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SPARK weekend celebration in Surrey brings 5 shows for families

‘We search for those gems, the shows you wouldn’t normally come across,’ artistic director says
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“Robot Song,” based on writer/director Jolyon James’ experience parenting a child on the autism spectrum, is coming to Surrey SPARK Stages celebration weekend, May 24-26 at Surrey Arts Centre. (Contributed photo: Bill Conroy)

With theatre shows she’s bringing to Surrey Arts Centre for a special weekend, Marnie Perrin wants to spark conversation among kids and their parents, and also entertain everyone in the family.

She’s the artistic director of Surrey SPARK Stages, a Surrey Civic Theatres series that brings performing arts to venues across the city year-round, building up to a spring celebration of family-friendly shows.

This year, the SPARK mini-festival lights up Surrey Arts Centre from May 24-26, Friday to Sunday, with five diverse shows to see over three days, from Australia, Ireland, the U.S. and Canada. Friday is reserved for school groups through the Make a Memory program, which sees businesses donate cash for 1,000 tickets given to kids who might not be able to afford one.

The 2024 SPARK Stages celebration weekend features Dino-Light (described as “a glow-in-the-dark spectacle about a dinosaur that wanders away from home”), The Libravian (“where books come alive, laughter takes the stage and bravery is celebrated in every chapter”), Falling in Africa (Garth Prince’s musical dance show) and Tree (for babies, “a world of enchantment where a majestic tree and its animals and gentle insects come to life”). From Australia comes Robot Song, about a girl who receives an unkind letter from her classmates, a story based on writer and director Jolyon James’ experience parenting a child on the autism spectrum.

“We search for those gems, the shows you wouldn’t normally come across,” Perrin said. “When choosing shows, I also think about parents and the adults who are bringing the kids. I want the performance to be just as enjoyable for them.”

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“Dino-Light,” described as “a glow-in-the-dark spectacle about a dinosaur that wanders away from home,” is coming to Surrey SPARK Stages celebration weekend, May 24-26 at Surrey Arts Centre. The show’s creator, Lightwire Theater, has appeared on the TV show America’s Got Talent. (Contributed photo: Stephen Charles Nicolson)

Once upon a time, the last weekend of May was a time for the annual Surrey International Children’s Festival, retooled and rebranded SPARK Stages in 2022, or Surrey Performing Arts for Kids.

“SPARK is the name we moved to for year-round programming purposes,” Perrin explained, who programmed the festival starting in 2006. “This is our weekend celebration of SPARK including shows and on-site activities.”

Perrin says it’s important for kids to experience the performing arts in order to expand their minds.

“My job as the artistic director is to watch an awful lot of theatre for young audiences, performances, and think about our community and what performances I want to share with audiences here,” she said. “Part of that is having a moment when that child and family go home and continue exploring and thinking about the show.

“That was a big shift for me moving from the Surrey International Children’s Festival into Surrey SPARK Stages, just thinking more about the family’s experience,” Perrin added. “So now, it’s not only what is the child doing, what activity is the child engaged in, but how is the family experiencing this event, this activity, this performance? We want to spark conversation when they go home or spark an interest in pursuing something that they saw in the show that really excited them, that they want to continue doing at home. We’re thinking about the family dynamic, which includes adults.”

The SPARK weekend includes additional activities and pop-up performances for ticketholders to enjoy including drop-in Bollywood dance lessons with Karima Essa and magic by Travis Bernhardt. Buy tickets (priced from $16 to $21) and get more details on surrey.ca/spark, or call 604-501-5566.



Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news for Surrey Now-Leader and Black Press Media
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