On a Sunday morning, there’s a lively group gathered in a cavernous, black-painted space at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre (NCAC). You can hear the laughter and bubbly chatter as you walk through the door. And you can’t miss Marika. One of the stars of this Black Box Theatre ensemble (they are all stars), she looks the part in her black-trimmed, shiny red robe and shimmery white head-covering. “I love to dress up,” she explains. “All my life I’ve wanted to be an actor.”
Here, in the Black Box drama studio, she is one. After she and her peers have gone through some vocal warm-up exercises, Marika explains that she comes in a costume as a way of tapping into her feelings and expressing herself. “That’s my thing.
“I love drama,” she adds matter-of-factly. “This place is the best.” Judging by the expressions on the faces of her fellow actors, the sentiment is shared. Black Box Theatre is a program that inspires youth and young adults with special needs to explore the world of drama. Participants have the chance to develop their creativity, convey their unique personalities and points of view, and dress as imaginatively as they please.
It is one of three special needs arts programs offered between the city’s two west-end arts centres: NCAC and the Nepean Visual Arts Centre (NVAC). Experience Clay offers folks the chance to get hands-on and creative with clay. At the end, they have a self-made masterpiece to show for it. Music Ability introduces people to the wonders and possibilities of music. Participants get to create their own unique sounds using all sorts of electronic devices and instruments.
Here in the NCAC drama studio, instructor Karen Balcome is an attractive young woman with a big smile and a twinkle in her eye. “She’s been doing this program for quite a while,” explains Lisa Zanyk, NCAC programmer. It’s certainly appreciated. This small crowd is having a blast. “It’s just really fun to give everyone an opportunity to express themselves.”
“Sometimes we do plays,” Marika points out. You can hear the delight in her voice. There’s a smiling young lady beside Marika and her name is Janet. Clearly, Janet feels the same way. She has been part of Black Box since it started. “Karen is actually my sister,” she explains. Sibling aside, there is a lot she appreciates about the arts opportunity itself. “We get to express ourselves. And we come up with our own plays. It’s challenging so we work really hard.”
Janet also looks forward to the social aspect of this city offering. “We get to be with friends and perform in a fun environment.” And that’s worthy of a standing ovation. For details about Black Box Theatre, contact the Nepean Creative Arts Centre at 613 596-5783.