Michele Partridge says she and her students are equally excited about the potential of the new space for The Drama Class – The Chapel By The Sea on 8 Avenue.

New stage for drama class

White Rock and South Surrey studio's new heritage home adds 'so much authenticity'

As Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage.”

To that, White Rock drama studio owner Michele Partridge can add “a stage makes a whole world of difference.”

Partridge, who returned to the world of acting classes for children and adults with her third studio – The Drama Class – in 2012, has just moved the studio to much more performance-oriented premises.

The Chapel By The Sea Heritage Hall at 16017  8 Ave (at Stayte Road and Marine Drive) has a history as a place of worship back to 1920, when it was built as a church for the Seventh Day Adventist congregation.

Long decommissioned as a church, it had latterly been renovated as a wedding chapel, but the current owners decided to lease the space to two businesses, a daycare downstairs and The Drama Class upstairs.

For Partridge, the advantages are not only an increase in space from her studio’s former locations, but also a thrust stage (in the former pulpit area) with professional lighting and sound capability.

Using a number of the pews for seating, the resonant, hardwood-floored facility can accommodate 150 audience members for performance nights – which includes this Saturday’s Let Us Entertain You, 7-9 p.m., a showcase for children and adult students that is also an admission-by-donation fundraiser for the Surrey Food Bank.

There’s also a props and costume room, an office and a dedicated room for instructor Don Wolf’s vocal-coaching sessions.

But Partridge is not denying that the huge advantage  is having what is essentially a theatre space with a stage – as opposed to conducting classes in a standard, carpet-and-fluorescent-light commercial space.

“It gives us so much authenticity,” she said. “The kids have been so excited to come in and actually use a stage – it’s really inspired them.”

The enlarged premises also enable the studio to offer more for adults, Partridge noted.

“We used to be about 75 per cent kid’s classes – now it’s more like 50-50.”

While the regular schedule of classes has wound down following the spring session, Partridge says there will be plenty of activity in the chapel through the summer.

The facility will offer children’s summer drama camps sessions this year (ages seven to nine and ten to 16) in July and August, as well as an eight-week Summer Improv class with instructor Julianne Christie.

As well, Partridge will be conducting her own drop-in audition classes on Wednesday nights to help actors’ auditioning skills, including cold reading, interpretation, making strong choices, flexibility and being open to direction.

And an action actors workshop taught by James Michalopolous will show students 16-plus how to throw – and take – convincing punches, as well as covering action basics that are a useful adjunct to any actor’s skill set.

Partridge said she’s also pondering offering a musical theatre class for adults come fall.

She also notes that the space – when not being used for acting classes – is also available for rent, and she’s hopeful this will encourage a lot of other performers and groups to enrich the cultural scene by staging their own events there.

“It’s going to be a hive around here – a real creative hive,” she said.

“I don’t ever want to move from here – it’s going to be hard to top this.”

For more information on classes and rentals, visit www.the dramaclass.com

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