Originally from Dublin, Ireland, Jennifer is delighted to have found roots on Vancouver Island. After graduating with a degree in Drama and Vocal Performance from Queen’s University, she enjoyed working as a theatre manager, actress and feature singer for several cruise lines. Jennifer also had the privilege of directing the theatre program for three years at Southridge School in Vancouver.
She is currently a performing arts teacher for District 69, and Qualicum Beach School of Dance where she instructs Choral Music, Speech Arts, Acting and Musical Theatre. Jennifer has had the pleasure of performing with local theatre companies, Bard to Broadway, Schmooze Productions, and ECHO Players. She has earned the North Island Theatre Zone best actress and best ensemble awards. Jennifer also received best director for Pink at the Vancouver Island One Act Play Festival. She feels extremely fortunate to teach, perform and direct in this vibrant arts community.
Local artist and educator, Caroline Morrison, trained as an artist and fashion designer at The London College of Fashion Art & Design in 1973-76, and she continued her art education for many years following graduation and her move to Canada in 1977. Her medium is primarily watercolour but she is also accomplished in oils, acrylics, pastels, calligraphy, life drawing and portraiture. Locally, she is best known as a watercolour instructor and has been spreading the joy of painting in the community for the past 25 years.
Some of her students have been as young as five years old and a few have been in their 90’s with everything in between. She taught students of all ages with Arts Alive for many years, led SD68 workshops and presentations at Pro-D days, was an elementary school teacher for twenty years before she retired in 2015, has held private classes at Oliver Woods Community Centre for the past five years, and regularly uploads watercolour tutorials to YouTube.
Various Ventures along the way include being a founding member of the Nanaimo Chapter of The Federation of Canadian Artists, an instructor and board member with Arts Alive for many years, costume and dress design, set painting, street banners, commissioned portraits, life drawing, local art shows, and always, and most importantly, an involvement with education. She is passionate about art and loves to
share that passion with the complete beginner by giving them the skills and tools to accomplish great things.
Jessica was born and raised on Vancouver Island. As a kid she grew up dancing and after graduation she attended Arts Umbrella Dance Company in Vancouver for two years working with various dance artists and traveling in the USA and Europe. Jessica also had the pleasure of apprenticing for Gallim a contemporary company in New York for six months.
After returning to Canada she decided to switch directions and achieved the Cecchetti Teachers Associate Certification in Ballet. Though she will always have a passion for dance she discovered a new passion for the human body and decided to attend a two year program at the West Coast College of Massage Therapy in Victoria.
Since finishing school Jessica has moved back to Parksville after 10 years and has been practicing as a Registered Massage Therapist since 2018. Jessica loves sharing her experiences and educating others. When she is not busy being totally nerdy on the above topics she can be found mountain biking, hiking, mushroom hunting or
enjoying some craft beer.
Ashlee holds a dual degree in music performance and comparative literature from Indiana University, and enjoys sharing her love of the performing arts with youth theatre and music ensembles on Vancouver Island. Ashlee has directed youth theatre productions for 20 years in public schools and with private organizations. She brings years of experience working with homeschoolers, as she homeschooled her own 2 children until they entered high school.
Currently, she sits on the board of directors for Heartwood Home Learners Cooperative (Oceanside), as past president. Ashlee started Heartwood Home Learners in 2014, driven by a passion to create programming to connect and inspire homeschool children and families. Currently, she is also the Youth Liaison for ECHO Players and sits on the Education Committee.
When she’s not teaching, Ashlee can be found spending time with family, singing with her swing band, acting at ECHO Players in Qualicum Beach, mountain biking, and working on her family- run blueberry farm.
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When Dean co-founded Schmooze Productions with his wife Diane in 1999, he dreamed of producing theatrical opportunities for local artists. Now, 20 years later, he finds himself surrounded with incredible directors, designers, crew, musicians and performers. Schmooze Productions has a great home at the Harbour City Theatre in Nanaimo, where they are able to create two incredible shows each season that rely on the talents of hundreds of people. Creating local live theatre really is a dream come true.
