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Tofino - Ucluelet Glee Kids to rock audiences around the clock

Tofino - Ucluelet Glee Kids to perform two shows of Rocking Around the West Coast Clock this weekend
Young performers in Courtney Johnson’s Tofino - Ucluelet Glee program are excited to showcase their talents at the Ucluelet Community Centre this weekend. (Andrew Bailey photo)

The Tofino - Ucluelet Glee Kids are inviting the West Coast to put its glad rags on and experience two celebratory sensational shindigs of musical history this weekend.

Over 30 young performers have been rehearsing since January and are now set to nail their performances of Rocking Around the West Coast Clock at the Ucluelet Community Centre on June 7 and 8.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with shows starting at 6:30 p.m. on both nights and tickets are available at Image West Gallery in Ucluelet, Gaia Grocery in Tofino as well as at the door on performance night.

This is the 25th live Glee production since the program was launched by Courtney Johnson and Sarah Hogan in 2013 and Johnson told the Westerly News that she’s had a blast working through the history of rock’n’roll with her cast of kids and teens.

“Not only is this a musical theatre production, but the kids in it got to learn where rock n roll came from,” Johnson said, noting the production features music from a wide variety of iconic bands, including Queen, AC/DC, Metallica and Led Zeppelin as well as live music from local band Red Entropy.

She noted she’s taught around 700 West Coast kids during her tenure as Glee director and has found her calling in helping motivate and encourage young performers to find their spark.

“There’s sports you can play, surfing and gymnastics and softball and soccer and those are all very wonderful things. This is its own special thing as well. There wasn’t anything when I started it and there hasn’t been anything like it since,” she said.

“I’m very proud to have that area because I was pretty much born doing this. I love music so much. I love singing so much and I love being able to teach that and help kids and other people find that they love the performing arts as well, whether it’s acting or singing or whatever it is and that they’re really good at something……Teaching them that is why I’m here.”

She added she was hoping to get back into performing arts when she moved to Ucluelet from Vancouver and quickly noticed there weren’t many options on the local theatrical menu.

“When I moved here and I started looking around for a theatre class to take, there was nothing,” she said.

She met Sarah Hogan through dance classes at the community centre and the pair quickly became friends and started working on choreography together for fun before combining their passions and ideas to craft Ucluelet’s first Glee program.

“I loved musical theatre and she’s also a theatre nerd and it’s kind of the rest was history…I thought let’s just do this and see what happens,” Johnson said. “We’ve been friends ever since.”

She added that Hogan still helps out with choreography, but is no longer with the program fulltime.

Johnson said she was going through a rough patch when she made the move to Ucluelet and found positivity through re-entering her artistic passion.

“I was a theatre kid. I took musical theatre when I was a kid and then life got in the way and I stopped, but I always missed the stage. I always wanted to go back,” she said. “There’s 10 years of my life where there was no music…It turns out that you actually cannot run away from yourself. You cannot hide yourself and people cannot keep you down forever.”

She added she loved the stage from an early age and continued performing into her mid-teens before a hiatus.

“I remember my parents saying to me. You are a musician first and foremost and I tried to hide that, but guess what? It turns out that that love of the stage and that love of music caught up with me and here I am,” she said. “And, look at the support I have. Look what I have now.”

She added teaching has now become her life’s work and passion.

“Any child that doesn’t think highly of themselves, or questions themselves, it’s my job to show them that they matter. It really does take a village,” she said. “I think a lot of sports coaches will feel the same thing. You show a child that they matter and it actually comes right back to you…This program has come back to me and shown me support in ways that I never fathomed.”

She said many local youth were in need of a theatrical program like Glee and she’s been heartened to hear from the students that have gone through the program reaching out to tell her what it meant to be a part of Glee when they were younger.

“That is a pretty amazing compliment to hear from somebody,” she said. “I’ve actually had it as far as one or two students say, ‘I don’t know if I would be here if it wasn’t for what you did’, because they felt out of place everywhere else. They needed to find a place where they were accepted. That’s a pretty cool feeling and that’s what I set out to do to begin with.”

She added she continues to be amazed by the talents of local youth, noting students have begun choreographing and writing music and scenes that get incorporated into the productions.

“I saw what they came up with and it’s beautiful…I have a lot of kids that love this so much that they want to show me what they can do,” she said.

“A lot of times I create a musical theatre production and then I’m adding stuff in or changing things to suit their ideas because they come up with something or write something or talk to me about something that I haven’t thought of. It’s really not only my creation, it’s everything that they do.”

She hopes to see packed houses at both shows this weekend to show local youth that their community supports their contributions to town.

“It’s your community. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, kids in your community are your community members and they deserve to be supported,” she said, adding her students always peer through the curtains to see how many people have come to watch them perform before a show.

“They are constantly wanting to know or prove that what they do matters and they want to show you. So, when they see that full-house, it makes the show that much better and it shows them that they are a valued member of their community. When you do that, what happens is they grow up and wherever they go or whatever they do they pay that forward in ways that we have no idea that we can’t even fathom yet.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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