After six years of hauling baskets of supplies, props and costumes through rental spaces around Cranbrook and Kimberley, Lisa Aasebo and her Creative Monkeys Children’s Programmes has finally found a permanent studio space.
Located at 20 10th Ave. S. in downtown Cranbrook and dubbed Studio 20, the space was formerly occupied by Subway, but has been vacant for many, many months. Aasebo has been teaching and performing professionally across western Canada for around 20 years, but she decided she wanted to settle down and open her own children’s theatre company.
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She had always loved the Kootenays in the summer, so she decided to move to Cranbrook six years ago. Since then she has been working part time, putting on camps and classes, teaching and doing artist residencies at schools, churches and theatres all over the place.
Her child has recently turned two and so she says she was “coming back into the world” and happened to see that the old Subway space was available.
“We were looking for a space for about three years,” Aasebo said, “but hadn’t found anything that really worked for me or wasn’t scooped by other people while I was looking at it, and so I just happened to look at this space which I didn’t think would work at all but I just went in there one day and I looked at it and I was like, actually this could be perfect. And the location is perfect.”
She hadn’t intended on having a space until this coming autumn, but this place was open, available and a perfect size and location so she leased it, picking up the keys on Feb. 2.
“So now I’ll be able to run camps and classes when I want to and not have to book a year in advance and run around other people’s schedules and stuff,” she said. There has been a great deal of work and “deep, deep cleaning” to be done and she’s been spending a lot of her evenings and weekends there to meet the quick turnaround time, but she said she’s been fortunate to have a helpful landlord and supportive community.
She will begin teaching pre-school and after school classes and intends to focus more on doing improv and musical theatre.
“Those are my two loves and I feel like those are really the cornerstones for kids if they want to go on to doing bigger shows, if you have those two sets of skills you can really pretty much do anything.”
She will now be able to offer more classes and offer them when she wants to, because before having her own space she was forced to compete with other after-school programs and it was difficult to offer anything with any real longevity.
Now she’s able to really begin developing programs that will keep going and build off of each other. This means students will be able to work towards creating their own performances, working on their own costumes, producing their own shows and creating their own tech, before going into the community to perform.
“That stuff takes a lot of time and a lot of space and to build up kind of a base of kids you want to do that, so now that I have my own studio space, I’ll have more time to kind of create those sorts of opportunities for little guys.”
She will be running two spring break camps; an Improv Theatre Camp which will run from March 18 to 22 and a Musical Theatre Camp from March 25 to 29.
At the improv camp they will work on developing improvisational skills primarily through group games — exactly the same way improv is taught to adults. They will work on base skills, focus on story structure, creating a beginning, middle and an end in eery scene, and character development.
In musical theatre class students will work in small groups, creating a song and dance show, again focusing on character development and other fundamentals. Both camps will end with a show, giving students a chance to perform for their friends and family.
Aasebo says that she tries to teach children in the “exact opposite way” that she was taught.
“I was taught as a young kid through a lot of fear and humiliation and a lot of stressful hours and that sort of thing,” she said. “So I really try to teach through a way of; everyone’s safe and everyone’s included and we look at everyone’s ideas and we find creative solutions for problems, and it’s supposed to be fun, that’s the whole point of it.”
She said that the skills learned in her classes and camps, such as team work, dedication, finding creative solutions to problems, public speaking and self confidence boosting are all imperative to any other facet of life.
“Just like hockey, just like lacrosse, just like football, not every kid is going to be a sports star, not every kid is going to be in movies or be famous but the skills you learn in theatre as a young child are incredibly transferrable to every other stage of your life.
“So yes we like to put on shows and yes that’s fun and important but the skills that you’re learning along the way are more important to me and how we learn is more important to me than the final flashy product.”
Studio 20 has its grand opening on Saturday, April 6 and there will be a free family show for anyone in the community with one showing at 11 a.m. and another at 2 p.m.