The feelings, beliefs and creativity of youth marimba group Zazu are woven into a new, original stage production inspired by their music, and taking place at Errington hall Nov. 23 and Nov. 24.
Approximately 40 youth performers, ages six to 16, are involved in the project, which will see audiences introduced to a fantastical tale about a girl separated from her family during a fire, told through a variety of artistic media, from acting to dancing, music, puppetry and more. The production is called Allondra’s Journey.
But the base of the project comes from original music created by the Zazu marimba group.
Created at the end of the summer in 2017, the group grew out of World Music Youth camps held in Errington, where, among other instruments, students learned to play Zimbabwean marimbas (a sort of xylophone with wooden bars).
The group has since performed their own arrangements of music as well as their own original music at a variety of venues including local elementary schools.
But an idea from Val Dare, an organizer with Errington War Memorial Hall’s music program, got the ball rolling on turning Zazu’s music into a production, said the project’s artistic director, Ashlee Sales.
“I was really excited. I love having any opportunity to create something new,” said Sales, who has a background in combining different kinds of art and working with youth.
The project began in earnest in August of this year, with Nelson playwright Lucas Myers who’s brought several non-conventional theatre performances of his own to Errington.
“We ran a camp with Zazu for a week,” said Sales, with brainstorming sessions beginning with what was important to the young musicians.
“Like what are their values, what are some challenges they had, what was important to them,” said Sales. The youth then sought out connections between all of their ideas, with themes like the importance of family coming out. “That’s where we started the story from was what was important to them,” Sales said.
A major feature of the Allondra’s Journey story (the fire that separates her from her family) was at least partially inspired by Myers’ trip down to Errington, and the smoke conditions in the area.
“Lucas (Myers) had to drive through the fires (that took place over the summer) to get to be with us,” said Sales.
She added “I think the fire was really in our subconscious because every time we went outside for a break, we would have to come back inside because the air was filled with smoke.”
Another important theme for the Zazu players was refugees.
“The kids wanted it to have some sort of connection with that idea of having to leave your home, getting separated from family,” Sales said.
Ultimately, the story will be told in a variety of ways, with more youth from the Heartwood Home Learners also performing in the production.
Nearly all of the music is original work from Zazu, with various parts of the story being performed through dance, expressive movement, acting, shadow puppets and in other ways.
“It’s all over the board,” Sales said.
“It’s funny, it’s quirky, it’s dynamic, it’s beautiful, it’s serious, it’s very diverse.”
She noted the project has had great support locally and beyond, with the Arrowsmith Community Recreation Association providing marimbas, grants from the RDN, the BC Touring Council and the BC Arts Council, and help from a variety of local performers, musicians and artists.
The Allondra’s Journey performances take place Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 3 p.m. at Errington War Memorial Hall (1390 Errington Rd.).
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids (under 12 years old), and are available at the door, or in advance by emailing Sales at email@example.com.