Life in the theatre community
Panto is an exciting theatrical experience for children and adults alike—it is the only dramatic experience where kids do not have to suppress their natural exuberance and where adults can break with stuffy decorum of a traditional audience.
Children and adults laugh, boo, the little ones run up to the front of the stage and even argue with the actors—there is nothing quite like it. The audience is as much a part of the show as any of us, and leave feeling they have controlled the outcomes on-stage and the ad-libs of the actors. The audience has a workout—and everyone has fun.
The Royal Canadian Theatre Company and its Pantos play a connective role in Surrey and the Lower Mainland. The Vancouver region lives up to its well-deserved reputation where inroads into friendships and community are as congested as its highways. Of all the cities where I have lived in the world, this one is the most isolating and one of the least cosmopolitan. That communities are separate and demarcated tends to create a sense of separateness reinforcing the alienating concept of “them and us”.
There is a sense in the Royal Canadian Theatre Company that differences do not exist. Since my daughter and I have joined the cast, we have learned tremendously from Ellie King as director, Shara Nixon as voice coach and many experienced actors, choreographers, costumers, and crew next to newbies. Inexperienced cast and crew members are given a stake in the show, taught and encouraged to take ownership. They do not sit back in traffic vying for a chance to inch forward in the hundreds of roles, jobs and decisions that drive a show—new members are encouraged to participate and go with a harmonious flow.
In Panto, many parents work side by side with their own children. Last year, there were at least 5 families working together on and offstage from a variety of cultures. Parents and children have the unique experience of learning from each other. And where else could you see an Indo-Canadian Blue Fairy, a Philippina leading lady, an elderly Englishman, Japanese, European Canadian cast & crew members, people with disabilities, people of diverse sexual orientations, musicians, actors, techs, working together in a learning environment—where new members are mentored and often in the driver’s seat of their new learning experiences.
The actors and crew in RCTC and the professional networks that sustain them outside of our Panto family have connected my daughter and me to a vast number of options in this exciting field. Weirdness is appreciated —it is reassuring; a relief to be welcomed into a community with broader routes in a city that can be quite cold.
My daughter has been nurtured and taught by veteran actors, singing coaches, choreographers and musicians. I cannot put into words how enthralled she is to belong to such a troupe, the joy that she brings to her family in her performances, as well as the discipline and pride the RCTC has instilled in her. If a child can sing, dance and act silly on-stage, they can do anything. She is stronger, more confident and assertive from it.
For myself, the risk-taking on stage and the performing have not only improved my acting, singing and dancing, but I am often pleasantly surprised to even use those verbs in connection with myself as an adult who has not been on stage for decades. The risks on-stage and the new friendships have fulfilled me creatively, nourished me socially, and I no longer feel stuck in traffic and alone in my adopted city, Surrey.
This is a theatre company that sees neither colour, race, religion, nor sexual orientation—the RCTC sees friends and family, teachers and students, fostering lifelong learning along the way: it is deserving of support in our community from leaders in business, arts, the municipality, and provincial government.
It has been a blessing in my life and in the lives of others.