Theatre Passe Murialle’s Student Creation Week

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Toronto’s Theatre Passe Muraille’s annual Student Creation Week opened their doors to four GTA high schools offering workshops and intensives to help students hone their creative theatrical talents

Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of attending Theatre Passe Muraille’s Student Creation Week performance. It was an honour to be invited to this very special event. For those who have not heard of the Student Creation Week program, I encourage you to check out the page on the TPM website.

Theatre Passe Muraille hosts the Student Creation Week annually. It is an inspiring way for this theatre to kick-off its season. Theatre Passe Murialle has been dedicated to producing new original works—particularly collective creations such as this—since its founding 46 years ago.

Four GTA schools spent a week (September 16 to September 20) creating four separate entries with the guidance of a professional artist mentor. Students from Earl Haig Secondary School, Maple High School, Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School and York Memorial Collegiate Institute were led through workshops designed to hone their writing and acting techniques by Antonio Cayonne, Brandy Leary, Lois Adamson and Tanja Jacobson. Each of these theatre professionals brings to the table their own unique experience, from spoken word to dance.

New this year, the program also hosted business students from Maple High School who were able to learn about arts administration. These students handled everything from the press kits to the theatre programs. These students learned hands-on that the magic of theatre is more complex than just having something to say and the honing the skills to say it well; theatre requires an audience, and it’s the business side of the industry that gets butts in seats.

When I arrived at the theatre, the youthful energy and enthusiasm was palpable. It must have been an exhausting week for those students, but their hard work and dedication was rewarded with an eager and expectant audience in the Passe Muraille Mainspace.

The evening began with a funny and informative introduction by Associate Artistic Producer Rob Kempson. Each school’s piece began with a brief preamble by the artistic mentor that gave some insight into the inspiration and process.

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Each performance featured a large ensemble cast (25 to 30 students). By weaving fragments of song, dance and spoken word, each group grappled with issues of communication and identity. Thematically and stylistically, each of these four collective creations focused on the students’ experience as individuals and as part of a group.

First up, was Earl Haig Secondary School’s A Streetcar Named Fear. This movement and choral-speaking based piece was inspired by the recent Sammy Yatim shooting. It explored the polarizing effect such a public tragedy has on individuals and a community.

Pierre Elliot Trudeau High School’s entry was Virtuous Sins. Weaving together many interactions in a Toronto subway station, this innovative piece explored ideas of virtue and sin, hinting at the fragile balance that exists within every human interaction.

D3SCRAMBL3D, Maple High School’s contribution to the evening, was crafted from found text. Drawing on many sources—newspaper articles, songs, movies, etc.—the students used the material as a springboard for this multi-disciplinary exploration of well-being and mental health.

The final entry was Unboxed from York Memorial Collegiate High School. Blending spoken word, dance, live music and movement: this piece was a stylish and soul-searching patchwork that explored the many obstacles youth face as they struggle to forge an identity.

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It was truly inspiring to experience such brave and spirited creativity. Watching these students convey their concerns in such an entertaining and evocative manner, I couldn’t help but feel some nostalgia for my high school years.

By partnering students with professional artists and arts institutions, Theatre Passe Muraille is actively inspiring a whole new generation of theatre artists and theatre-goers. The Creation Week fosters collaboration and gives students valuable insights into theatre as both an art form and an industry.

Congratulations to the students of each of the four participating schools and their professional mentors!