Theatre program gives kids 10 to 14 an early start
By Sue Tiffin
Published April 24, 2018
It’s common to hear celebrated thespians on awards shows looking back at influences in their younger years to thank the people and programs that gave them the skills they needed to succeed.
Perhaps one day we’ll hear an acknowledgement to the Early Stages apprenticeship theatre program, held for the past few summers in Haliburton County. Or maybe alumni of the program will pursue a path other than theatre, and simply use their experience to live a more creative life.
The four-week program, an initiative through the Highlands Summer Festival, begins in July. About half the spots this year – the fifth year the program will run – have already been filled with kids aged 10 to 14.
“We use theatre-related games and exercises to develop skills,” said Scot Denton, the artistic producer of the Highlands Summer Festival since 2008. “Those skills are teamwork; focus; storytelling; and this is a tricky one to describe, we try to get them to understand that their response to things like stories and events is valid on its own. That’s a complicated thing ... but it’s the basis of art, really, and creativity.”
The program helps encourage kids to connect with their own creativity through games and exercises, often in groups.
Denton leads the program with two instructors who come from performance-based programs (such as those offered through George Brown, Sheridan College, or Ryerson University). The instructors also perform in the summer festival program, and students in the Early Stages program are able to watch a rehearsal where they can see their own instructor learning. Students are also offered comp tickets for themselves to attend the Highlands Summer Festival performances as theatregoers.
“They have fun,” said Denton. “Sometimes two or three of them come together, and they get the chance to speak to the actors.”
At the end of the Early Stages program, the participants present their work through performances that include theatre scenes or movement pieces.
“Movement pieces – it’s not dancing, it’s a story set to music,” said Denton. “What you see is people telling a story with physicality, like a scene where nobody talks but something is happening. They learn the value of the inner experience for themselves. If you are experiencing something, people will know what is happening to you, they will see it.”
To date, Denton said the program, which can include up to 16 participants, has been fun and also worthwhile for participants.
“They get a lot out of it, and much of what they get, they don’t even know,” said Denton, who suspects many students will look back years later and realize how the course had helped to shape them.
The Early Stages apprenticeship theatre program was developed as part of the Highlands Summer Festivals’ mandate to include young people, and teach them the value of theatre. Denton said the 10 to 14 age-range is an “amazing age for kids.”
“They’re incredibly creative and they don’t know,” said Denton. “Often they just think they’re like everybody else. They don’t realize how unique they are.”
The Early Stages apprenticeship theatre program for young performers runs from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday, from July 3 to July 26 at St. George’s Anglican Church in Haliburton. Kids aged 10 to 14 are welcome to enrol in the program, which costs $215. Participants bring their own lunch to eat during the daytime program. In the past, bursaries to attend the program have been available.
To secure a spot, contact Scot Denton at 416-486-5008 or Melissa Stephens at 705-455-2366.