MainImages_2021_About Us
Professional Live Arts for Youth (P.L.A.Y. Society) is a community based not for profit society that provides theatre and musical theatre programming to children and youth. The goal of the society is to ensure every child and teen has access to professional arts training regardless of their financial situation. P.L.A.Y. Society does this by offering all of their classes at a rate of $5 an hour, there is also a scholarship program in place that will help cover that cost for families that need it.

P.L.A.Y. Society is able to do this because of their community partnerships with local theatres, vendors and the generosity of donors; without them we would not be able to provide our programming at such a professional level. Every child has the right to arts programming and P.L.A.Y. Society will continue to work with surrounding communities to accept children and families from every walk of life, no matter what.
Our Mandate
P.L.A.Y. Society provides affordable arts education programs to youth throughout British Columbia. Ensuring that all participants have access to arts programming regardless of ethnicity, gender, or financial situation.

Our story and how Barbara Howard started it all

In early 2014 Brad Tones and Jessica Nelson were invited to a dinner by Debra Hinksman (Deb). The reason for the dinner wasn’t clear, only that Deb wanted to chat. During the dinner Deb mentioned that her church was in the process of creating fund in honour of Barbara Howard who was one of their congregation members and a pretty big deal. The fund was meant to support kids in the community and they were accepting proposals with the tagline ‘what would you do to benefit children in your community?’

Brad and Jessica left the meeting excited about putting forward a proposal as they shared a passion for the arts and supporting local families. Together they came up with the idea of providing theatre and musical theatre classes to children in the Langley area. They called this idea P.L.A.Y. (Professional Live Arts for Youth) as it touches on both the notion of putting on a ‘play’ but also expresses professionalism in the arts. P.L.A.Y. would provide theatre and musical theatre classes to everyone in the community and make sure every child had the chance to participate with zero discrimination.

The Barbara Howard Student Arts Fund supported the idea and funded their next three years. In that time P.L.A.Y. became an incorporated society, expanded to surrounding communities and now supports arts programing for nearly 500 kids annually. All this because Barbara Howard told her church to find a way to support children.

Who was Barbara Howard?

Barbara Howard was an amazing woman who paved the way for so many.

In 1938, at the age of 17, Barbara was a student at Britannia Secondary School in Vancouver. She was on the track and field team and ran the 100m dash in 11.2 seconds, it was one tenth of a second faster than the world Empire Games record. Team Canada was quick to recruit her, and at 17 years old she became the first person of colour to compete for Canada on an international stage. She helped the Canadian team take home a silver and a bronze medal in relay sprints, while she placed sixth in the world in the 100-meter sprint.

Unfortunately, the war cancelled the next two Olympics and she was never able to finish a career in track and field that was sure to be a successful one, but don’t worry, she wasn’t done with trailblazing just yet.

Barbara studied at the University of British Columbia and upon receiving her degree in education she became the first minority ever hired by the Vancouver school board. While teaching she chose to keep her athletic history quiet and focus on teaching. There’s a story a student told of her joining a baseball game in gym class. Barbara was teaching baseball to a group of girls and decided to grab a bat. She stood at the plate in her heels and a very nice suit, she was always known for wearing nice clothes. In her heels she swung at the first pitch and hit it out of the park. The girls were all screaming as they joined her as she ran around the bags in her heels. “We had no idea she was an athlete” one student said “we thought she was just a teacher.” Barbara Howard was not just a teacher. For 40 years she was a mentor, a friend, an athlete AND a teacher in the Vancouver school system. She was also a member of a small church in Burnaby called Ellesmere United. It was this church that wanted to acknowledge Barbara with a Fund in her name. When asked what she would like the fund to do she simply said “Find a way to give back to children,” the rest is history.

Barbara lived an amazing yet humble life until January of 2017. P.L.A.Y. Society is proud to have known such an impactful and kind person and so thankful that she was able to see our society succeed and grow because of her. We will continue to support our local communities and ensure every child has a safe and fun place to play.


Cari May

Cari May

Cari has been working with PLAY since it was a wee baby in 2015! She is an elementary fine arts teacher, always looking for ways to weave the arts (and especially performing arts) into the day-to-day. In her free time, Cari is into crafting, hiking, baking, and of course going to live theatre. Her favourite part of teaching with PLAY is seeing a student arrive on Day 1 hiding inside their hermit crab, but then rocking it out on the stage by Day 5.

Ryan May

Ryan May

When it comes to theater, Ryan is guilty by association being married to a drama major. Looking back, though, the arts have always been a large part of his life. Ryan's extended family owned a dance studio and had him in tap classes at the age of 6. He didn't stick with dance for long but got many opportunities to be in plays such as A Time to Remember a few smaller Christmas productions. He always loved music and plucked away at any instrument he could get his hands on. In his teen years he starred in A Charlie Brown Christmas two years running. Over the years he pursued music more and began a successful music lesson company known as Ryan May Music. It wasn't until he was in his early twenties that he was involved in It's a Wonderful Life and met his wife Cari May. Together with their two kids they continue to keep the arts alive in their family and the lives of all the kids they teach in their jobs - it truly is A Wonderful Life...

