This small program that offered an hour of dance, an hour of singing and an hour of acting every week became a second home to ~100 students a year. Over the years, that’s a lot of kids! After Theatre Works announced that they would no longer be continuing the program we asked a previous student, Michelle Longo, to write of her experience:
“When I was asked to write a small article about Theatre Works, I wondered if just writing about my own time there would be representative of the experience of all of the talented young Calgarians who were lucky enough to be a part of it. How could all eleven years of Theatre Works be encompassed by just one of their many students? However, my own experience is all that I have. I hope that it can shed some light on how important programs like these can be.
I have always been an introverted person. And for a long time I thought that meant that I was shy, quiet, and kind of insignificant. It didn’t help that I didn’t have many friends, or that I was admittedly “weird”. My parents, seeking a way to encourage their “strange” ten-year-old daughter to be more social, decided to sign me up for musical theatre lessons. I loved to sing and dance along with my favorite movies, which were all musicals. It seemed like a perfect fit. And it was. Not to say there wasn’t an adjustment period. I had a lot to learn. I began to project my formerly quiet voice to make it fill theatres. I grew to see the power of making eye contact with audience members and fellow actors, as opposed to my usual glances at the ceiling. On top of that, I discovered what it means to be a part of something. When you are in a musical, you soon discover the importance of even the smallest of parts of dialogue and the subtlest of harmonies. Suddenly, my voice was valued and nurtured.
On top of all the technical skills I was acquiring, I was also becoming more confident. This has always been what I have considered the best part of Theatre Works. I don’t mean the confidence to sing, act or dance in front of other people, though I got that too. I mean the confidence to be myself. It was important for me to understand that other people cared about me. That the things I, and others, had previously found strange, were the things that made me an interesting person. I looked forward to every Tuesday (or Thursday) night and every Saturday morning; because I knew I was going somewhere where I could be myself safely with a group of people who didn’t think I was weird. Because what is “weird” anyways. We were all just kids trying to figure out who we were. The friends I made at Theatre Works were among the most supportive people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They are the reason I am the way I am today.
Now, I am an elementary school teacher. Through the mentorship program, where older students helped teach the younger classes, I discovered that teaching was a passion of mine. The teachers I had at Theatre Works fostered this passion, as much as my passion of musical theatre, and gave me the experience that allowed me to find what I wanted to do with my life.
I credit my years there as the most formative years of my life. I learned new skills, I made great friends, but most of all, I gained the courage to be myself. I don't think I will ever forget Theatre Works. It has been my safe place through hard times, and has been responsible for many of my good times. And that's not just the program, that's the people. Sarah Carmichael and Kendra Vickers of The Performance Studio know that creating a program that is skills based is important for professional growth as artists. But they also know that setting up a space where kids feel comfortable to explore and create requires kids to be able to be themselves. I hope that all the students use this opportunity to have the best time they possibly can, because having fun is what it’s all about.“ – Michelle Longo
What is The Performance Studio? Well, after both being teachers at Theatre Works and seeing how it is so much more than a theatre program, it is our attempt to continue the legacy. It is our hope that The Performance Studio’s inaugural year at North Glenmore Park Community Centre will be as special as Theatre Works’ last 11 years.
It is our “PS.” to Theatre Works’ happy ending.