Date Posted: June 24, 2011
Print Edition: June 24, 2011
The brilliant and fresh UFV student group Coup d’ Ètat competed in the Fraser Valley Zone festival this past May. Their production of Dog Sees God was rather successful: Joshua Wilson won Best Emerging Director – Adjudicator‘s Choice; Haley Smith received an award for Best Graphic Design; and the group received an award for Best Backstage Cooperation.
The production was cutting edge and smart, a regular coup on Fraser Valley soil.
“The show is about the Charlie Brown kids in high school and it’s a pretty racy script, so we knew it would be a hard sell for Chilliwack,” Dylan Schroeder said in an interview. Schroeder was awarded Best Actor for his role, playing Beethoven.
“Beethoven is my favourite role that I’ve ever gotten a chance to play, so once the shock passed I was absolutely thrilled to have won,” Schroeder said. “I’ve been acting since elementary school and took classes in high school, but I only started doing real shows once I got to UFV.”
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead is a powerful play, covering issues that are synonymous with teenage years, such as suicide, drug use, sex, violence, and identity. Schroeder describes his character as “tormented by the other kids at school because they think that he’s gay.”
“It was enormously rewarding to play a character who is so bitter but then manages to let his walls down and find love, and eventually stand up to his biggest bully.”
Schroeder was delighted with the show. “We received a standing ovation for every performance, and there were lots of laughter and lots of tears and I could tell the audiences really enjoyed it… We had such a blast and the people there were all really great towards us. The adjudicator was tough, but had some great feedback. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
Coup d’ Ètat was formed last fall, in November. It consists of UFV theatre students, mostly those in the upper level classes. Schroeder himself is entering his fifth year at UFV this coming fall. The group began working on their first production in January, and Dog Sees God first played at the UFV theatre in Chilliwack a few days before the Zone festival.
“We basically assembled a team of people that we knew could work together and that we could trust,” Schroeder explained. “The trust is really important because the play goes in a lot of difficult directions, and you need to be able to count on the people who you’re on stage with.”
Coup d’ Ètat was started by Schroeder and three other theatre students: Joshua Wilson, Madison McArthur, and Cait Archer, with the intention of producing thought provoking shows aimed towards a young adult audience.
“We decided that we wanted the chance to do the kind of shows that don’t often get put on in Chilliwack by the theatre department or other community groups. We realized that to do the kinds of work we wanted to do we would have to start our own theatre company and, with Dog Sees God in mind as our first show, we started Coup d’ Ètat.”
Schroeder was pleased with the UFV theatre department’s contribution to the success of Coup d’ Ètat. The department allowed Coup d’ Ètat to participate in the Director’s Festival and have a run the week after. Access to props and costumes, as well as rehearsal space was arranged.
“I love the department; it’s the people that make it what it is: the faculty and the students. It’s a place where you sort of get to come in to who you really are and make lifelong friends, and it’s rare to find a place like that.”
For now, Coup d’ Ètat intends to perform Dog Sees God further, and they are also discussing the option of doing a fundraiser in the fall, perhaps with a new show.
“I couldn’t be happier with the group,” Schroeder said enthusiastically, “I’d like to see the word about our group get out there and become a regular fixture of theatre here in the valley. I’d love for us to start taking in enough money to do some bigger budget shows as well.”
The initiative shown by Coup d’ Ètat is encouraging and promising. Their success brings to light the ability at UFV, as well as a flourishing department that teaches skills effectively and provides the opportunity for students to branch out and explore their talents. As UFV expands and develops, it can be anticipated that more students will show the same initiative and creativity, take advantage of the resources and support provided at UFV, explore their potential, and perhaps instigate their own coups here in the Fraser Valley.