Chilliwack spring fling theatre festival

Odin Lithgow, Wolfgang Lithgow, and Mitchell Courtemanche take to the stage in Circus Olympus, one of eight shows on offer as part of CSOPA’s annual Spring Festival. - Andrew Smith
Odin Lithgow, Wolfgang Lithgow, and Mitchell Courtemanche take to the stage in Circus Olympus, one of eight shows on offer as part of CSOPA’s annual Spring Festival.
— image credit: Andrew Smith

A troupe of young actors takes to the stage this June for a spring festival of theatre, music and more.

Artistic director Andrew Smith says the Chilliwack School of Performing Arts (CSOPA) has grown by leaps and bounds in the last five years, and the size and scope of this year’s annual Spring Festival is the result.

“It’s snowballed from something that was just fun—a little get-together at the end of the spring term—into something that would probably rival the Fraser Valley Zone Festival in terms of numbers,” he says.

Some performances are the final projects of students who have been in rehearsals since the fall. Other students began working towards the spring festival as soon as curtains closed on CSOPA’s main stage production Shrek in January. The spring festival is a chance for all of CSOPA’s students—from junior to senior, newbie to experienced student, age eight to 22—to put their joint efforts towards a single project and appear on the same stage.

Think of it as a not-so-miniature theatre festival: eight shows take to the stage over six days, playing a handful of times each. The content ranges from one-act musicals to scenes and solos put together by the advanced classes.

Ten years ago, CSOPA’s spring showcase saw a little fewer than 25 students on stage. Now, Smith says, “105 kids cycle through our door daily.”

And it’s only getting bigger and better from here.

“Each year it’s about wanting to strengthen programming, it’s about wanting to strengthen production, it’s about wanting to try to include as many artists as we can with our operation,” Smith says. “It’s about wanting to enhance the performance opportunities we offer to students.”

Looking back on his decade as CSOPA’s artistic director, Smith might be most proud of  the variety of instructors he was able to borrow from the professional world, letting the kids learn from real-life performers.

“The kids can kind of learn almost by osmosis what it’s like to be an actor, be a performer, to be on top of their game,” Smith says.  “Whenever there’s a new instructor that’s brought in, the methodology is different, the approach to the art is different. Which is fascinating. I think it broadens and strengthens anyone’s education when you’re taught the same thing two or three or eight different ways. “

And this strength and breadth is what CSOPA students will be showing off at the Spring Festival from June 2 to 7 at the Chilliwack Victory Church on Henderson Avenue.

w For more information, a festival schedule or to purchase tickets, visit www.CSOPA.ca. Tickets range between $8 to $10 per seat, and may also be purchased at the door.

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