New performing arts school launches in Summerside

Ancelene MacKinnon
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Sherri-Lee Darrach, centre, holds her niece, Vianna MacDonald and stands next to her daughter, Dakota. Darrach is opening Atlantic Academy of Performing Arts on Jan. 16 at the Harbourfront Theatre, and classes will involve acting, singing, and dancing.

Sherri-Lee Darrach feels most comfortable when she’s on stage.

“It’s half of my life. It’s something that pushes me harder than anything else I’ve ever done because I constantly have to be learning and growing,” she said.

Darrach has recently fulfilled a long-term goal with the opening of Atlantic Academy of Performing Arts, which has classes beginning on Jan. 16 at the Harbourfront Theatre.

The school will focus on a triple threat: acting, singing and dancing.

“To begin with, it will just be me teaching for term one. Luckily, I have a lot of friends who are really good at the profession.

“For that reason, I’m not going to try to do this school on my own and claim to be more than I am. What I am going to do is bring what I do well, which is improv and acting, and bring in other professionals,” she explained.

It’s important to her to have these specialized teachers as it will allow students to be better prepared for auditions.

“If they’re trying to perfect a voice piece, an opera piece, then I know I can bring in Claire Caseley Smith, a music teacher and she was my voice teacher.

“I’ve been at those auditions underprepared and I’ve been there prepared, and the difference is huge.”

Darrach said the Harbourfront is a great location for her school.

“It’s a theatre; that’s the best place for them to learn. Everything in its art form, you learn the respect for the theatre and the professionalism you have to have in the theatre, and that’s important at a young age for the children to get.”

The classes, besides the fourto six-year-olds, are 90 minutes long, with one-third dedicated to each discipline.

Darrach, who has been the artistic director with Feast Dinner Theatres for the past six years, plans to maintain that position.

She has also taught musical theatre camps for children. She believes it builds their confidence in a safe, fun environment.

“I’m still on stage and I know what it’s like to be a performer, and that makes me a good teacher. I’m also going back to UPEI to take English and theatre classes to further myself. I’ll always be learning.”

She is elated with the opening of the performing arts school, as she decided to hold off until all the pieces were in place.

“It’s something I have been working on. I knew it would eventually be in my future because I love the stage so much and I love art so much. This is the beginning of what I want to do. There are so many things I want to do with this company.”

Organizations: Atlantic Academy of Performing Arts, Harbourfront Theatre

Geographic location: Summerside, UPEI

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