H.D. Stafford teacher Madison McArthur (left)

H.D. Stafford teacher Madison McArthur (left)

Brookswood teacher schooled by Shakespearean cast, crew

Bard in the Valley brings Taming of the Shrew to life 16 times on three different Langley stages.

A Brookswood Secondary drama teacher is receiving a few lessons of her own on the Bard in the Valley rehearsal stage this summer.

“Sometimes, I cannot believe I am so lucky to be teaching the thing I love,” said Sheri Eyre, who has held a long-time passion for drama but only been teaching the subject for the past five years.

This time, however, the tables have been turned.

Her upcoming role as Madame Baptista Minola, in Bard’s production of Taming of the Shrew, has actually proven to be an “incredible” learning curve for the teacher.

“I think it’s very valuable for teachers to place themselves in the role of student from time to time,” Eyre elaborated.

“Doing shows, and learning choreography outside of school, reminds me of how frustrating it can be to learn something new. Sometime I need to tell myself ‘remember this feeling. This is how your kids feel all the time’,” she said.

For Eyre, born and raised in Chilliwack, said her passion for the stage is hereditary.

Her mother was her first director, was in choirs, and did skits in church all the time, fueling her daughter’s passion for entertainment, the teacher recalled.

“She was the schmuck who got stuck doing the Christmas pageants every year at church,” Eyre added, noting that her mother has since earned her own spot on stage in the Chilliwack Cultural Centre’s, a few years back, in a production of Anne of Green Gables, The Musical.

Eyre was on and off stage during Eyre’s high school and post-secondary years, and has remained involved in the entertainment world since.

She played Aunt Eller in Secondary Character’s production of Oklahoma, and participated in a previous Chilliwack Players’ showing of The Importance of Being Earnest.

More recently, she became involved with a singing and dancing troupe, called Valley Babes, which made two parody videos for The Book Man in Chilliwack, as well as a can-can performance for the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra last year. There’s another performance set for later this year, where Eyre threatens to bite all her nails down to stumps when she tries her hand at tap dancing.

In the meantime, she’s back on the community theatre stage again. A summer production was an obvious fit to her teaching schedule, but it was really her life-long love of Shakespeare that motivated her audition for this Bard production.

“From the first play I read in Grade 10 (Julius Caesar), I have a love for the rich language and the way the characters live life on a grand scale,” said the University of Fraser Valley theatre program graduate.

“I was fortunate to be in several productions and to work as crew on several more, my favourite was Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

This time out, she’s tackling the Minola role, which came with a gender switch.

She’s playing the owner and proprietor of the Padua Golf and Country Club, and mother to Bianca and Katarina.

But as she noted, the original role was for a man.

“We had a hilarious time changing all the personal pronouns from he to she and his to her at the beginning of rehearsal,” she said.

“Madame Baptista is a well-meaning if slightly dotty mother. She is a little vain and susceptible to flattery and the promise of wealthy suitors. All she wants is to see her daughters married and to have peace in her home. I have two character inspirations; one is Edwina for Absolutely Fabulous and the other is Mrs. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice,” Eyre said.

In preparation for next week’s opening, the Taming crew has been rehearsing Saturday afternoons and Monday evenings.

Three different venues

Over the course of the next month plus, Taming on the Shrew will be presented 16 times, in three different venues.

The Bard team is opening on the lawn in front of the Fort Langley Community Hall next Wednesday, and offering three of the free admission shows at 7 p.m. from June 29 to July 1.

That’s followed by five more showings at Township 7 Winery, July 8, 9, 10, 15, and 16. Tickets for these showing are $20, and available at www.township7.com.

Then, the last group of shows are, again free, and being held on the Spirit Square Stage in Douglas Park from July 21 to 24 and from July 28 to 31.

The Sunday performances are matinees and begin at 2 p.m. The rest are evening shows starting at 7 p.m.

“Please come see the show,” said the Langley teacher. “A comedy needs an audience to laugh at it. This show is packed with fun. A battle of wills, mistaken identity, rivals for love, idiot servants, music and dancing. No really- You’ll have a good time.”

Bard in the Valley is, once again, giving the show director, Darcy J. Knopp, an honourarium. But, all the other members of “our wonderful, hard-working team – all 60 of them – are volunteers,” explained Bard president Diane Gendron.

That includes everyone from the set designer and builder, to the people who paint the set, and members of the stage crew, the show’s producer, costume designer, seamstresses, lighting and sound technicians, front of house crew, photographers, webmaster, poster and program designers, the concession staff, the 13 actors.

‘We do, of course, have some big expenses which include: paying for security on the nights our set remains up in Fort Langley and on the Spirit Square Stage, renting sound equipment, buying building materials for the set and fabric for costumes and the insurance,” Gendron explained.

In the six years Bard in the Valley has been performing Shakespearean plays in the Langleys, 13,500 people have come to see the shows – it’s become, for many, a summer tradition.

“It’s wonderful to see the number of people who come to see our shows with their young children: parents and grandparents, who welcome this as an affordable opportunity to give their children exposure to the arts,” she said.