Teens from across Western Canada enjoy camaraderie at week-long Artstrek

Youths in the biggest summer theatre camp in Western Canada put on a show Saturday at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.546

Students create lines with rope as part of Artstrek Exploration 1.

Students create lines with rope as part of Artstrek Exploration 1.

Youths in the biggest summer theatre camp in Western Canada put on a show Saturday at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

Some 144 teenagers from all across Alberta, as well as a few communities in Saskatchewan and B.C., demonstrated for parents everything they’d learned during the week-long Artstrek residential camp in Red Deer.

This included comic timing, vocal dexterity and design skills.

But what was just as apparent during an early morning rehearsal session was the teens’ sense of camaraderie.

“I love the togetherness of it,” said Griffin Cork, a 15-year-old from Calgary, of Artstrek, which offers two levels of programming.

Youths aged 13 to 15 finished their camp on Saturday, while 160 more students, age 16 to 18, are completing it this week.

Cork said the Red Deer College-based camp he’s attended for three years is perfect for artsy kids who don’t always fit in at school.

“You could be the drama geek at your school, and here everybody accepts you. Nobody’s excluded — which is great. It’s like one great big, massive family.”

Fifteen-year-old Kyla Jepson, a student at Red Deer’s Hunting Hills High School, said Artstrek classes, such as acting, movement and design collaboration are “amazing,” and will undoubtedly help her towards her goal of a theatre career.

“But I come back for the friends. I’ve made some really good friends here,” said Jepson, who has met people from as far away as Slave Lake and Peace River.

Artstrek administrative director, Bill Jacobsen, said the adolescents are not only learning about things such as “truth in comedy” by studying the classic play You Can’t Take It With You, they are also learning about life.

“They are learning to problem solve, to include others, and to look beyond what other kids look like and see them for who they really are.”

Whether or not the young campers eventually go into theatre, Jacobsen believes they will take away useful skills that will help them in many areas.

“We’re no longer training kids for particular jobs because jobs are being reinvented before kids can get to do them. (In Artstrek) we are exploring things like working in groups, solving problems creatively . . .

“And a lot of kids come here to mix with like-minded, passionate people. Having that opportunity is a huge, huge thing,” he added.

Paula Humbey, a University of Alberta theatre student from Edmonton, started out as an Artstrek camper and is now a program supervisor for the second summer.

“The classes here are fantastic,” she said.

“You have whole day workshops with professionals from across the country.” But she remembers that a highlight was feeling accepted by her peers. “I made a big group of friends from across the province.”

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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