For almost two decades, a youth theatre group in Langdon has provided an outlet for local kids to be creative and learn to express themselves.
The Langdon Theatre Association (LTA), which has operated in the hamlet for 19 years, provides lessons for youth interested in drama and theatre.
“We do that, and then the hidden curriculum is about teaching them life skills – self-confidence and building friendships outside of school,” said Sheena Madole, a co-chair of the LTA. “We try to give them an overall sense of meaning and a way to express themselves in a way they might not be able to in other environments.”
While the bulk of the club’s members are from the hamlet, Madole said some come from Carseland, Strathmore, Calgary and Chestermere. Participants range from seven to 17 years old, though Madole said a younger child can join if they are literate.
“This year, we have 27 participants, but in the past, we’ve had up to 50 kids,” she said. “We offer recreational theatre for kids looking for something other than sports, though I confess some of our kids are in sports as well.”
In a typical year, the participants would gather weekly to learn various elements of theatre and drama, and put on two productions – a winter showcase before Christmas and an end-of-season production in the spring. The members also partake in field trips to watch professional theatre productions.
For the springtime performance, Madole said the club rents out an entire theatre at Mount Royal University for a week.
“The back stage is ours, the lighting, everything,” she said. “The kids get the whole theatre experience, which we think is awesome. Not a lot of kids – even in [school drama programs] – get that opportunity, so we’re lucky to have the funding to give them that opportunity.”
Of course, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this season has looked considerably different, according to Madole. Sessions have moved online, and instructors have adapted their lessons to incorporate software like Zoom and Streamyard, which has changed how and what the participants learn.
“They’re doing new types of theatre – making commercials, doing voice-overs and the older group just finished learning how to use the software to make their own productions and some of the background tech stuff they may have not had the opportunity to learn in a regular setting,” Madole said. “It’s a new challenge, but the kids seem to be enjoying it.”
Sessions are held on Monday evenings, according to Madole, who added lessons still explore theatrical and dramatic elements.
“It’s different from past seasons, so those who have been with us since the age of seven are seeing something completely different,” she said. “The kids, I’ve heard nothing but good things. They love getting together with their group, chatting about their day and learning their activities, lines and whatever lesson their instructor has for that evening.”
Registration is held in September, though Madole said spaces sometimes open up throughout the year. After a short break for Christmas, she said the most recent rotation of classes started up again Jan. 4.
“I think we’re just about full for the season, but if there are one or two parents who are interested, I’m always taking questions if they’re interested in our group,” she said.
Another change from past years, according to Madole, was that registration for the club was free in 2019-20, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a typical year, she said registration for LTA’s season – which runs from September until March – costs about $300 per participant.
“We feel that’s reasonable for families who want their kid involved in something and to have fun,” she said. “It’s a skill all kids need to have. The best skill is confidence and being active in the community. I feel…that’s the main purpose of a group like ours – to feel you’re a part of the community.”
LTA recently benefited from receiving $6,000 from Rocky View County via the Community Recreation Funding Grant program. Madole said the club will allocate that funding toward equipment and prop storage, providing instructors with additional leadership and training resources and purchasing new production equipment.