Once the excitement died down over having a bona fide TV star on the set of the latest PACE Musical Theatre production, everyone got down to work.
Calum Worthy, a PACE program grad well-known by tweens and teens alike as Dez on the hit Disney TV series Austin and Ally, jetted into town from California early this week to take on his usual multiple roles in the community theatre production.
Worthy, who on Tuesday was set to take part in his first dress rehearsal for Another Op’Ning, Another Show, at the Isabelle Reader Theatre in Langford, says he appreciated being able to come back to where his theatre and performance career began.
“PACE has been my home since I’ve been born,” the youthful 24-year-old said with only slight exaggeration.
“Some of the people I learned from are still here, so it’s very cool to come back and see everybody. The kids are so talented … it’s amazing to see the Grade 12 kids acting and singing and dancing and just killing it.”
One of the people who guided his development in the performing arts is mom, Sandra Webster-Worthy, the longtime artistic director for PACE in the Sooke School District.
She says it’s always exciting when Calum comes home, given everyone wants a piece of his time. As a now-veteran professional in an industry notoriously difficult to break into, he’s able to mentor PACE’s up-and-coming young actors and give them the straight goods on the amount of hard work and persistence it takes to be successful, she says.
Calum didn’t get “discovered” by Disney for his role on Austin and Ally four years ago, Sandra says.
“He walked in with 60 (film and TV) credits,” she says. “In reality it’s really hard to get a contract with Disney.”
She and Calum note that much of getting on board with the entertainment colossus is being able to bring a positive image to the table and not only maintain it, but grow it, through things like social media.
“I gained 100,000 followers on Twitter when I was signed to the show,” Calum says.
The company does a lot to maintain that connection with fans. In between a busy production schedule with the show and doing side jobs such as teleplay writing and voiceover work for Disney, he gets flown around the country for signing tours in malls, where there can be as many as 6,000 kids waiting to get an autograph and have a brief conversation with a star.
Calum, a Claremont secondary alumnus, is quick to point out the family atmosphere that he enjoys so much about working on the Disney show is very much a parallel to the setting around PACE.
“It’s a team. That environment is so magical,” he says.
With participants – both students and adults – doing upwards of 20 performances per year and rehearsing most Sundays, the program has become very family oriented, Sandra says. PACE also prides itself on offering performers a non-competitive environment – no auditions are held.
“When you’re in high school, if you don’t come in talented and confident, you don’t get much of a shot,” she says. “(PACE is) about empowering kids. Most of them won’t go on to careers in show business, but this is just as much about life lessons.”
Calum has taken those lessons to heart as he’s moved from a one-line scene in Scooby Doo 2 to a regular gig with Disney and various film roles. “I think it’s important to stay real, he says.
Another Op’ning shows at 7 p.m. April 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11, with 2 p.m. matinees April 3, 4 and 11. Cost is $12 or $10 for students and seniors.