Alicia Tobin

Alicia Tobin

Alicia has been working with P.L.A.Y. since 2016, and has had many unforgettable memories with the kids, and P.L.A.Y. staff. Some of her favourite productions have been Matilda, Mary Poppins, Grease, and Annie, but every single production has been a rewarding and fun experience. She believes that theatre and performance are essential to building confidence in youth, and has a passion for helping them discover their voice while strengthening and refining their fine-arts skills. When she’s not working with P.L.A.Y., Alicia teaches high-school English and Drama. It is her mission to instil a passion for theatre and performance in the youth that she works with.

Chloe Zondag

Chloe Zondag

Chloe is currently studying Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in hopes of obtaining a career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Chloe has been involved in the arts since a young child, predominantly in dance which began at the age of 3. She has been an instructor at P.L.A.Y. for over 5 years, specializing in the dance choreography for the majority of the Summer productions. Chloe loves creating fun relationships with her students and being a role model, inspiring them to achieve whatever they put their minds to. She cannot wait to meet new faces, catch-up with previous students, and continue to learn about theatre along the way.


Deb in red hat

Deb Hinsklam

Currently a semi-retired minister serving at Ladysmith First United Church, Deb has always loved all things theatrical; has dabbled in performing onstage and clearly knows she will never make Broadway! Because of this, and without shame, she lives vicariously through P.L.A.Y because she believes in the power of the performing arts to give children inner confidence, Life skills, a positive outlook in life and a means to explore and develop their inner creative selves. Growing up in southern Ontario, Deb began her ministry working with children, youth and their families and her passion for this has never diminished. Believing everything has a creative edge, it was not unusual to find comic characters, storytelling, musicals, drama, improv and more in Sunday morning worship gatherings and events. A mother of 3, grandmother of 3 and great grandmother of two, Deb’s love for P.L.A.Y Society is deep.

“I feel like I’m like a grandmama to this program!” she says, as it was when she was Barbara Howard’s minister at Ellesmere United that the concept of a specialized children’s theatre the program was imagined. From an initial dinner with two gifted theatrical “passionistas” (her word) a dream was born. “I have watched those discussions evolve into the unique, values-based and affordable professional theatrical gift that is now available to the children in our community because of P.L.A.Y. Society. It is such a joy and honour to come full circle and to now serve on the Board.”

Deb is very excited to see the future direction of this program in giving children the experience, electricity and learning that can come from being on stage. “And besides… isn’t applause always life affirming?!”

HIGH RES-- Elena

Elena Middlemass

By day, Elena Middlemass is Manager, Corporate Service for Vitalus Nutrition and Manitoba Dairy Ingredients. Leading the CEO’s office, she is mainly focused on the special projects that allow the company to fulfill its purpose of unlocking the nutritional value of milk. Afterhours, and in her off-time, Elena enjoys a variety of volunteering opportunities in her community. From helping to stock the shelves of her local food bank to fundraising for a children’s hospice, there is nothing she likes better than to offer her experience and knowledge to others. P.L.A.Y. allows Elena to go back in time to her childhood, with warm memories spent in theatre groups, dance, and music classes. Giving back to the community is a core value for Elena, and she looks forward to supporting and contributing to team efforts at the P.L.A.Y. Society.


Brad Tones: Founder

Brad lives every day for those around him. “There is nothing more important than creating memories that we hold dear for as long as we can.” Let’s keep this short and sweet. Performer since the age of 8, handful of T.V commercials as a child, Bachelor’s Degree from Simon Fraser University, Executive Coordinator of The Columbia Theatre, Quatchi at the Vancouver Olympics, Founder of P.L.A.Y., Director of Development at Pacific Theatre, Husband to a beautiful wife and father of 3 amazing kids. Brad has been blessed with passion. He continuously strives to better himself and encourage those around him. Brad is so extremely proud of P.L.A.Y. Society and everyone involved, it’s because of you that we continue to grow and affect the lives of those around us.


Jessica Anne Nelson - Founder

Jessica Anne Nelson is an award-winning theatre director, creator, producer, and intimacy choreographer in Vancouver, who sets the bar for creating safe and imaginative spaces for artists to play and explore in her provocative productions. With a strong background in devised and creative theatre, as well as narrative-based drama, her directing focuses on exploring the range of human experiences even within the most negatively viewed characters and exploring how we enact gender in performance as well as in our daily lives. With an M.F.A. in Directing and B.A. Honours Theatre from the University of British Columbia Jessica is proud to be a founder of P.L.A.Y. Society.

Langley Fine Arts School

Our Partners: Langley Fine Arts

We would like to take a moment to acknowledge the support and encouragement we’ve received from Langley Fine Arts and its staff. You have been an integral part of our growth and success and we thank you for everything you’ve done. *If you would like to partner with P.L.A.Y. and have some ideas of how we can work together please do let us know. We love working with the community to bring the arts to more people. Contact us at