The Professional Live Arts for Youth (PLAY) Society will now open its doors to the public for the first time since its launch in 2014 with a show that includes local talent.
Youth who perform through the non-profit theatre society will stage a musical comedy, Shrek the Musical Jr. – a story of an ogre named Shrek who sets off on a quest to save a princess from a dragon. However, it turns out that to ultimately succeed, Shrek must battle an even bigger obstacle: learning how to believe in himself and open his heart to others.
“Shrek’s unique story of discovery encourages each of us to examine our prejudices, review what we believe to be our limitations and work to better understand ourselves and others,” said Brad Tones, founder and executive director of PLAY Society.
The iconic character Shrek will take the stage alongside princess Fiona, antagonist Lord Farquaad, Donkey, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, and many other fairy tale characters. The cast is comprised of 18 students, eight of whom are from Langley. Tones shared that a total of 17 people worked behind the scenes to bring the play to the stage.
“Shrek the Musical Jr. is an opportunity for all youth regardless of their background to have a chance to perform at a professional stage in front of public,” said Tones, who lives in Maple Ridge.
Play director Fiorella Artoni shared that the show reflects inclusivity and encourages people to be proud of their origins.
“I am beyond grateful to have been given the chance to direct this funky musical,” Artoni said. “It has been a magical experience bringing my vision to life with the help of my amazing students. We can’t wait to have you waving your freak flag with us in PLAY society’s production of Shrek Jr.”
The Langley-based society was started eight years ago, and though the young actor have presented multiple times in the past, the shows were not open for the public but limited to friends and family of performers. Tones shared that his team spent six years training the kids and getting them ready to perform a professional musical show.
“This show is the culmination of the last six years of building our reputation,” he said.
All teenagers who will be on stage are enrolled in different high schools, but spend their weekends and summer holidays learning theatre.
Nic Lam, a Maple Ridge resident who plays the role of Shrek, is a huge fan of musicals. He recently visited New York to attend a Shrek theatre and later told Tones that he always wanted to play that part.
“This show is amazing. It’s been great to make friendships and laugh and grow, it’s been awesome,” Lam said.
After Shrek the musical, Liam would join his high school theatre team as he stars in the show, Little Shop of Horrors.
Tones, a graduate of the local secondary school, is also the show’s producer.
He founded the society after his idea to provide affordable arts education programs to youth across B.C. was appreciated by Debra Hinksman through a $250,000 fund. Hinksman funded the project through Barbara Howard Student Arts Fund and offered Tones the money she received after selling her church in New Westminster.
The fund was named after one of the last members of the church, Barbara Howard, who was also the first person of colour to ever compete for Team Canada on an international athletics stage. In 1938, at the age of 17, she ran a 100-metre dash in 11 seconds. Howard was also the first one from the minority communities hired by the Vancouver school district.
“She is one of the coolest woman I have ever met,” commented Tones on Howard.
The applications for funding were opened for people worldwide, but Tones’ answer to ‘what would you do to change the world for children won Hinksman’s heart. Along with Jessica Nelson, Tones pitched the idea to allow kids to explore theatre regardless of their financial situation.
Soon after, the PLAY Society was created to offer theatre classes at $5 an hour. There is also a scholarship program to help cover that cost for families in need.
The money obtained through the fund covered Tones and his team for the first three years. Currently, the society receives grants from multiple programs like the B.C. Gaming Grant and many others. Tones started teaching kids in 2002, and he said he “absolutely loves” his job.
“Making the theatre fun is something that I have passion for,” he said.
Tones was on the board of directors for the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Arts Council and The ACT Arts Centre for six years. He lives in Maple Ridge with his wife, Amber and three kids.
Shrek, the Musical Jr., is the society’s first “big” professional production.
PLAY offers classes all year long, but Tones shared that summer is a “big time” as the society has organized camps and classes.
The society will present Shrek the Musical Jr. on March 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Chief Sepass Theatre at 9096 Trattle St., Fort Langley. All tickets are $20 and may be purchased at playsociety.ca.
For more information, people can email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 604-768-6597.
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