Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
Whoever said, “youth is wasted on the young” didn’t envision Soulpepper’s City Youth Academy.
Youth initiatives and access have been at the core of Soulpepper’s work since its inception in 1998. Now in its 18th season, the maverick theatre company continues to offer programs for youth at the theatre, in schools, and in the community–for free.
And Toronto-area youth are savvy enough to cotton on to a good thing when they see it. Each year, an increasing number compete for one of 10 coveted spots in the City Youth Academy. Entering its 3rd year this summer, the City Youth Academy comes from a long history of youth programming at Soulpepper. As with all of Soulpepper’s youth initiatives, at the heart of the Academy is the notion of mentorship: a direct connection between young people and the resident artists.
“The City Youth Academy is an intensive program where we offer ten young people (ages 16-19) from across the GTA performance training, led by Soulpepper Artists,” explains Molly Gardner, Soulpepper’s Manager of Community Programming. “Following the model of the Soulpepper Academy, these young artists will be given six paid weeks of rigorous skills training and artistic development as integrated members of the company.” The program is designed to inspire personal creativity and artistic discipline, while supporting young artists in the development of their artistic practice.
“We are looking for youth who are dedicated, hard-working, creative, curious and open-minded. We also are looking for young artists who can collaborate with each other and contribute to a dynamic creative ensemble.” But only “driven” young artists — who are deeply interested in the performing arts and “hungry” for performance training opportunities — should apply for this paid apprenticeship.
To be considered, interested youth must apply online with a comprehensive and compelling submission, including a written application, a letter of reference and a 1-minute video performance. This year’s application deadline is Monday, March 28. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted in late April for an audition on Saturday, May 14. The process, resembling the first step in a professional audition, serves to separate serious contenders from the rest. It’s a realistic window into a future in the performing arts — or, at minimum, valuable preparation for college or university applications.
Over the 6-week program, City Youth Academy artists receive training in movement, voice, ensemble, writing, rehearsal and performance, with projects that include scene study and devised creation. Each participant receives $394 per week, so incidentals like transportation and lunch costs are covered.
“Our goals are to have City Youth Academy Artists leaving the program having become braver and more confident artists, meaningful contributors to a creative ensemble, and performers with the tools and motivation to keep developing their craft or artistic practice,” says Ms Gardner. Moreover, the skills the young artists develop are highly relevant and applicable to other areas of life and career, she maintains. These include the development of communication skills, listening skills, creative thinking, collaboration and teamwork, confidence-building–all necessary in a wide range of jobs.
Alumni of Soulpepper’s youth programs can be found throughout Toronto, across Canada and around the world pursuing many different paths, with a large number of them now working as professional artists. And Ms Gardner makes clear that Soulpepper’s commitment to the youth participants extends beyond the 6-week apprenticeship and into the long term: “We aim to stay connected to our alumni by keeping in touch, and also offering opportunities for them to stay engaged. One of our alumni initiatives is through our Ada Slaight Youth Link Program, which allows alumni to train with Soulpepper Artists as arts educators working with community organizations.”
Based on the City Youth Academy’s prior successes, Ms Gardner is already anticipating the diverse, energetic and ingenious young people who will enter the Young Centre this summer: “I am so impressed and inspired by the youth we work with. They work really hard and create interesting work together. It’s wonderful to see a group of young artists from across the city, from different schools and backgrounds, come together as creators.
“The connections and friendships that youth make in our programs will last them a lifetime.”
News You Can Use
What: City Youth Academy
Who: Students 16-19 years of age
When: July 11-August 19, 2016
Where: Young Centre for the Performing Arts, Distillery Historic District, 50 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON, M5A 3C4
For Information and application form: Soulpepper.ca/cityyouthacademy
© 2016 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya