The NextGen company

Tapping a new generation of talent

Peninsula Productions presents the debut of the NextGen Cabaret, featuring the musical theatre skills of its youth company

“If you can get talented youth together and say ‘this is what you have to do,’ what they come up with is amazing.”

So says Wendy Bollard, artistic director of Peninsula Productions, speaking about the theatre and concert company’s latest venture, NextGen.

The four members of the company – Kirsten Kwong, Anthony Goncharov, Mackenzie Claus and Connor Briggs – are all keen and dynamic performers in the 15 to 20 age range.

And they’ve been proving their mettle this summer in bringing live theatre to a number of events around the Peninsula, including historical character reenactments on White Rock’s waterfront.

The group will be showcased Aug. 19 at 8 p.m. at Coast Capital Playhouse (1532 Johnston Rd.) in NextGen Cabaret, an evening of different theatre and musical theatre acts also featuring guest youth performers including singers Ava Carich (Roadhouse Live 2016 winner) and Mireille Perez.

“There’ll be improv, a scene from an Oscar Wilde play, a tap number, singer-songwriters –  it’s an evening to celebrate young people being creative,” Bollard said, noting that the evening is being directed by Julia Siedlanowska, the young actress who appeared as the title character in Peninsula’s production of Mary’s Wedding in 2014.

“I wanted there to be a youth director,” she said, adding that NextGen is a project that she has long wanted to bring to fruition.

“For a long time, I was wondering why anyone hadn’t used the Canada Summer Jobs Program to provide an opportunity for young actors,” she said.

“We had two students last year who weren’t acting, and I thought what if we could give them a chance to act in the community and then have a big showcase they can create themselves – wouldn’t that be a fantastic thing to do?”

Seeing the project come together has been an upbeat way for Bollard to return to Peninsula Productions after almost a year abroad, she said.

That included an eight-month sojourn in London while she studied directing in the East 15 degree program established by famed theatre director Joan Littlewood at the University of Essex.

She’s come back reinvigorated and ready to launch into a raft of projects – among them a series of staged readings, including the classic Medea; and staging Sea of Stories, a new play commissioned for White Rock’s celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday.

She’ll also be producing and directing Belfast Girls, a recent play by Irish playwright Jaki McCarrick about young women shipped from Ireland to Australia during the famine of the 1850s, which she discovered, and fell in love with, in London.

“It was an amazing learning experience,” Bollard said of her time in England.

“If somebody had said make a wish-list of the things you could do, I couldn’t have come up with everything that happened.”

That included being asked to do several shows at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and work on devising a new theatre piece for a professional company – Improbable Theatre – considered one of the most creative forces in theatre in Britain today.

And seeing some 40 different shows in London – not all of which she liked, or agreed with the choices taken – was also a liberating experience, she said.

“When you’re in a country that takes an art-form from somewhere else, you tend to put it on a pedestal. But over there, there were all these people trying things and  making mistakes and not caring.

“The feedback I got from the people at RADA on my work was always positive. It instilled in me more confidence as a director, encouraged me to go bigger and bolder and not second-guess myself as an artist.”

That has already come into play in supervising one of NextGen’s historic re-enactment scenes, she said.

Her young actors – charged with researching recreating the townhall meeting at which White Rock pioneer H.T. Thrift agreed to lease land for the building of the community’s first school house – threw her a curve-ball, she chuckled.

“They said ‘we’re all tap dancers – we want to tap in the scene,'” she said.

“This takes place in the 1800s and I’m pretty sure the Thrifts didn’t know how to tap dance. The old Wendy would have said ‘I like the idea but it doesn’t fit.’ The new Wendy said ‘OK – let’s see if we can make it work!'”

Tickets for NextGen Cabaret ($15) are available from the Coast Capital box office at 604-536-7535.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vancouver Police were at a White Rock home Oct. 20 to conduct a search warrant. (Aaron Hinks photo)
ERT response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Ivan Scott. (Aaron Hinks photo)
Surrey mayor enters word war with speakers, councillor

McCallum calls brief recess after asking two speakers to leave chambers

Signs at a new COVID-19 testing and collection centre at 14577 66th Ave. in Surrey. It was relocated from an urgent primary care centre near Surrey Memorial Hospital. This new centre allows for up to 800 tests per day, which is 550 more than the previous centre, according to Fraser Health. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s COVID-19 case count exceeds 1,800

About 800 new cases in September

Montreal-based writer Michael Foy grew up in the Newton area of Surrey. (submitted photo)
Surrey-raised writer Foy really loves to set his short stories in the city

His latest is published in ‘Canadian Shorts II’ collection

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Maple Meadows Station’s new Bike Parkade. TransLink photo
TransLink to remove abandoned or discarded bicycles from bike parkades

Rules at TransLink bike parkades ask customers to use facilities for single day use only

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

Most Read