London

'A dream come true:' adults get a shot at acting through London's New Stage

Adults in London who always dreamed of treading the boards are getting their chance through an adult theatre fundamentals program. This year, New Stage participants are putting on Of Some Importance, a show by local playwright Aimee O'Brien. 

Program teaches adults theatre skills leading up to a show

Michelle Edwards decided to take a leap and try acting for the first time as was as a way to get a sense of what an actors life is all about. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Adults in London who always dreamed of treading the boards are getting their chance through an adult theatre program. 

"There's a lot to do if you're a kid, but once you're 18, you're left to your own devices," said New Stage program coordinator Kaitlyn Rietdyk.

New Stage is a theatre education program that gives adults the opportunity to learn skills and stage a production. This year, members are putting on Of Some Importance, a show by local playwright Aimee O'Brien. 

"[New Stage] is a way to inject new talent into the city," said Rietdyk, who's been running the program since 2018. "If you've never acted before, your only way to get into it is to try an audition, but if you've never auditioned before, how do you audition?" she said. 

Participants Alexandra Norman and Anita Goodfellow rehearse a scene of the comedy Of Some Importance, which is in the style of Oscar Wilde. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

For three to four months, New Stage participants complete weekly workshops for everything from theatre terminology to voice projection. Then they enter rehearsals, leading up to full show at the Palace Theatre's Procunier Hall. 

"When I learned about the program, I thought 'I wonder if acting is in my DNA," said Michelle Edwards, who had never acted before. 

While there's a bit of nervousness in anticipation of the shows, she's glad she gave acting a try. 

"This has allowed me to see some capabilities, I didn't realize I had," she said. 

"I think if I can do it, anyone can do it."

Rekindling a love for theatre

Daniel Jewlal last performed 10 years ago during the London Fringe Theatre Festival, but went on hiatus until New Stage came along. He says he'll continue to tread the boards in the near future. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

Since a young age, Daniel Jewlal had been fascinated by theatre. He graduated from Fanshawe's Theatre Arts program, but didn't pursue an acting career. 

"Life got in the way," he said. "Student loans were pilling up and unfortunately, if you're acting, you're eating a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." 

About a decade later, Jewlal discovered New Stage and decided to rekindle his relationship with theatre. 

"It means the world to be a part of this program," he said. "I'm happy to return to the stage, which I've always called home." 

'A dream come true'

Hope says being a part of New Stage and learning with actors who are also new to the boards has been very rewarding. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

For Sabrina Hope, an interest in acting was something she kept to herself. 

"As a child I would put on little productions in my home,  for my family, but I was too nervous to do it," she said. Aside from a few drama classes in high school, she didn't give acting a shot. 

"Being part of this production is a dream come true," said Hope. "For a long time, I put it off because I was nervous and I didn't want to make a fool of myself."

After getting older, having kids and completing her studies, Hope wanted to take a chance. 

"I realized you don't have to be young to do this. What's the worst that's going to happen? You forget your line?" she said. "You muddle through it."

The best part of being in the New Stage program is getting to work with actors who are on the same level as her. 

"Everyone is new, there are no egos. We're terrified up there but we're all learning together," she said. 

New Stage's Of Some Importance runs at the Palace Theatre until Saturday, Nov. 16. 

About the Author

Sofia Rodriguez

Reporter/Editor

Sofia Rodriguez is a reporter with CBC News in London. She is a graduate of Western University and Fanshawe College. You can email her at sofia.rodriguez@cbc.ca

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