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Friday, October 28, 2011

The Snow Globe Festival - Filling the need for Quality Children's Theatre in Edmonton in the Winter Months

Recently I noticed a lot of buzz on Twitter and Facebook about a new theatre festival for children happening this winter. The Festival was called The Snow Globe Festival and was running the week prior to the Christmas holidays in the Avenue Theatre. As a mother of 2 elementary school aged children I have long wished for more theatre programming throughout the year. I get my kids out to the Fringe and have occasionally been able to take them to productions at FTA, The Citadel and Concrete Theatre, but have always wanted more choices for them. And, as they age, I have discovered that I need more variety and options for them. This Snow Globe Festival seemed right up our alley.

I took a little time to ask the festival's creator, Ellen Chorley, some questions.

What is the Snow Globe Festival? Who does is serve and why did you think it would be a good idea for Edmonton and the 118th Avenue area? The Snow Globe Festival of Children’s Theatre is a new Edmonton Festival created and produced by Promise Productions (an independent TYA company in Edmonton). The festival will take place in Edmonton’s Avenue Theatre and will feature student matinees and evening shows of three full length plays and a musical lobby show over five days-Tuesday, December 20, 2011- Saturday, December 24, 2011.

I wanted to a do a festival in the 118th Avenue area because it was really important to me to create both affecting and affordable theatre. I noticed that there a lot of awesome events that happen in Edmonton right before Christmas, but most of them seem to be pretty expensive. The Snow Globe Festival offers affordable tickets so the whole family can attend. It is also is in line with the Arts on the Ave Initiative: "We Believe in 118"- where arts and family oriented events are important. 118th Ave is a great neighbourhood full of people who believe it can be a safe, vibrant area. I wanted to give families and schools in the area a really, fun, affordable festival for the holidays!

Finally, the Snow Globe Festival allows my company Promise Productions, to branch out to producing scripts with bigger casts and production values, as well as take care of 32 artists over four different projects. It's a big challenge and I felt like I was up for it!

Tell us about yourself. Who is Ellen Chorley and what is her background in theatre? In children's theatre? My name is Ellen Elizabeth Chorley and I am a workaholic obsessed with creating theatre.

Indeed she is. Here is an excerpt from her Bio:

Ellen Chorley is the Founder and Artistic Director of Promise Productions and the Festival Producer of the Snow Globe Festival of Children's Theatre. For Promise Productions, Ellen has written, produced and performed in: Cinderella the Wizard (Edmonton/ Athabasca/ Calgary Fringe 2007), The Too Tall Princess (Edmonton Fringe 2008) , The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Edmonton Fringe 2009) and The Tortoise and the Hare (Promise Productions @ FTA 2010) and The Fairy Catcher’s Companion (Edmonton Fringe 2010) as well as writing and producing The Not Evil Stepmother (Edmonton Fringe 2011).

Ellen has written many plays for young audiences including Lost and Fever Pitch (Evergreen Theatre), Mixed Up (co-written with three other writers for Centre Stage Theatre), The Heights of Love (Calgary’s Heritage Park) and two original high school plays The Albright Pact (Central Memorial High School) and Highlands at One Hundred (Eastglen High School).

Along with her work with Promise Productions, Ellen also serves as Artistic Associate for Edmonton's Northern Light Theatre, and between 2005-2010 worked with the Calgary emerging theatre company Mob Hit Productions as Head of Research and Development/ Playwright in Residence. Ellen also is a co-founder of Edmonton’s new theatre burlesque company Send in the Girls Burlesque.

Ellen has worked for the past twelve years as a drama teacher- starting her career as a teaching assistant at Edmonton’s Stage Polaris Academy for the Arts, Foote Theatre School at the Citadel Theatre and Theatre Zocalo. Now, Ellen teaches drama to all ages as a teacher at the Foote Theatre School, as a guest artist for the City of Edmonton, the City of St. Albert, and the City of Fort Saskatchewan, and as an artistic residence leader for Centre Stage Theatre (Calgary), Alberta Opera, and her own theatre company Promise Productions. In the fall semesters of 2009 and 2010, Ellen lead long term drama residencies in high school in Calgary’s Central Memorial High School for the Performing Arts (2009) and Edmonton’s Eastglen High School (2010). In each of these residencies, Ellen wrote and directed full length and tailor made plays for the students she worked with.

Ellen was nominated for the Emerging Artist Award at the Edmonton Mayor’s Evening for the Arts in 2008 and is the recipient of the 2011 Enbridge Nextfest Emerging Artist Award and Ellen was nominated for a 2011 Elizabeth Sterling Haynes Award for Outstanding Fringe New Work (Award to Playwright) for her script The Fairy Catcher’s Companion. At the Edmonton Fringe 2011, Send in the Girls Burlesque received the first ever Staff Choice Award for their production of Tudor Queens: A Burlesque.

