I was first introduced to Soulpepper through one of their school visits when I was eight. Having just moved downtown, these school visits led by various Soulpepper artists including: Paula Wing, Martha Burns, Bill Webster, Sarah Wilson, and Jennifer Villaverde gave me my first taste of theatre. I find community programming like the City Youth Academy and school visits a crucial method in producing an inclusive means of artistic expression for youth. After more than a decade later, programming like the City Youth Academy is one of the reasons I felt so strongly to apply to work with Soulpepper this summer, this time as a program assistant.
The City Youth Academy has been such a rewarding opportunity to be a part of. I had the chance to work with ten vibrant, eclectic, and diverse young performers, each bringing such a great enthusiasm and sharpness which reminded how joyous theatre making is. As the Program Assistant, I worked with Program Leader, Jennifer Villaverde, to assist in facilitating the guest artists’ workshops, creation and exploration in various forms of devised theatre, and stage managed the final performance. Additionally, the environment within the Young Centre was such an incredible way to spend my summer. For the first time, I was able to go ‘behind-the-scenes’ and witness the immense dedication and drive each Soulpepper staff and administrator brings to their work.
As far as the CYA participants, they have each grown in various ways over the six weeks. This program’s emphasis on collaborative creation has ensured a sense of constructive idea building within the creation itself. Functioning as one unit, a “Blob” as referenced in their final piece I Was Here, is essential to utilizing every single group member’s assets and skills, without creating a hierarchy of voices. As well, through creation and scene study work with Guest Artist Jordan Pettle, it was evident how much empathy they had for each other through their keen listening skills onstage. As they got more comfortable with each other, they learned the individuality of each of their peer’s processes, a crucial skill in producing an environment conducive to meaningful creation.
Looking at the past six weeks there are so many highlights! Here’s just a few:
- Blowing bubbles through the Distillery to bring back a sense of ‘joy’
- Spending a day exploring Graffiti Alley and Kensington Market
- African Dance with Guest Artist Pulga Muchochoma
- Getting the opportunity to sit in on a Bed & Breakfast rehearsal
- Watching the performers ecstatically learn a “Fight Brawl” from Guest Fight Director Casey Hudecki
- Getting to know and work with amazing administrators, especially Fiona Suliman and Winnie Doyle-Marshall
Do you know any youth interested in training in theatre and developing their own artistic practice? Applications for next years City Youth Academy will be open next spring.
Soulpepper’s yearly City Youth Academy is a paid, intensive program, providing 10 young people (ages 16-19) with performance training, led by Soulpepper Artists. The young artists have five weeks of artistic skills training and development, and are paired with an Artist Mentor from Soulpepper’s artistic company. Over the course of the program, their instruction includes scene study, devised creation, and training in movement, music, ensemble, writing, rehearsal and performance. The program is designed to inspire personal creativity, artistic discipline, and to support young artists in the development of their own artistic practice.
This is one day in the life of the 2017 City Youth Academy:
Photo Diary by Soulpepper Marketing Intern Mia Tionko, recorded onsite at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in August, 2017. Visit Soulpepper.ca/youth for more information.
I’ve been a member of the Curtain Club for three years now, but a subscriber for much longer, as well as making regular donations to support the ongoing work of Soulpepper.
How did you first learn about Soulpepper/What is you first memory of Soulpepper?
Having friends in the theatre industry, I knew of Soulpepper for a long time, almost from its inception. I heard stories about their work from these friends and was intrigued by Albert’s vision for the company. My first memory of their work was a drama (the show’s name escapes my memory, must be my age!) and being impressed with the quality of the acting and the use of stage space. The small theatre space creates an intimacy that you cannot have in the large theatres.
What inspired you to support us?
It actually started from a negative experience with another company. I was distressed at how the company was treating their Canadian staff (remember my friends?) and thought that I was missing out on good Canadian talent. I “risked” a season with Soulpepper, and haven’t looked back. I wanted to support the talent of fine Canadian actors, so I became a donor. My participation was confirmed when I learned of Albert’s vision to treat actors fairly, and his willingness to step outside the traditional theatre mode, and improve the employment picture for his company members. Now, Soulpepper launches into its work to become a National Civic Theatre, an idea I’m happy to support in the little ways that I can.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about giving to Soulpepper? And, why do you think the arts should be a priority for philanthropy?
I would say to people that theatre is much more than Broadway musicals and big name performers. That we have living in our midst highly talented people that can compete with the best that Broadway can offer. I’ve just seen Billy Bishop Goes to War, and said that was better than most offerings coming to us from south of the border.
The arts, in all its various forms, convey culture. Without the arts our Canadian culture is diminished. Supporting the artist communities, will enrich the lives of generations to come.
How do you imagine Soulpepper in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be sitting in the theatre continuing to be impressed by the fine work Soulpepper does. At the same time, I hope that others, across Canada (and indeed maybe even Broadway) will be seeing the same thing. Keep up the good work!