It’s a performance imagined by kids, written by kids, and executed by kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s aimed at kids.
Carriage House Performance Troupe’s production, Falling Awake… Into a Dream, created by 15 local boys and girls as part of the collaborative performing arts program at the Vernon Community Music School, runs in the school’s carriage house loft May 4 to 7.
“The unique thing about our performance troupe is kids learn to transform their ideas into a theatrical production,” said Rachel Wyatt, artistic director of the Carriage House Performance Troupe.
The play follows Lydia, a character dealing with the passing of her teens and growing into adulthood, the emotions she feels and her view of grown-ups as nothing but constantly working robots, all within a dreamworld she has created for herself.
Lydia has fantastical dreams of factories and spies, woodlands of lost souls, and a comedy trio known as the whoozamawhatsits.
“It’s a serious theme,” said Wyatt. “It’s actually quite a powerful commentary about what’s happening in the world.”
And it was all imaged by kids aged seven to 16.
“You would think a kids play would be sloppy, but the work we do is extremely high-end,” said 11-year-old Laura Dar, who plays Model 2 in the production.
The quality of performance is the result of the kids’ work ethic and Wyatt’s belief in their abilities.
“I was blown away by what they made last year,” said Wyatt, who has performed in more than 30 professional productions.
“Children have wisdom to offer each other and the community. I respect the troupe as equals. Their capability to learn complex training is actually more than people who are older. They’re completely capable of working on difficult stuff.”
Because of their ability, Wyatt doesn’t allow her students to act like cute little kids.
“She won’t let us hide in ourselves,” said Dar. “I wouldn’t want to be treated like cute little kids.”
Each performer creates their own character, with each kid from the younger group, ages seven to 10, portraying a unique spy from different time periods, and kids from the older group, ages 11 to 16, each playing a truly unique role.
“When we find a character we harness it and massage it to link it to the others,” said Wyatt, who helps by editing and overseeing what the troupe creates.
“It’s not my ideas, it’s their ideas. Each of them at least (have) one special moment where they are centre stage and really get to show their ideas and talent.”
It’s an ever-evolving play, with 10 months of rehearsal twice per week and new elements being added until the last two weeks prior to the presentation.
“We were playing the ball game (warm up) one day,” said Dar. “Someone threw (the ball) and it hit a light and looked like a glowing orb of light, that’s where the souls came from.”
The roughly 80-minute production incorporates dancing, music, and theatre, all choreographed by the kids.
“Instead of getting all lessons, we get a package,” said Dar.
But for the kids, it’s more than just a play.
“There’s some kind of magic,” said nine-year-old Isaac MacDonald, who plays a spy named Mysterio. “We all take care of each other.
“At the start of all classes, we have a special feel good blanket we all lay on and Rachel gets us to meditate.”
The meditation is for get the kids to let go from their normal state to the world of troupe.
“It helps us transition into a way of listening and working together,” said Wyatt. “We do our best to find a direction everyone feels good about.”
The performance troupe is also very strict about its no teasing policy.
“It helps you connect better,” said MacDonald. “You don’t want to connect with people who are teasing you.”
And Dar, now in her second year with Carriage House Performance Troupe, agrees.
“It helps you be more free to express yourself,” she said.
“Troupe is like a separate family, everyone is like your brother and sister.”
Wyatt is the only one who is allowed to be teased, they laughed.
Carriage House Performance Troupe presents Falling Awake… Into a Dream May 4 to 7, with evening shows Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7 p.m., and matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. All performances take place in the Carriage House Loft at the Vernon Community Music School. For tickets, call Rachel Wyatt at 778-212-9642. The performance troupe also has summer camps for kids aged seven to 16.