Jen Viens remembers forcing her brother to take bit parts in her home productions and nagging her dad to break out the camcorder.
It was obvious she was destined for a career on the stage.
“I was continually writing silly little commercials and videos and forcing my dad and brother to be in them. I was always doing impressions around the dinner table and grew up on all the skit comedy television shows,” said Viens. “I was always doing impersonations. I do have the videos and they are in very safekeeping, hidden away.”
The Penticton Secondary School graduate is returning to the community to share her passion for acting and the arts with workshops for youth and adults. She also will be premiering a one-woman play.
“It is exciting that Jen is coming home to Penticton to share her skills and expertise in the theatre and film arts,” said Jane Shaak, executive director, Okanagan School of the Arts Shatford Centre. “This series will bring Penticton Secondary students back home to their campus at the Okanagan School of the Arts Shatford Centre to share their talent and experience with our community.”
Viens honed her skills at UBC studying theatre and then in the Lower Mainland to transition to film and television. She developed the Twisted Tree Theatre Company and relocated to Toronto a year and a half ago. Since the leap she has found work doing commercials, some stage work and teaching improv. Most recently, Viens can be seen in a commercial aired in Western Canada for Lilydale Chicken.
“The move has been great for me because there is more Canadian content, more independent projects and a lot going on in Toronto,” said Viens.
But, it was the time she spent in Penticton honing her skills as a young actress Viens said provided her the outlet and inspiration that she needed to get to where she is today.
“I was very fortunate that we had Meagan Rutherford and the theatre performance aspect of things. We worked on very ambitious projects when I reflect back on it. We did a stage version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and had someone come in and teach us special effects makeup and choreography. It was really incredible,” said Viens.
It also inspired her to teach.
“For myself, I was a very loud, boisterous and very dramatic child and I found that not a lot of people can handle that in everyday normal life. I didn’t have an outlet to be myself and so the impetus for creating Twisted Tree is I wanted there to be an environment for these kids to not have to worry about what they look like, sounded like, how they acted and they could be themselves and pursue their creativity for at least an hour and half once a week,” she said.
Viens will present two days of master class workshops on Aug. 27 and 28. The first day will be geared towards children ages seven and up. That same evening (at 8 p.m.) there will be a live performance of a one-act solo show performed by Viens called An Honest Tale. Written/directed by Norman Hussey, the performance will be its world premiere. Tickets are $20 and following the performance there will be a question and answer session for audience members. On Aug. 28 workshops will be geared towards adults as well as film screening and another question and answer session. Industry professionals associated with the films will be on hand to discuss their projects. To purchase tickets for workshops/performance contact the Shatford at 250-770-7668 or email@example.com.