Motivated to give back, sisters Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver founded Project Limelight to supportthe East Vancouver community where they were raised. Maureen launched her career in the film industry over 25 years ago in a small office in the Downtown Eastside. As a Casting Director, Maureen has worked with some of the top actors and professionals in the industry, many of whom are lending their support to Project Limelight. In 2002, Maureen co-founded a children’s theatre program on Vancouver Island, offering young people the opportunity to workshop, rehearse, and perform full length productions at professional theatres. It was this experience that gave her a glimpse of the world she wanted to create and the seed for Project Limelight was planted. Learn more about the project by visiting their website.
How did you decide to set up Project Limelight?
Project Limelight Society was created from a desire to do something meaningful. The planning for a free performing arts program for children started after our mother passed away. She was a big inspiration to both of us. Like everyone, we hoped to find a deeper purpose in our lives. Because of my background in the arts, and my experience starting a similar program on Vancouver Island, we quickly decided that this would be a great fit.
Why did you decide to have it based in East Vancouver specifically?
We were raised in East Vancouver, in a single parent family, with very few resources. It was a good opportunity to give back to our community and to acknowledge the mentors who had inspired us. We also live in Strathcona, and it’s a neighbourhood we love.
Were there other models you looked at, that you were inspired by?
There are some amazing children’s theatre programs all over the world, and we researched several in New York, London and Toronto. Locally, we admired the work of Sarah McLachlan School of Music and Saint James Music Academy. Having access to arts education is a brilliant way for young people to develop confidence and boost self-esteem, in a non-competitive environment.
Which partners are you currently working with?
We have partnerships with numerous amazing organizations, including Strathcona Community Centre, and SFU Woodward’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement and the Work Integrated Learning Program. More recently we’ve partnered with Potluck Café Society who are helping us with our food program and Pull Focus Film School who have created a short documentary about Project Limelight. SFU Woodward’s is an invaluable partner, and we are so excited to have the amazing opportunity to work directly with SFU students.
What has your experience been working with SFU students?
Working with SFU students, who are committed Limelight Leaders, has given us the opportunity to enrich our program and expand our intake. The SFU students act as mentors, instructors, and friends to our Limelight participants. They have become an integral part of our program. Having Limelight leaders with a performing arts background gives every child, regardless of their experience or confidence level, the opportunity to feel connected and fully engaged.
Tell us about your next big production? When is it going to be?
Our next production, which will have a cast of 26 (between the ages of 7 and 14) began rehearsals on January 31st. Our show will be on May 24th at The Fei and Milton Wong Theatre at SFU Woodward’s.
Anything you’d like to add?
Having SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement as a community partner has been a phenomenal experience for Project Limelight, and has benefitted so many children in our community. Whether they are gaining confidence by being on stage, or attending our show as an audience member, giving young people access to live theatre can have a profound impact on their lives. We look forward to a long relationship, and can’t wait to see some of our former participants return to us as SFU students to become Limelight Leaders!