Providing an affordable space for others to create theatre, became a battle cry for Dean, when the City of Nanaimo was almost forced to close the doors of a local theatre space in 2014. Upon the news, Dean with the support of other local theatre and business professionals created the Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society and procured the city contract to keep the financially struggling building open as a performing arts centre. In the first few years, the HCTAS team managed to more than double their number of attendees per year, and bring their days of usage up from 58% in 2014 to 87% in 2018, establishing the Harbour City Theatre as the premiere small venue stage in Nanaimo.
As the General Manager and Artistic Director for both, Schmooze Productions and the Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society, Dean enjoys the creative process. Excitement and exhilaration abound when he starts the directorial process. Guiding actors, creating pictures, and developing scenes keeps him energized during the rehearsal process. Making choices that will engage, engross and affect the audience is the ultimate goal for success. Challenging actors to step, or leap, outside of their comfort zones is the foundation for interesting theatre.
Dean’s directorial credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar, The Pirates of Penzance, All Grown Up, Oliver, Agnes Of God, Leading Ladies, Prok, All The Great Books Abridged, The Full Monty, The Rocky Horror Show (2002, 2011, 2016), Sweeney Todd, Spring Awakening, Spamalot, La Cage Aux Folles, Square, Fiddler on the Roof, RENT, Footloose, Next to Normal, Little Dog Laughed, Urinetown, The Little Mermaid, HAIR, Hand to God, Chicago, and A Christmas Carol (X2). He loves directing all types of shows including dramas, comedies, musicals, and farces.
From a very early age, Dean was an actor, a word that encompasses so many different styles. He remembers the smiles of his relatives as he sang and danced across the hearth of the fireplace. It was never about the applause for Dean; conversely, it was about how he could make other people feel. He loves all of it: acting, singing and dancing. There is nothing more rewarding as an actor to make choices that affect your fellow performers, your directors and ultimately your audience. His absolute favourite roles include: Sweeney Todd, Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Max & Tito in Lend Me A Tenor, Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, Billy Flynn in Chicago, and Archie Craven in A Secret Garden. He has developed many others but these ones have a strong hold on his heart.
Dean is a teacher, both philosophically and practically. During his training at Vancouver Island University, he participated in a plethora of Drama, Theatre, and Creative Writing courses, including script writing and analysis. Today, he is proud to be a retired elementary school teacher, where he spent 22 years honing his skills to connect to a wide variety of individuals, then applying those skills to instructing actors in his other passion, theatre. Dean loves to guide performers to challenge their artistic choices, build believable and flawed characters, and create performances that embody the entire actor. All of Dean’s teaching, theatre, and communication skills afforded him the position of an Adjudicator in the 2019 Echo Players One-Act Play Festival in Qualicum, BC.
There is an entirely different side to theatre that Dean also adores: production. In his career, he has been lucky enough to learn from incredible directors, designers, and technicians on every production. From each opportunity, he finds numerous skills to add to his toolkit. Production also describes the business side of theatre. Balancing budgets and making a profit are as important in theatre as in any business.
After years of helping to create a thriving theatre scene in Nanaimo, Dean is the proud recipient of the City of Nanaimo’s Honour in Culture Award for 2019 in recognition of his work as an actor, director, producer, technician and culture leader. This year also brought recognition from Theatre BC, as the recipient of the Best Supporting Actor Award during their Mainstage Festival for his role as Otto Frank in the Diary of Anne Frank for Nanaimo Theatre Group.
This year, 2020, brought the opportunity to simultaneously portray Archibald Craven in A Secret Garden for Echo Players in Qualicum, while also directing a 50th Anniversary (Schmooze Productions 20th anniversary) performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. Harbour City Theatre Alliance Society is also celebrating a new 10 year lease with the City of Nanaimo, ensuring another decade of great theatre in Nanaimo!