What piece of guidance is it that stays with Arts Umbrella Theatre alumni?

Our programs provide comprehensive training in movement and voice technique, professional rehearsal methods, and give students a chance to develop their production skills. But looking back, how do graduates encapsulate the experience? What is it that makes it special?

We spoke to two Theatre Troupe alumni who then went on to Post-Secondary study about the program’s depth and range, advice from the faculty that has remained with them, and how it prepared them for full-time study.

Learn more about the training we offer in Theatre, Music & Film.


Bonnie Duff

Bonnie graduated from our Musical Theatre and Senior Troupes in 2016. She is a graduate of London’s Guildhall School for Music and Drama, UBC, and is a Teaching Artist at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival.

“Arts Umbrella definitely prepared me for the application process for Post-Secondary options. It was the introduction to the thought in myself ‘oh I could do this – I could continue to do this and I would want to continue to do this’.

The really wonderful thing about Arts Umbrella is how practical it is. When I came to Post-Secondary training, I felt like I knew some of the expectations and was therefore able to exceed them, because I’d had this practice.

Everything that we did at Arts Umbrella was rigorous but so fun. And I think if it hadn’t been so fun I would have been nowhere near as interested in pursuing a career in this as I have been.

“It was so pivotal to my development as a human being.”

The faculty was so committed to our development as performers, but also our development as people, because so many of us were there for years and years. I really grew up at Arts Umbrella. It really instilled this passion, inspiration, and professionalism.

There was a wonderful energy of: you work and you prepare and you explore, and then you do it and you can’t worry about anything beyond that. It was taught not through a lens of apathy, it was through a lens of passion and care. That’s something that’s really stuck with me.

In my six years at Arts Umbrella I grew as an artist and as a person. It was so pivotal to my development as a human being. I have so much to thank for it.”


Janavi Chawla

Janavi graduated from the Arts Umbrella Senior Theatre Troupe in 2020. She is currently studying at Vancouver’s Studio 58 professional theatre training school.

“All of the faculty are very professional. They treated me like a person – not a child, not a student. There’s a lack of hierarchy. I knew they respected me, I respected them. So it was very easy to take what they gave me, take the notes, take the criticisms.

The faculty are very kind and caring and compassionate. They want you to grow. They’re there to help you, that’s their entire reason for being here. So I would get criticism but it wouldn’t hurt – it wasn’t an offensive thing, it was “oh, that’s what I need to work on”. They know what children and teenagers need while still treating them with the respect that you would treat an adult.

“It was not only an educational experience, it was an emotional experience.”

Every aspect of theatre I can think about, we touched upon. I went into Post-Secondary knowing how to study a scene, knowing how to analyze the text the playwright has given me, knowing how to warm-up for a scene or warm up for class. We did a lot of movement work as well – how to move my body, how to create a character based on how my body feels.

Not only did I get this deep dive into acting, I also got a sneak peek of what the production side looks like. And that really interested me – I got to know about all the different sides of theatre, of what makes a production.

The faculty are professionals and have worked in this industry for a very long time, they know the ins and outs and the skill-sets that are necessary to continue exploring acting and storytelling. They’re your directors, they’re your teachers – but they also care about you. We built a connection. It was not only an educational experience, it was also an emotional experience – to truly be seen by someone.”


There are a number of ways to get involved with the Robert M. Ledingham School of Theatre, Music & Film in the coming year: