For Emerald Pig Theatrical Society Maple Ridge husband and wife acting team James Rowley and Leanne Koehn, theatre is truly a family affair.
Last year marked the debut of their six-year-old son Felix Rowley and seven-year-old daughter Zoe Koehn who appeared on stage in Macbeth with their parents for the first time.
Although attentive to their needs, both mom and dad swear they were not nervous about their children’s first show.
“They can’t do anything wrong. Everybody knows they’re kids. They don’t have to be perfect,” says dad.
In fact, adds Rowley, children tend to steal the show – and even more so when they are dressed as animals.
“What’s the expression? Never work with animals or children.”
Having been bitten by the proverbial theatre bug, the two child stars had no trouble returning to the stage for a production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and now the society’s production of the Shakespearean comedy Much Ado About Nothing.
Felix and Zoe get the opportunity to portray animal-like characters again cast as Ewoks in this summer’s ninth Bard on the Bandstand performance. Set in a Star Wars-like cantina, the whole production is done in deep space to keep it “fresh and interesting” but also because the play itself references space, explains Koehn.
Koehn is playing the lead role in this summer’s performance – the love interest of Benedick who just happens to be her husband in this case.
The two stars met at the University of British Columbia when studying theatre in 1996. Although they fell in love not long after meeting, Rowley admits he initially had an aversion to marriage.
“I didn’t want to get married but I did want to marry Leanne,” he says.
He draws a parallel to the performance he is currently in, explaining Benedick has a similar thought process about his love interest.
“[Our relationship] was very Benedick and Beatrice from the very beginning,” says Rowley.
Pitt Meadows’ opening night also marks the couple’s 16th wedding anniversary, a coincidence they describe as the perfect scenario “where you get to fall in love all over again,” says Koehn.
The society recommends theatre spectators bring a picnic lunch or dinner for the play’s preshow entertainment which begins one hour before each performance. Besides craft making for children, preshow entertainment includes live music that even carries into the show itself.
On stage with the Shakespearean cast will be a local eight-member band Tiger Mountain Peasants who Koehn and Rowley enthusiastically add are a “fantastic addition” to the show.
Much Ado About Nothing plays at Spirit Square in Pitt Meadows from Thursday, July 17 to Saturday, July 19 at 8 p.m. It moves to Memorial Peace Park in Maple Ridge July 24 to July 26 at 8 p.m. There are matinee shows on July 19 and July 26 at 2 p.m. The shows are free but bring non-perishable donations for the food bank. More information at emeraldpig.ca.