Sandy Webster-Worthy (centre) conducts a pre-show meeting prior to the 2017 Christmas show. (Contributed photo)

PACE a program like no other

Theatre art program teaches more than music

When Sandra Webster-Worthy first came to the Sooke School District with her background in dance, a degree in theatre arts, and training as a high school drama teacher, she was determined to make a difference.

She saw the availability of existing theatre arts for the division’s students and realized that a broader platform was needed – one that would engender a love of music and theatre and build confidence and skills that would last a lifetime.

“In traditional high school musical theatre, and amateur theatre in general, if you’re not already good, you won’t get a part. At best you’ll get stuck in the back, in the chorus, while the stars are centre stage,” Webster-Worthy said.

“I wanted something different; something better. I wanted to open up a program for all ages and abilities where young people could grow and find their unique genius as they learn and develop.”

That’s when the Program for Academic and Creative Enrichment (PACE) was born.

RELATED: PACE concert raises $6,500 for Langford family

It’s a program that has operated under the umbrella of the school division and, twice a year, has staged two spectacular musical reviews to sold out houses at the Isabelle Reader Theatre. The program, since 2017, has operated as an academy for what Webster-Worthy describes as purely administrative reasons.

It provides students in grades eight to 12 school credits for their work in the program and, although there are arguably less time-consuming ways to earn those credits, the students will tell you that they do it for the love of the program. The same is true of the scores of students from kindergarten to Grade seven who, though they do not receive school credits, nonetheless give up countless hours for practices and rehearsal, simply for the love of PACE.

“When I started the program in 1986, I went to the musical revue format so everyone who cared to participate would have the chance to perform. The philosophy was, and is, that no matter what your natural talent may be, you’ll be given a chance to shine at some point in the program. Everyone gets their time at the front of the stage and you never know which of those kids are going to surprise you,” Webster-Worthy said.

She recalled one young man, five years ago, who had been with the program for a few years and had never really stood out.

“One day I heard this little voice during a rehearsal and took him aside and asked him to sing a solo. We worked with him a bit and, that year, when he sang Oh Holy Night at the Christmas show, he brought the house down. It was amazing. And I’ve seen that over and over again. The young people in the program blossom in their own time and every one of them discovers the magic inside their soul. Every one of them will have their moment, and it’s a moment they’ll remember forever.”

But the true magic of the PACE program is something even more intangible.

Webster-Worthy has created a community; one in which the 350 to 400 student participants are supported by a veritable army of parents, grandparents, and volunteers who are as close to one another as any family could be.

“The program couldn’t operate without these wonderful people’s support. They make it happen and they are truly like a family, responding to tragedies and challenges within the group. They support one another, and treat every young person in the program as one of their own,” Webster-Worthy said.

“We have a group of 400 cast members, from four year olds to young adults in Grade 12 and we never have a discipline problem. We have cast members with special needs who are seamlessly accommodated and who blend into the group without any problem. And we have the older students taking the young ones under their wing as “little buddies” and guiding them through their early years. Some of those relationships last forever.”

RELATED: Christmas character past and pressent keep the PACE

Webster-Worthy’s son, Calum Worthy, regularly returns to help MC the spring PACE concert, even though he now enjoys a successful career as an actor, writer and producer in Los Angeles.

“He was born in 1991 as we were working on the spring show. We had production meetings in my hospital room and, when I returned to rehearsals a few weeks later, Calum was in his basket under the production table,” recalled Webster-Worthy with a chuckle.

Calum regularly jokes about having been born in the wings of the theatre, but credits much of his success to the program. He also counts some of the his PACE friends as his closest and most enduring friendships.

“This program is about everyone being able to participate. We have never excluded anyone who couldn’t pay the minimal fee and we never will. And we’ve never told anyone they weren’t good enough,” Webster-Worthy said.

“And, oh sure, we could go to a format where students would have to audition, and have us select only the most accomplished performers, but we never will. If we did that, the program would lose its soul. It’s not what we are about.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Sixty Sooke homes needed to host Japanese students

Homestay program offers visitors a taste of life in Canada

One-man Frankenstein show coming to Craigdarroch Castle

The Halloween special will kick off at the beginning of October

Backyard burning allowed in Sooke after Oct. 1

It’s important to know the rules

Tour de Rock kicks off on Saturday morning

The 22nd annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock ride will take two weeks to complete

Crown alleges resentment of ex-wife drove Oak Bay father to kill his daughters

Patrick Weir alleged in his closing arguments that Andrew Berry is responsible for the deaths of his daughters

PHOTOS: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

Many demonstaers were kids and teens who skipped school to take part

Former B.C. lifeguard gets house arrest for possession of child porn

Cees Vanderniet of Grand Forks will serve six months of house arrest, then two years’ probation

How to react to Trudeau’s racist photos? With humility, B.C. prof says

‘We are now treating racism as a crime that you cannot recover from’

‘I’d do it again,’ says B.C. man who swam naked, drunk in Toronto shark tank

David Weaver, of Nelson, was drunk when he went to Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto on Oct. 12 2018

VIDEO: Fire destroys Williams Lake strip club targeted by past arson attempts

Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge destroyed by fire, as well as New World Tea and Coffee House

SOOKE HISTORY: Remembering Sooke’s 1953 soccer team

Elida Peers | Contributed When Milne’s Landing High School opened in 1946,… Continue reading

Trudeau seeks meeting with Singh to apologize for blackface, brownface photos

‘I will be apologizing to him personally as a racialized Canadian,’ Trudeau said Friday

Sixty Sooke homes needed to host Japanese students

Homestay program offers visitors a taste of life in Canada

Charges stayed against Alberta RCMP officer in alleged off-duty Whistler assault

Const. Vernon Hagen instead completed an alternative measures program

Most Read