Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Stories from the Youth Theatre Training Program: Jumblies Theatre

By Christine Rankin, Education Assistant

Our Youth Theatre Training Program (YTTP) offers financial support to programs that deliver accessible training to young people (age 14 to 21), led by professional artists in skills such as technical production and design; theatre administration and producing; and performance skills and play creation. 

Jumblies Theatre was supported for their program ‘Touching Ground: Building Up’ that took place in the CityPlace community during September-February 2016. 

Jumblies Theatre embraces the wholeness of community and develops art that extends beyond the borders of time and place. Their theatre project as supported by YTTP was entitled Touching Ground: Building Up. It was created to celebrate the diversity of youth, to unearth the indigenous histories of Toronto, and to inspire different methods of artistic creation for young artists. Between September 2015 and February 2016, the workshop series explored different modes of storytelling on the quest for youth to tell their own tales of living in CityPlace: a residential community downtown Toronto where Jumblies resides.

During the 18 weeks, youths were trained in soundscapes, voice, movement and primarily in shadow puppetry. They participated in physical theatre, collective writing, and visual projection workshops to develop unique skills for multidisciplinary performance. The training sessions continually encouraged the participants to challenge how theatre could be created. They used found text, verbatim text and even interviews to give their work an authentic quality that was true to their community. The participants were thrilled with the possibilities of performance and design that were both accessible and perception changing—what a way to broaden your horizons as an artist!

Emphasis was placed on using performance to explore oral histories, folklore and urban myth. The participants were motivated to discover how these themes interacted with their own writing and whether they could bring vibrancy to their narratives—a question that was answered with a resounding yes and fully embraced in their final project. Several sessions were dedicated to contemplating the structure of community and the diversity within it that makes each member of the community a storyteller.  The participants were unbelievably enthusiastic about this art-making opportunity: 
“My favourite thing was making the physical clown characters”
“My favourite part was making our own costumes!” 
“I really enjoyed the script writing process…this was my first time: I want to bring friends!”
These discoveries were points of inspiration for the final performance piece—a shared creation devised through collective-based rehearsal work that reflected their experiences of community through allegory. Their final work entitled “Little Dream, Big City” focused on physical theatre and shadow puppetry—a favourite for many of the participants - to tell the story of lost prehistoric animals in CityPlace. The piece paralleled the participants’ experiences of exploring the daunting city of Toronto and empathized the anxieties of changing not only one’s environment but their idea of home—an internal conflict that many of the youth had engaged with before.

An additional focus of the program was the empowerment of youth and the creation of a safe space for art-making. From script writing to designing projections, the youths found new energy in previously undiscovered places. Participants expressed their content with working with others, stating:
“I hope I get to do more experiences like this. I really liked theatre design and met some new friends.”
“I wish this was continuing: loved working with everyone!”
“Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this amazing show!”
Participants were encouraged to have pride in their artistic work, their visions, their stories, and each other. Each young artist left feeling inspired to pave the way for more art by youth and to use their voice to express their perspective of this rapidly changing world. Jumblies Theatre noted:
“They left the group as a positive young collective and we hope to continue working with them as they develop as young artists and community leaders”  
Theatre Ontario’s YTTP is incredibly excited to be a part of Jumblies Theatre wonderful initiative to inspire these new leaders: we can’t wait to hear what happens next!

The next application deadline for the Youth Theatre Training Program is March 15, 2017.

Theatre Ontario’s Youth Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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