BACKSTAGE: Never a Dull Moment

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Public Relations Liaison Michael D. Reid reflects on the success of the College’s recent Club 20 “friend-raiser”.

 

The fact there’s never a dull moment at the Canadian College of Performing Arts isn’t breaking news. Indeed, ‘never a dull moment’ has become such a way of life here it could qualify as a potential slogan.

This was particularly obvious at 1701 Elgin Rd. this month, with preparations for events such as the Roaring Twenties-themed fundraiser Club 20; Company C Studio Ensemble’s production of Twelve Angry Jurors; the debut of Relaxed Performances and the Spend the Day at CCPA recruitment open house.

The massive team effort and generous support from sponsors and community partners that made Club 20 possible paid off with a dazzling trip down memory lane at the Union Club on Oct. 12, an unforgettable affair that many attendees are still talking about.

More than 150 guests sipped bubbly, noshed on period-inspired food, gambled with funny money at a makeshift casino, enjoyed retro music by CCPA alumni and Crosstown Stomp Club, as well as the spectacle of students clad in 1920s attire doing the Charleston before guests took to the dance floor themselves.

Managing Artistic Director Caleb Marshall dancing with Chair of Voice Sara Partridge.

While period attire wasn’t mandatory, dozens of supporters took advantage of the opportunity to dress up, or wear era-specific accoutrements – including headpieces and boutonnieres handmade by event organizer Jackie Adamthwaite – before having their looks immortalized at a vintage photo booth.

Club 20 was a College friend-raiser, with many guests singing the praises of this unique national performing arts training institution throughout the evening.

Honorary board member Mel Cooper, attending with his wife Carmela and five other couples, including good friend Cedric Steele, said the event received a solid thumbs-up from those in his orbit that night.

“Club 20 was described to me as one of the best local community evenings they’ve ever had,” he said.

A longtime fan and patron of the performing arts who has supported CCPA since its inception, Cooper said his enthusiasm for the College was driven by more than the students’ exuberance and talent.

“It teaches them and they learn, but it’s also a job-finder for them,” he said. “Over 80 per cent of the students who graduate have a job within a year, and I think the College should be proud that they do such a good job preparing them for their careers.”

Jacques Lemay, who teaches Career Management and Stage Combat here, attended with his wife Janis Dunning , with whom he co-founded the College 20 years ago. And he found himself waxing nostalgic.

Lemay, who also teaches movement at the University of Victoria, even missed a rehearsal for The Drowsy Chaperone, which he’s directing and choreographing for UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, to attend.

He said it was fortuitous that The Drowsy Chaperone has given him the chance to reunite with Alison Roberts, the CCPA alumna who starred in director Roger Carr’s 2012 production fo Langham Court Theatre that he choreographed.

“She signed up for the College the year we ‘retired’ so she missed us,” recalled the former co-founding director.
“Alison was disappointed that she wasn’t going to be able to study with us. The following year is when I did [Langham Court’s] Chaperone and she was our Janet.”

When UVic invited Lemay to direct and choreograph its own production that opens Nov. 8, he said he knew Roberts would be entering her first year of studies at UVic and encouraged her to audition.

Lemay and Dunning said they felt attending Club 20 would be a fun way to support the College.

“It’s a great way to get out the name of the College and encourage new people to come and see the show and contribute in other ways,” said Dunning, who described her contingent as “the Dirty Dozen.”

Said Dunning: “The Dirty Dozen is a cheat, though, because there are actually 20 of us. It just kept growing. We’ve got everyone from diplomats to theatre people and board members and others.”

Their group included Canadian diplomat Bill Johnson and his wife Jan Marshall; Dave Citra and his wife Tanja Bergerudt; and former board member Jack Romphf, celebrating his 70th birthday with his wife Susan.

Looking dapper in a pink sports jacket, Kaleidoscope Theatre artistic director Roderick Glanville, attending with his partner Pamela Stringer, explained how he has expressed his admiration for CCPA.

“I hire CCPA-trained actors because they’re the best-trained actors ready to enter the industry,” said Glanville, taking the night off from pre-production for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

He’s directing the play based on Kate DiCamillo’s book about a china rabbit that changes his identity and learns about compassion on a journey of discovery across Depresssion-era America.

Glanville said he wished he had access to a school like CCPA when he began his acting journey growing up in Burlington, Ont. He remembers having to fight to get the teachers that would help him get there.

“I get the CCPA actors when they’re fresh out of this boot camp,” he said. “I get the chance to play with them for little while, and they get the chance to grow and they’re more prepared for the industry they’re facing.”

College alumni Victoria Stolting performing.

Examples of that student spirit, talent and tenacity were abundant at Club 20. It was obvious in the green room where a smiling Year One student Emily Pugsley could be found icing her foot, undaunted by a minor injury incurred while doing the Charleston and ready to soldier on. It was also apparent onstage, where College alumna Victoria Stolting sang Over the Rainbow and other tunes, her glamorous persona in sharp contrast to her work on two screen projects filming here — as costumes assistant on the Hallmark movie Christmas Bells are Ringing, and locations assistant on the Puppy Prep Academy TV series.

There was further evidence of what makes CCPA students shine at the Spend the Day at CCPA event, where five students joined managing artistic director Caleb Marshall and director of development and recruitment Nicole Malcolm for a Q&A session attended by dozens of potential future students.

After telling attendees that while “you’re putting your emotions out there every day, but it’s so rewarding,” Year One student Benjamin Conroy drew laughter when he described CCPA as being “like my [artsy] high school on steroids.”
Matthew Wheadon, 30, also got big laughs when he described what it has been like enrolling in Company C after working in carpentry and doing a year of military service with the reserve.

“I’ve had combat boots on, I’ve had work boots on and now I have ballet shoes,” he said.

 

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Michael D. Reid

Michael D. Reid

Before joining the College as public relations liason, Michael D. Reid enjoyed a lengthy and productive career covering theatre, film and television for a variety of publications, most recently the Victoria Times Colonist. Showbiz is his life.