Director Courtney Shields (second from right) helps promote her summer show

Director Courtney Shields (second from right) helps promote her summer show

All-ages show adapts Munsch stories

South Surrey's Courtney Shields branches into directing with family-friendly Beach House Theatre show

Don’t tell adults that Munsch Upon A Time is just for kids.

Beach House Theatre’s second production – providing daytime diversion at the Blackie Spit tent auditorium Aug. 12-15, during the run of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest – seems entirely too much of a good time to be confined to just one age group.

And, in truth, many adults end up being in the audience of Beach House’s family-friendly offerings like Munsch Upon A Time, as parents, grandparents and just for the fun of it.

“It’s really for the kid in all of us, from three to 93,” said director Courtney Shields. “It’s something that you can enjoy at any age – it resounds with us even after we grow up.”

Beach House Theatre has made a tradition of featuring stage adaptations of stories by famed children’s author Robert Munsch since it began four years ago.

Shields, an Elgin Park Secondary grad and South Surrey resident – and keen young working actor on the Vancouver scene after four years in the UBC theatre program – was an animated acting presence in Beach House’s Munsch shows for the last two years.

Offered the opportunity to direct this year’s show by Beach House founders Candace Radcliffe and Rick Harmon, Shields said she leaped at the chance.

“It’s a very exciting change for me,” said Shields.

“I wanted to stay close to the company and the community, and this is 20 minutes walking distance from where I live in Ocean Park – which is a great break for me from commuting downtown,” said Shields (the busy actor is also appearing as corrupt funeral director Mrs. Sowerberry in Theatre Under The Stars’ Oliver this season).

“We have a really strong cast this year – I’m really excited about it,” she added.

Debbie Patterson’s script is another of her clever, wacky, free-form conflations of several Munsch stories, requiring three actors who are, Shields said, “physically versatile and able to play a different range of roles.”

Fortunately she has Matt Falletta (a notable Malvolio in Twelfth Night for Beach House two seasons ago), Aaron Holt (featured as both of the Antipholus twins in last year’s The Comedy of Errors) and Beach House newcomer Claire Pollock to maximize the fun potential.

“Matt was in Three Munschketeers last year,” Shields said.

“I was really quite thrilled when he walked in to audition this year. He’s incredible – a great talent and so full of energy.

“For Aaron this is something really new this year. He auditioned for both Earnest and this show, and you know how the main show always needs strong men. But when he auditioned for us, I told Rick and Candace ‘I want him – you should give him to me. I guess I won the arm-wrestle on that one.

“I’m excited to have Claire in the show, too. She blew me away in auditions – she understands the style of characters and she’ll be specializing in the younger parts – she excels with little kid roles.”

Shields admits she will miss getting up there and playing parts, too, once the show is on its feet, but she’s also looking forward to watching it once her work is over.

“When you’re in it, you don’t know what it looks like. As director I get to sit back and watch.”

She also enjoys the collaborative process, she said, and feels fortunate to be able to call on the guidance and support of Ian Harmon – director of the last two Munsch shows – whenever she needs it.

Shields, who was one of the star students of recently-retired Elgin Park drama guru Stan Engstrom, says she feels lucky to have retained strong ties with the community, continuing through her Beach House experience – and to be able to indulge her love of musical theatre with TUTS at the same time.

“It’s pretty fantastic,” she said. “This is a summer where it all seems to be coming together.”

Completing the picture, she will also start as an on-call secondary drama teacher for Surrey School District in the fall.

“It’s like I’m coming full circle,” she said.

“Stan built a wonderful theatre program, and now that i’m going to be working as a teacher it’s pretty cool to look back on that.”

For tickets and more information, call 604-594-5888, visit beachhousetheatre.org or email tickets@beachhousetheatre.org

 

 

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