Every summer since 1975, the McColl Playhouse in Terrace gave children a taste of the limelight through the Summer Drama Days program run by the Terrace Little Theatre Society.
Like many other programs and events around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic closed the curtains on the day camp for six to 13 year olds. Normally, at the end of the three week camp children perform a play for their parents and members of the community.
Summer students Tiyanee Stevens and Kallie Edwards were supposed to be helping run the camp, but they are making the most of their summer by working with Terrace Little Theatre in other ways.
“We are maintaining and organizing the theatre, we’re going through the different furniture and tops and stuff and trying to organize them so it’s easily accessible,” said Edwards.
“We’re also doing a lot of yard work, trying to make the place look less abandoned, weed whacking, pruning trees, trying to make it look nicer to the outside view.”
Both have a history with Summer Drama Days – Tiyanee was in the program from ages six to 13, Edwards participated when she was 11 and helped run the camp last year. She said that the final performance at Summer Drama Days is a special moment.
“When you are a kid you’re a lot more reserved, you’re a lot more shy so when the kids first come at the beginning of the camp they’re not as expressive, they don’t really know where they fit,” said Edwards.
“But when you give them a character you can see as the weeks go on as they sort of become a different person and are able to perform in front of an audience and it’s really cool to see, especially when you have a kid who is super shy, didn’t really talk to anyone, we had a couple of those and giving them a character that is slightly out of their comfort zone you can see them really embrace it.”
Edwards just finished her second year studying wildlife and fisheries at the University of Northern British Columbia. Stevens is set to attend the University of Brandon, Man. to study music after graduating from Caledonia Secondary School.
Both have been steeped in Terrace’s performing arts community, taking part in several camps, performances and productions.
“From age six on is when I started summer drama days. I started getting my taste in theatre and everything. Since then I’ve branched out to other sort of things like backstage work for theatre,” said Stevens.
She said that theatre gives her a chance to better understand herself. In her high school years she excelled at her primary instrument, the trombone, even helping the new music teacher when she was in grade 12.
“But up until I think two years ago I thought that I was going to go to school for theatre. I was thinking of crazy schools in the U.K. like Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and stuff, but yeah it’s like the quote ‘give a person a mask and they will reveal their true self.’”
Edwards’ life has also been touched by the theatre and performing arts scene in Terrace.
“I think the theatre is a great way of self expression, I’m not going into the theatre as a profession but it has always been something that I’ve been drawn to,” she said.
“I’ve done different productions from when I was a little girl up to a couple years ago, it’s always been something that’s helped me, it’s the classic cliché escape sort of term, but it’s nice to just express yourself in ways, it’s comforting.”
Both students talked about the support for the performing arts in Terrace. They said that there are opportunities for kids to pursue nearly any aspect of the arts, whether it is the theatre, dance, singing, or instruments like the harp or violin.
“It’s just been rooted in this community for years,” said Edwards.
Stevens even had the opportunity to be in a yet to be released independent movie filmed in Kitimat and Kitamaat called Monkey Beach, based on the book by local author Eden Robinson.
“It was amazing, I was actually really surprised at how calm and how chill I was with it and then it was only afterwards that I realized ‘woah I’m in a movie that’s going to come out soon’ but yeah it was a really fun experience, I got to meet some big names, Adam Beach, he’s one of the best Indigenous actors so I got to spend a couple days with him,” she said.
Both students intend to keep the performing arts close to their hearts. Stevens plans to continue auditioning for theatre and television roles. Edwards wants to stay in northern B.C. and take part in community theatre wherever she ends up.
In the meantime, the two are enjoying the experience helping out at the theatre this summer, even if there is more weed whacking than performing.
“I’m really happy to come back, the theatre has always been one of the biggest things in my life, especially the Terrace Little Theatre,” said Edwards.
“One of the first performances I ever did was in the summer drama days and seeing the building sort of just not being up-kept was really sad, so being able to come here and tidy things up, fix things where I can is really nice.”
Stevens pointed out that they are learning more about the theatre’s history because they are finding different archival materials in the building, like old posters and newspaper clippings.
A few weeks ago, they came across an old scrap book with pictures from the Terrace Little Theatre’s first ever performance.
“It was buried in the back of the kitchen so no one had seen it for probably a couple decades so being able to have that and share it properly with the previous and current board members is really cool, because its part of the history here,” said Edwards.