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Pair set to launch improv group Feb. 20 0

By Ross McIntyre, Special to The Packet & Times

Doug Ironside and Stacey Schat are passionate about what they do and it shows. They bring a wealth of experience and dedication to this community and, in talking with them, they covered the importance of creating social capital, how it is exhilarating to take risks and why “openness and acceptance is key.”

Key to what? The pair has taken on the pseudonym of The Old Dance Hall Players and, in February, they are launching O-Town Improv — a group open to all interested individuals of any skill level. They will meet and share the stage for six weeks beginning Feb. 20.

Both Ironside and Schat have a long history with theatre. Ironside was involved with the Huronia Players for eight years and held multiple roles with the organization. While undertaking a normal slate of performances, he also engaged in special projects, workshops, education and training.

“It was a great way to connect the curious and creative,” said Ironside.

Schat has also spent considerable time under the lights, though it was her involvement with an improv group in Port Sydney that renewed her love of the stage after being away from it for several years.

Of her decision to join, Schat said she “was scared to get back into it at first, but then met a phenomenal group of people, learned a lot and it became a great stress reliever.”

The Old Dance Hall Players are now pursuing their passion in Orillia and the broader community stands to benefit greatly. A typical session for O-Town Improv will involve a warm-up, improv activities and performance.

Of the weekly sessions, Schat said, “The ability to improvise gives you tools and they are great for real-life situations as well.”

“This allows you to be comfortable in your own body. These tools are also key to pursuing performance of any kind,” said Ironside. “There will be some moments of really compelling theatre.”

The thought of being on stage may be imposing to some, but there are undoubtedly benefits to be had by breaking out of our habits. This group is not only about acting. It is about sharing space, time, laughter and experience with others from different backgrounds, but brought together in this community.

The group is open to everyone from first-timers to the experienced. For those who may be nervous, healthy risk taking is an important pursuit and this group offers a supportive, safe and accessible space to do just that.

“The risk is small and the potential gain is huge,” said Ironside. “There are no wrong answers in a setting like this. Everyone has something to contribute.”

Schat and Ironside ask those who are interested to pre-register. For more details, email temerity71@hotmail.com or call 705-325-6061.

There is no experience required, but there are most definitely lots of great experiences to be gained.

Ross McIntyre is a director at Camp Couchiching and the Couchiching Community Initiative. He is passionate about outdoor education and community building. This column profiles community organizations dedicated to Orillia and opportunities for local youth engagement. If you have a story idea, email rossmcinty@gmail.com.

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