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Hands-on theatre project combines leadership, mentorship and camp experience for summer students

Due to the ongoing B.C. teacher’s strike, summer school will likely be cancelled in most districts. Students may be rejoicing but parents are scrambling to keep their youth busy -- let alone engaged, learning, and getting some work-related experience.

Enter stage left: William Golding’s 1954 dystopian novel Lord of the Flies. Commonly studied in high school English classes across BC, this tale about a group of boys stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results makes for discussion about controversial subjects like human nature and individual welfare versus the common good.

When used in today’s context of gender stereotypes, LGBTQ, social normalization and inclusivity, there are many discussions relevant to youth that this novel could spearhead.

But teachers and youth leadership programmers like Jeff Willis, Executive Director of Camp Fircom, understand that discussion isn’t enough to keep plugged-in youth engaged for a summer

“Youth today are overwhelmed with options. And summer time is the pinnacle of the pressure! They’re told to get work experience but ‘be a kid’. To listen to their heart while being drowned out by noise. They’ve got their hands on the technology wheel but full-time guidance stops this time of year; now earlier because of the strike. Gender stereotypes and the squeeze on family finances limit growth. It’s a challenging, confusing time to be a youth.”

Enter stage right: The Only Animal Summer Theatre Project. A one-month project set between Vancouver and a Howe Sound island for youth ages 14-17 who identify with today’s questions of masculinity. Mentored by theatre professionals, the participating youth will spend two days in the city doing workshops followed by a week-long theatre intensive tearing apart the story at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island, just a 25 minute boat ride from Horseshoe Bay.

The project title: The Lord of the Flies Remixed.

“It’s unlike any theatre school or summer camp on offer,” says The Only Animal’s director, Eric Rhys Miller. “Piggy, Ralph, the Conch – all of it will be reworked by the youth into a new stage play based on issues relevant to them.”

After the intensive week at camp, youth travel back to the city for a week of rehearsal. Though the program is not eligible for high school credit, it is guaranteed something: A showcase performance at the 2014 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

“Both theatre and Lord of the Flies attack subjects that matter in society; the ‘why’ and ‘how’ we care about one another,” says David Jordan, Executive Director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival. “Essentially, they’re both about community. And so is camp. One Fringe volunteer even calls the festival “summer camp for grown-ups”! This project combines all of that for youth. It’ll be unlike any summer project youth have experienced.”

Scholarships are available to interested participants. More information can be found at or by e-mailing

“For youth to truly grow into leaders, they need time away from their regular social situations. Their hands and feet need to keep busy. They need mentorship. And they need to feel safe to open up and be vulnerable,” says Jeff Willis. “Camp has been doing this for decades, but it’s now taking collaboration to meet the needs of today’s youth.”


The Only Animal creates cultivates and inspires theatre work that arises from a deep engagement with place.