You've written, directed and performed in Children's theatre quite a bit. What draws you to that particular form? When I was six, I told my mother I wanted to be princess when I grew up. Then when I was twelve, I told my mother I wanted to be writer on broadway. Then when I was sixteen I told my mother I wanted to go to theatre school and become and actor. Doing children's theatre has allowed me to do all three.

What are the shows? What should audiences expect to see? Are there any specific age recommendations for the individual shows?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, adapted by Joseph Robinette When four children- Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are shipped off to country estate to escape wartime London, they stumble upon a magical land in a wardrobe called Narnia. Narnia is ruled by an evil white witch who makes it so it is always winter and never Christmas. What Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy don’t know is that their arrival in Narnia aligns with an ancient prophesy calling for the end of the White Witch’s rule and the return of the King Aslan. This story of love, faith, courage and giving, with its triumph of good over evil, is a true celebration of life. Target Age Group: 5-14 years old

The Fairy Catcher’s Companion by Ellen Chorley
Back by popular demand! After a sold out run at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, Promise Productions remounts their 2010, Sterling award nominated hit The Fairy Catcher’s Companion. The Starling Sisters have been waiting for their father to return home from war, but after two years without a letter, they are beginning to worry. Finally, an official typewritten letter arrives imploring Charlotte and Beatrice’s mother to travel to collect their father. Beatrice and Charlotte are shipped off to live with their stern Aunt Bernadette at Prince Manor- a dark, drafty countryside manor. Charlotte and Beatrice are at their wits end waiting to leave Prince Manor, until they find a peculiar-looking book called “The Fairy Catcher’s Companion” and use it to catch a real-life fairy named Fusser. But could having a fairy friend be more trouble than it’s worth? Target Age Group: 7-12 years old


Miss Electricity by Kathryn Walat


An electrifying, educational and entertaining comedy for all ages! Violet is a normal fifth grader who would much rather be breaking a world record than studying for her geography test. But when the world record attempt goes array, Violet walks home in the rain feeling sorry for herself, only to be hit by lightning, not once but twice! Now Violet isn’t a normal fifth grader anymore, she’s Miss Electricity- a super hero who can control electricity with her thoughts. An off the wall comedy with a great anti-bullying message about finding strength in yourself!Target Age Group: 4-12 years old



The Holiday Half-Time Show Baby, it’s cold outside! So stay inside the Avenue Theatre and let Holiday Half-Time Singers keep you warm and entertained. Enjoy your favourite winter songs before and after every performance at the Snow Globe Festival of Children’s Theatre, and you’ll be back in your seat for another show in no time at all. With voices sweeter than sugar plums, tunes toastier than hot toddies, and music merrier than mistletoe, who could ask for a better way to get ready for the holidays? (Evenings only) Target Age Group: All ages



What can parents tell their children before bringing them to the shows? Are there any special etiquette that they should be aware of? I think it's so great for parents to talk to their children about theatre etiquette! I would say the things to cover are:


- there there are any scary parts, it's just an actor, so don't worry! (and in fact usually the actor on stage playing a scary character also plays a good guy too!)


- make sure you go the bathroom before hand


- unlike watching a movie, watching a play means that actors can see and hear you! so to make the play enjoyable for everyone, try to keep quiet during the show, that doesn't mean that you can react to the play, but it does mean that you probably shouldn't shout "hey look behind you" to an actor on stage



Tell us a little about how people can support the festival. Is it more than just attending? Are there volunteer opportunities? Is there a way for people who want to see a Festival like this succeed to help out?



We need any support you can offer, especially since The Snow Globe Festival is NOT being funded by grants or government funding bodies like AFA or EAC this year.



First of all, anyone can donate to the festival though out IndieGoGo fundraising campaign at http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.indiegogo.com%2FThe-Snow-Globe-Festival-of-Childrens-Theatre&h=dAQEopa5AAQHCGsr8Fz-6fmhIo0zbpejNJPB64Cuz6fIT7A any donations made through this campaign will go directly to the 32 artists working on the shows!



Secondly, you can support us by buying tickets at Tix on the Sqaure by clicking http://www.tixonthesquare.ca/event/subscription/detail/134/ You can buy passes to the festival or singular tickets.




Third, we will be needing volunteer ushers and box office people, so if you are interested in volunteering check our website at http://www.promiseproductionstheatre.com/ or our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ellen.chorley#!/pages/Promise-Productions/134007796617404


Finally, we still have a few student matinees left to fill, so if you think your child's school might like to see one of the shows, you can talk to you principal and have them visit my website http://www.promiseproductionstheatre.com/


Thanks so much Ellen, for answering all my questions. This sounds like a wonderful way to spend time with our kids over the holiday season. I know I am glad to have the option and will be taking my kids!

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