If you’ve always wanted to flex your acting muscles but didn’t know where to start, Little Bear Productions will begin offering improv classes for all ages as of Monday (Jan. 7), adding another outlet for Whistler’s creative community — whether they’re looking for a career in theatre or a confidence boost in their everyday lives.
Little Bear is the brainchild of local vocal and theatre professional Anita Burleson, who has been offering acting, singing and dancing classes in Pemberton since the company was founded in 2006.
Drawing from her extensive experience at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and years performing all over North America, Burleson was asked by the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) to bring her classes to Whistler.
“Having the privilege of working with the Whistler Arts Council and some of the things that they’ve been working on for the future of Whistler, it’s really come up that there’s a need for more theatre,” said Burleson.
WAC recently asked Whistlerites to provide input for the upcoming Community Cultural Plan, which will dictate the direction of the town’s arts scene in years to come.
Burleson recently brought on Ira Pettle, an Ontario theatre instructor and graduate of Toronto’s Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts and Second City’s acclaimed improv program. Pettle will begin improv classes on Monday for adults and children alike, with plans to expand Little Bear’s summer program in the hopes of attracting more performing arts enthusiasts from out of town in the future.
“We’ve got a really big vision for some things we want to do,” said Burleson. “We’re really just trying to amp the whole creative atmosphere in Whistler. We’re such an athletic town, which is fantastic, but the feedback we’re getting now from everybody is that they want more drama, more music.”
Even those without grand aspirations to open on Broadway someday will get something out of the classes, said Burleson, who’s witnessed firsthand the positive impact her classes can have.
One student in particular, a five-year-old with special needs, flourished in her improv class despite his mother’s initial trepidation.
“His mother was very nervous about putting him in the class, but it was the greatest avenue for him to just be himself and not be told to ‘sit down and be quiet,’ because you’re not supposed to be quiet in theatre, you’re supposed to move around and make noise,” said Burleson. “That’s what gets me really excited, when you see (the classes) personally helping someone.”
The theatre veteran is happy to provide quality instruction for kids and adults that had been previously unavailable in Whistler. She said everyone, no matter the age or experience level, can tap into their creative side with the right help.
“My whole purpose in all of this is that I believe every person has something special to offer … All I do is give them a space and some encouragement and skill to let it out and let it shine,” she said. “I never perceived I would do this, but it’s kind of addicting when you see the benefit of what it does for people, so I intend to keep growing things as much as people want it.”
Little Bear will offer four different weekly improv classes (with a little vocal training thrown in for good measure) for different age groups until March. The 10-week adult course kicks off Monday at 7 p.m. and costs $270. All classes will be held in the multi-purpose room at Millennium Place.
Burleson is also offering vocal group coaching on Wednesdays. Private voice classes are also available.
Visit www.littlebearproductions.vpweb.ca to sign up or for more information on all the courses being offered.