Aspiring musical theatre performers will learn from a cast of industry professionals when a popular drama education program returns to Gibsons this month.
The Summer Musical Theatre Intensive, an annual project of the Synergy at Play production company led by artistic director Varya Moysey-Rubin, launches its two-week series of workshops at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse on July 11.
Synergy at Play was founded in 2008 by Moysey-Rubin, her husband Bill Moysey, and Vancouver-based composer and designer Daniel Deorksen for the purpose of “manifesting and putting on high-calibre Canadian shows,” according to Moysey-Rubin. The group launched a series of local musical theatre workshops for youth in 2019.
The program has attracted an average enrolment of approximately 25 participants each year.
Moysey was an accomplished musician, producer and lighting designer who died of lung cancer one year ago. This year’s intensive will be the first without his direct leadership.
The series of workshops, culminating in two public performances, are geared for youth aged eight to 18. Moysey-Rubin finds satisfaction in working with children and watching them refine their stagecraft skills.
“It’s also to honour my husband,” said Moysey-Rubin. “He was a theatre professional for four decades and that was a really big part of his world. To honour Bill, we’re continuing this year, even though in some ways we will have an awareness of the fragility of life and the tenderness of our hearts. But we’ll be continuing something that he helped create and really believed in. And he really believed in those kids.”
Two years of COVID restrictions forced modifications to the program in 2020 and 2021. In 2020, participants assembled an outdoor performance of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“It was beautiful,” said Moysey-Rubin. “Our outdoor set had a willow tree, and the fairies were jumping out of the tree.” Later that year, Moysey-Rubin and Moysey co-created an immersive Hallowe’en experience at the Gibsons Heritage Farm. “Working with youth and young people is very much part of our mandate and giving them the skills to go forward in all areas of their lives,” added Moysey-Rubin.
In addition to Moysey-Rubin and Deorksen, the program’s 2022 faculty includes local organist, choirmaster and impresario David Poon.
Ana Gonabadi, a former student of Moysey-Rubin and a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, will lead live workshops over the internet from their studio in New York City.
Shantaya Cottrell, the director of the Tap, Musical Theatre and Adult Division at the Gibsons Dance Centre, will provide dance instruction.
Moysey-Rubin takes an individualized approach to instruction, working with her team to identify unique performance pieces for every program participant before they arrive. Students will take part in singing, dancing, and drama workshops while also readying an ensemble performance.
The 2021 revue included musical numbers from Monty Python, Grease, Annie, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
This year’s closing performances — scheduled for July 22 and 23 at the Heritage Playhouse — will be open to the public.
“It’s lovely to know that I have influenced people who have gone into the industry professionally and have impacted their lives to the extent that [Gonabadi and others] want to come and help feed the next generation,” said Moysey-Rubin.
Registration for the Synergy at Play Summer Musical Theatre Intensive is available at synergyatplay.ca. Performance details will be posted online at heritageplayhouse.ca.