Tiffany Hunter is an actor, singer, and dancer.
But it is her skills as a competitive gymnast that will distinguish her from most of the cast on stage in the Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS) performance’s summer productions at Stanley Park.
All those years of training with Langley Gymnastics and Flip City Gymnastics – and now her experience as a gymnastics coach in North Vancouver – are paying off as she repeatedly tumbles across the stage in the TUTS’ Beauty and the Beast.
“In many of the ensemble numbers, I tumble across the stage. They even created a special enchanted object for me to be, I am the tumbling rug,” shared the 20-year-old Aldergrove native.
Hunter, who grew up in Langley (attending Wix Brown Elementary and D.W. Poppy Secondary), just finished a three-year musical theatre program at Capilano University – wrapping up classes just in time to participate in this special outdoor summer production.
TUTS kicked off its season Wednesday night with Beauty, and runs two alternating shows until Aug. 20, at the Vancouver park’s Malkin Bowl. In addition to their adaptation of this beloved Disney musical, TUTS is also presenting West Side Story.
Hunter initially auditioned for both shows, and was called back for the characters of Belle and LeFou.
Although she didn’t get either part, she is the LeFou understudy, as well as the kids dance captain, and plays a number of ensemble parts in Beauty – including the villager, a wolf plate, and the tumbling rug.
“The rug is definitely my favourite part,” Hunter shared with the Langley Advance.
“It is so fun to create a physicality and personality for what would normally be an inanimate object. It really let’s your creative juices flow,” she elaborated.
“I think my rug character has a lot in common with me. It gets very excited about everything and is very bouncy. I think because I got to create that character I put a lot of myself I to it,” she said, explaining that her gymnastic skills come from her mother, who was also a competitive gymnast and coach.
Preparing for this show has also taught the young Aldergrove actor some invaluable new skills, even though she’s been immersed in theatre as a child.
She started with a church Christmas pageant, graduated to musicals in elementary school, participated in six high school productions before venturing off to university to study theatre and signing up for a variety of community theatre productions – including TUTS.
This is her second year with Theatre Under The Stars, performing as an orphan and an adult in last year’s production of Oliver!
“This show has progressed my involvement with theatre because we are working with professionals,” Hunter elaborated.
“There are two equity members in the cast who we can watch and learn from, an amazing creative team that work in the entertainment business full time, and backstage professionals. As someone who hopes to do theatre for a living it wonderful to watch and learn from those who already do. Not to mention the talent of all the cast members who push me to be my best.”
Rehearsals for this production began at the end of April, and have consumed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings – as well as most Saturdays – ever since.
Asked how she fits a hectic rehearsal schedule around a personal life, Hunter said: “It definitely is a time consuming process, especially in tech week, where you could be pulling 12 hour days at the Malkin Bowl Theatre. But, it is worth it in the end. Especially with our location in the middle of Stanley Park, it feels like being at summer camp,” she said.
“As for balancing family and work I was lucky to be able to take a few weeks off around tech, but during the show I will be coaching summer camps every morning at Flicka Gymnastics in North Vancouver, something I also did last summer while in TUTS.
“It definitely requires discipline on your days off to rest your body and get to sleep early. Because of this, it can be difficult to see my friends and family – especially because all my family and a lot of my friends are in Langley. I’ve learned to really appreciate the time I get to spend with them.”
Given the demands of a production of this size and calibre, the Langley Advance asked Hunter what the best part of being involved in this show has been for her – leading up to opening night.
“My favourite part of any production I’ve ever been in is bond that is created between the actors, you become this little community, and this production is no different,” Hunter said.
“It’s not often you have people from every walk of life come together to put on something amazing, we have children all the way to a retired man in the show, but back stage as much as on stage, we are there for each other. It’s a beautiful exercise in trust.”
Beauty and the Beast runs on alternate nights until Aug. 19, starting at 8 p.m. (except on fireworks nights, when the show begins at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30 to $45 each, and available online at tuts.ca or 1-877-840-0457.
“[Beauty and the Beast] was one of my favourite movies growing up and I have always been a huge Disney nerd so it seemed to fit,” Hunter said.
“This production is pure magic. If magic had a sound, it would be our band. If it had a look, it would be our amazing set. And, if it had a heart, it would be our beautiful story. With all the amazing costumes and technical features we have always focused on the story and it will make you laugh, cry, and leave you in awe. It is simply the most beautiful production I have ever been apart of,” she concluded.