Preview: Local youth theatre company debuts its first musical

Ah yes, the golden age of 13, when the unexpected chin pimple became your best friend, the blue eyeshadow looked great no matter what your mom or classmates said and your body began growing its own personal George Bush. We’ve all been there and none of us would want to go back. However, Vancouver’s very own local youth theatre group, Eternal Theatre Collective (ETC.), has made reliving the trials and tribulations of these notorious pubescent years far more entertaining in their rendition of Jason Robert Brown’s Broadway musical, 13.

The play follows the life of 12-year-old Evan Goldman as he embarks on a rough journey into adulthood. Along with parental divorces, bar mitzvahs and a plethora of hormones, Evan’s life is suddenly relocated from the accustomed havens of New York to the unfamiliar suburbs of Appleton, Indiana. All the while he is undergoing a serious (as serious as 13-year-olds can get) reevaluation of social priorities. With only a few months of the semester left, Evan is counting on his bar mitzvah to establish his reputation with the cool kids in his new school.

As a coming-of-age story, Brown’s musical production seems to centre primarily on the exaggerated distress and ignorant sentiments of adolescents in a satirical yet heart-warming way. With an unforgettable pop-rock score from a Tony-Award winning composer, 13 is a musical about fitting in and standing out, while also exploring issues surrounding disabilities and bullying in early adolescence.

Founded in 2015, ETC. is composed entirely of young people aged 13-25, including board members, designers, actors and directors. The company’s members also include a large group of UBC students, including Laura Reynolds (director), David Volpov (crew), Jessica Kim (assistant stage manager), Bonnie Duff (production manager), Hannah Madden-Krasnick (publicity manager), Bailey Kaye (set designer), Monica Bowman (assistant choreographer), Paolo Camia (vocal director), Sammi Anderson (front of house manager), Yuko Fedrau (co-props head), Nicole Stevens (co-props head) and Zach Levis (sound designer).

Since incorporation, the company’s aim has been to inspire young performers and artistic minds, and to create more opportunities for young artists in a very adult-oriented industry.

“Most people think about youth theatre as summer camps or high school plays, but if you take a group of young people who all intend to pursue careers in theatre, and put them together, the art they create is so much more inventive and professional than people anticipate. What [ETC. members] lack in life experience, they make up for in heart,” said ETC Co-Founder Laura Reynolds.

As one of the only theatre companies in Vancouver focusing on youth participation, ETC. has become a platform for individuals with a variety of interests and diverse life experiences to come together with their shared love and passion for theatre.

“I came back to ETC. because of the open, fun atmosphere I experienced as a writer. I’m enjoying the same atmosphere now as a crew member. ETC. is so helpful for me because I’m able to work and network with the next generation of Vancouver artists,” said former ETC. playwright and current crew member David Volpov.

As a non-profit organization, the company has proven its on-going commitment to create and perpetuate a sense of community — whether it be artistic or otherwise — by hosting a benefit concert at the United Church, who will receive all proceeds from that night.

The performance will be showing from August 9 to 12 at the Revue Stage on Granville Island.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that ETC. donates all proceeds from their performances to the United Church. In actuality, they are donating the proceeds of a single benefit concert.