Thursday, 9 February 2017

Stories from the Youth Theatre Training Program: Paprika Festival

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. 

Paprika Festival was supported for their Core Training program that took place in Toronto during May 2016. 

Paprika places youth in the driver’s seat of the theatre: their annual festival generates the possibility for creative mentorships and production training. Paprika applied to YTTP for support for their Core Training program: an opportunity for young artists to work alongside established professionals in several fields of theatre. The Festival has allocated programs for training in performance creation, directing, and playwriting through which emphasis is placed on the creative process and practice in the theatre. The aim here is to help young artists develop skills in their areas of specialization and create art of a high caliber. The structure of this training allows participants to step into a position of agency in order to develop the confidence to lead once the mentorships come to an end. Paprika Festival thrives off this arrangement and explained:
“What made training really special was that the facilitators/mentors all have successful artistic practices and were generous in how they shared their expertise. The facilitators/mentors all took the skills and experience they have and used them to help the participants realize their artistic visions.” 
During May 2016, the youths were involved in a writer’s circle and two different productions that were presented at the festival. For youth playwrights, the Writer’s Circle explored workshop style writing and focused on the elements needed to have a positive group support experience – an important skill when learning to deliver helpful feedback! The productions showcased multidisciplinary artists including poets, musicians, dancers, actors, directors, designers. The Regent Collective created We are XX, a show written and performed by collective with further engagement from a member of the director’s lab. The show explored the theme of being marginalized and was devised through exploring the participants’ own experiences with marginalization. The Creator’s Unit produced I am not a Thing and focused on youths’ interaction with technology and the consequential change of social interaction in our society. Participants had a wonderful time during the program: 
“Festival week was the most fun part of the program: great to have everyone together” 
"The workshops that were offered definitely [helped] me expand more of my knowledge and experience about theatre!”
The workshops and training cultivated a broad range of skills that focused on rehearsal and production: collective creation, immersive theatre, marketing, verbatim playwriting and improvisation classes – just to name a few! It was important to the Paprika team that participants had an environment that made it possible to create without obstacle. A participant stated,
“Got to commend Paprika for making a safe space – and making sure what safe space meant was clear from day one. Thank you. Also, really happy to see so many artists of colour and queer artists in the room and in positions of power!” 
This sense of respect, energy, and openness to creativity set the tone for the Paprika Festival and carried its participants through to the final product. 

Paprika’s Festival and Core Training Program was as intense as it sounds: participants expressed their thankfulness for being challenged to develop their work and persevere throughout the creative process.
“I am so thankful for Paprika, I don’t think I would have gotten this project started within the time frame that I did, without the festival and the support provided. I feel like the level of support that I received was perfect for where I am at as a creator/young artist.”
“Paprika is a fantastic program. Such an excellent passage for young artists to get their start in their theatre careers or even to find their way back into theatre and performance."
The generosity of mentors in the space, the desire of the youths to enhance and explore their own artistry, and the closeness of all those involved ensure that the Paprika Festival is a memorable event and fantastic opportunity for youths launch their careers in the arts and head out with the confidence to take on the world. 

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

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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