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Erin Bourke-Henderson leads drama camps at Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod

erin bourke henderson

Erin Bourke-Henderson is the summer program co-ordinator at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod. Registration is under way for the summer drama camps for children aged six to 18 years.

The Empress Theatre’s drama camps offer a summer of discovery for children aged six to 18 years.
Children will explore character development, story-telling, puppet design and technical work in the six themed camps.
Along the way, the children will likely discover something about themselves.
“I do think that any kid can come to these camps,” summer program co-ordinator Erin Bourke-Henderson said. “It’s not just for the dramatic child. It’s for the introverted and the extroverted. It’s for everybody, and I think it exposes them to something completely different.”
Registrations are still being accepted for the drama camps, with the first one getting under way Monday, July 15.
Drama camps are open to children aged six to 18 years and offer something for everyone, whether or not they consider themselves to be actors.
“Everybody thinks they have to be super-dramatic,” Bourke-Henderson said, dispelling a common misconception. “It’s great for everybody.”
While the drama camps are certainly a good fit for children with an interest in acting, they are designed to introduce participants to all aspects of theatre.
Bourke-Henderson said the skills that will be taught at drama camp will also help build a child’s self-esteem, boost their confidence and develop public speaking skills.
Drama camps offer children a chance to discover acting and theatre in a safe, comfortable setting.
“Kids often don’t get a chance to try performing arts because there is no program in the schools hardly,” Bourke-Henderson said. “Having the Empress in Fort Macleod with the resources we have, it’s possible.”
In addition to acting techniques, drama camp students will be introduced to other parts of theatre including lighting, sound and building sets.
Bourke-Henderson will be assisted by instructors Amberly Plourde and Bret Jesse, both of whom are studying to be drama teachers, along with some teen camp leaders.
“This is a completely different year,” Bourke-Henderson promised. “I’m changing some things, the themes are different and the teaching is different.”
Bourke-Henderson was involved in theatre through her church and in high school but did not have the chance to attend drama camps when she was young.
“I didn’t know you could be a professional actor,” Bourke-Henderson admitted. “I didn’t know there was theatre school.”
It was only at the urging of her mother that Bourke-Henderson studied acting at Rosebud School of the Arts.
“I had no clue,” Bourke-Henderson said. “I thought if you wanted to be an actor you had to go to Hollywood and waitress. That’s what I thought being an actor was — all film and television.”
Bourke-Henderson also sought training with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre in London, England and took courses in such topics as acting for the camera and physical theatre.
Bourke-Henderson has acted in films, music videos and commercials and added her voice to an animated movie.
Empress audiences will be familiar with Bourke-Henderson’s work in summer productions such as “The Stage That Made Us,” “Tornado Magnet” and “The Worry Wart.”
Bourke-Henderson has also acted in productions staged by Rosebud Theatre, Evergreen Theatre, Pacific Theatre and other companies.
Bourke-Henderson’s most recent work includes directing “Anne of Green Gables” in a production last spring at the Empress, and acting in the feature film “Common Chord.”
Due in large part to the loss of Summer Temporary Employment Program grants, which were cut by the Redford government, there is no summer theatre at the Empress.
“I was sad to see the live theatre go,” said Bourke-Henderson, who acted in Empress summer shows the past three years.
That doesn’t mean the Empress stage will be dark this summer. In addition to the drama camps there will be Vaudeville shows at the Empress on Friday, July 26 and Friday, Aug. 16.
“My idea is to have something going on at the theatre every weekend,” Bourke-Henderson said.
Bourke-Henderson suggested improvisational comedy and local talent shows.
The Empress calendar will be fluid throughout the summer, except for the drama camps and Vaudeville nights.
“Those are the ones that have always proved to be successful that nobody wants to lose,” Bourke-Henderson said.
For information call 403-553-4404 or visit

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