You can just barely see the top of Anne Young’s head over the stack of binders she’s carrying as she performs a master juggling act while walking down her stairs.
Once she reaches the kitchen, she spreads the binders across the counter and begins to flip through the pages and pages of movie posters she’s compiled over the years.
The posters are keepsakes from all of the shows that Young has directed since coming to Campbell River in 1957 as a teenager.
A entertainer extraordinaire, Young has quite the history in Campbell River’s arts culture.
These days, she’s best known for her twice yearly Antics Dinner Theatre, which as the name suggests, involves a live show and sit-down dinner.
Her renditions of Fawlty Towers have been a fall staple at the Willow Point Hall for years, with a different play each year filling in the spring slot. This year it was Love is in the Air, last year was Our Town.
But one thing audiences can always count on is to see familiar faces.
“I have a troupe, but I don’t have auditions. I never have because we’re just like a huge family because we do this a couple of times every year,” Young says, adding that she does on occasion recruit people who are new to the theatre. “Sometimes they’re nervous but we all help each other out until we’re all comfortable. I won’t throw you out to the wolves.”
Each show is roughly a three month process that begins with her troupe sitting around Young’s dining room table for a first read-through of the script. Roles are then doled out and the performers are sent home to rehearse their lines. As the show nears, the group transitions to rehearsals in Young’s garage.
“They’re all very good sports,” Young says. “We put two (space) heaters out there because it gets chilly in the winter. They’re all really good sports rehearsing in there.”
The method seems to be effective. Antics Theatre has been going strong since its inception in 2001. Young says she was motivated to put on such shows by her “darling” 97-year-old friend Lorna Pennock.
“You should see her act,” says Young of Pennock, who still performs. Pennock discussed the idea of dinner theatre with Young over supper several years ago. Growing up in Saskatchewan, Pennock saw the dinner theatre concept in action as a fundraiser in small-town Creelman, Sask.
“I decided I would do a show where people can have meals and it kind of took off from there,” Young says.
“They really are popular,” Young admits modestly. “For me, I feel really complimented but it’s a combination. I think I have really good taste in actors because they do such a good job and the audience really looks forward to seeing them.”
The success Young has hit upon with Antics Theatre has partially filled a void still evident within her. As she gets talking about her ‘kids’, she lets out a sigh.
For 19 years Young’s focus and passion was her Young Theatre – an acting program for Campbell River children and teens. Campbell River’s Malcolm Masters and Michael Stevantoni, two up-and-comers who have both found success in acting and film, were at one time a part of the Young Theatre program. Young says she was “blessed” to have a friend who would help write scripts for the children’s plays.
“I really enjoyed doing my children’s theatre,” says Young who had to abandon the program in 2012 as her performers grew up and the parents and children had other responsibilities.
“If I’m being really honest, I still miss doing the kids theatre,” Young says. “I miss seeing their growth and I would have parents tell me the program helped their children with their reading skills and their confidence.”
Her kids mean so much to her that at the end of each school year, she flips through the grad supplement, finds her former students’ photos and mails them to her now-grown students, along with a congratulatory card.
“I love acting because you get to be somebody else.”
Young revived her youth theatre concept momentarily in the mid-2000s, putting on a couple of dinner theatre events.
“I thought kids should go to things too and have a dinner and a show,” Young says.
Most recently, in 2013, Young did a dinner theatre production of If the Shoe Fits, a take-off of Cinderella, and she got the youth involved in last year’s production of Our Town which had a mix of adult and youth performers.
Young says she’s fortunate the Campbell River community has been so supportive and has allowed her to follow her passion.
Young began acting in elementary school, at the former Elm Street School on Dogwood Street, and continued with drama through high school at Carihi where she was a part of the school’s first ever grad class. Young went on to volunteer with amateur theatre groups like River City Players.
Young says she loves acting but directing has kept her so busy that acting gigs are few and far between.
“I love acting because you get to be somebody else,” Young says. “It’s kind of fun getting to portray other characters.”
She managed to sneak in a small role for herself in a two-person play last spring, Dinner for One, but she’s since put back on her director’s hat – a role she says is both rewarding and stressful at the same time.
“Directing is a challenge,” Young says. “When it works, the audience will laugh at it, or they’ll be quiet if it’s an emotional scene.”
Either way, Young is happy to have the audience there, enjoying themselves and watching her actors as they pour their heart and soul into each and every performance, with Young guiding them on.