Thursday, 28 May 2015

Cultivating Tomorrow's Artists

by Kayleigh Robertson, Theatre Ontario Youth Advisory Committee Member

On Saturday May 16, 2015, as part of the 2015 Theatre Ontario Festival, Theatre Ontario’s own Youth Advisory Committee hosted Cultivating Tomorrow’s Artists–a conversation between community theatre artists, encouraging youth engagement in theatre programming. This panel was held in Oshawa–the location of this year’s festival–and was moderated by Wayne Burns. Panelists included Stephanie Andrews, Paula Brancati, Liam Lynch, Joseph Recinos and myself.

As a member of the Youth Advisory Committee, to create and be a part of a panel to get youth involved in theatre was truly amazing. There was incredible feedback and interaction from the audience as to how important this is. Theatre truly is one big community, and it was made very clear that although we all have different careers within the industry, we all live, work, and breathe the theatre community; the foundation of which is community theatre.

Cultivating Tomorrow's Artists - a conversation between
community theatre artists, encouraging youth engagement
in theatre programming.
The entire panel spoke passionately about the idea of drama programs being implemented in schools. Not just as a mandatory drama class–but showing the students taking this class that a career in the arts is possible. That being said, negative attitudes must be taken out. As a grade 10 student myself, I feel, find, and see myself being put into a box that I do not fit in. If I miss a class for an audition or a show I am part of, it is not "great job!”, it's either "how long will you be gone?" or silence. Though if I was away for a professional sports meet, how would my teachers react?

On the topic of sports, a Sports-Theatre analogy was created. In elementary and high school there are a variety of sports extracurricular activities. Students usually try a few until they find a couple that they like. We should develop theatre programing at the elementary and high school level that allows students to access knowledge and experience in the various areas of the performing arts e.g. performing, producing, set design, stage managing, tech and lighting, etc.

Rather than looking at the "performing arts", one audience member brought up the idea of this being the "arts and sciences." There are so many different parts of theatre than just acting and performing. Whether it be lighting, costume design, or even stage managing, as a panel we all felt very strongly about the importance of mentorship, and the role that community theatres play to bring the new “up and comers” in the theatre industry "in", and show them the ropes. It was also nice to hear from some Community Theatres in the audience that they are embracing this role and are beginning to start up Youth Theatre Programs.

Joe Recinos was stuck on a GO train on his way to
Oshawa.  He telephoned in, but without proper
speakers on hand, Rebecca Ballarin and Ray
Jacildo got creative in amplifying his voice.
At the end of our panel, we spoke of the idea that the arts world is not just about becoming famous. It takes a lot of hard work to get there, and if you happen to - great. But, passion is what all artists hold onto. On the community theatre side, youth programs are being created to help foster the next generation of theatre artists. If we all commit to work on eliminating the "poor-actor" stereotype–that you'll never make it and it is a "bad job to have"–and recognizing that theatre is more than just putting on show–it is about helping and loving each other–2015 will be an amazing year for the theatre community, resulting in more ways for youth to prosper in community theatre.

Find out more about Theatre Ontario's Youth Advisory Committee

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