical acting skills," she said. "We won’t expect the kids to memorize scripts, but we intend to make them more confident in performing and story telling. We feel in terms of Shakespeare especially, that modernizing it and bringing it to the teens’ level, that they will respect it more, rather than rehearsing something written by someone who in their eyes has been dead more than 200 years."

At the end of the week, the two programs will showcase their work in a final performance at Our Lady of the Mountain on Friday, August 22 at 6:30 p.m.

Cost for each of the VYT Whistler programmes is $145 before Aug. 11, and a $20 late registration fee will apply thereafter. Numbers are limited and spots are filling fast so call 604-877-0678 to secure a place now.


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