(416) 537-4191 info@theatredirect.ca 1 Wiltshire Ave. Unit 127 Toronto, ON M6N 2V7

There are many parallels that can be drawn between being a caregiver and being an artist. Both are consuming, creative, require patience and sensitivity. Both are vital to answering questions about identity and shaping of our future. However, the demands of becoming a carer include isolation, marginalisation and disproportionate economic impact for those working in creative industries. The struggles faced by caregivers in the arts are often unknown or overlooked by organizations in our industry.

Balancing Act is Theatre Direct’s ambitious new initiative which will work to reframe the way we think about and practice working in the arts. Our project will imagine and invest in innovative, slower and broader methods of working that put the performing arts community at the heart of this complex challenge. We will create resources that will provide clear, grounded and proven solutions to ensure that the performing arts become a more flexible, inclusive and accessible industry that is able to retain talented individuals and create opportunities for those with caregiving responsibilities.

More details about this exciting initiative will be announced shortly.

If you would like to learning more as this project unfolds, please join our mailing list below.

Where big ideas come in small packages…

At Theatre Direct, we believe that by interacting with the world through theatre, young people will connect more deeply to each other, their stories and their communities. 

This season, we are excited to launch The Creation Warehouse!

Here, young people will have the opportunity to play and dream, to imagine and to pretend. 

Join us for our creation based PA Day programs and weekly classes led by professional artists.

Now, in its 43rd season, Theatre Direct Canada is one of the country’s leading theatres for young audiences whose award-winning productions have reached audiences in schools and theatres across Canada and the world! 

Theatre Direct recently welcomed Lisa Marie DiLiberto as its new Artistic Director.  Lisa Marie brings her spirit of collaboration and expertise in community-engaged arts to the company along with a desire to put young people directly into the centre of all we do at Theatre Direct Check out Lisa Marie’s first season of programming here!

After 17 years of dedicated leadership, former Artistic Director Lynda Hill has taken the lead of WeeFestival as it continues to grow with the support of Theatre Direct. Check out all things WeeFestival here!

MANDATE

  • To commission, develop, produce and present theatre for, by, and with, young people that provokes change and inspires imaginations;
  • To explore challenging ideas and subject matter relevant to young people with creativity and consideration;
  • To offer accessible programming that is inclusive of all young people regardless of ability, background and social status.

MISSION

  • To explore new approaches to the creation, production and presentation of theatre that  will activate the imaginations and aspirations of young people and put them directly at the centre of all our work.  

VISION 

  • Theatre Direct is driven by a belief that young people have a desire to be part of the theatre we create and present.
  • We trust that by interacting with artists and the world around us through theatre, young people will connect more deeply to each other, their stories and their communities.
  • We believe theatre for young audiences can spark new theatrical forms and invent innovative ways to tell the stories they hold.

Theatre Direct runs weekly drama classes for children in grades 1-6. We are committed to fostering the creativity of young people through the experience of making theatre. During our weekly classes, students will work with our artistic team to create characters, develop storytelling skills and explore imaginative worlds.

MONDAY EVENINGS  @ The Creation Warehouse, 1 Wiltshire Ave (Dupont & Symington), Toronto. 

LEARN MORE

Theatre Direct is running full-day programs on VIAMONDE PA DAYS.

Grades 1-3 & 4-6 
9 am to 3:30 pm 
(with early-drop off and aftercare available*)

Children will work with Theatre Direct’s professional artistic team to explore a variety of theatre creation skills and genres through these sessions building to a performance at the end of the day. 

LEARN MORE

Theatre Direct is running full-day programs on TDSB / TCDSB PA DAYS.

Grades 1-3 & 4-6 
9am to 3:30pm 
(with early-drop off and aftercare available*)

Children will work with Theatre Direct’s professional artistic team to explore a variety of theatre creation skills and genres through these sessions building to a performance at the end of the day. 

LEARN MORE

With the holidays approaching and so many amazing things wrapping up here at Theatre Direct, it has truly been an inspiring last couple months.

Two weeks ago, we had Jacqui Russell, the Artistic Director of the Chicago Children’s Theatre, was here at Theatre Direct to work on a special Toronto Initiative of the infamous Red Kite project.  The Red Kite project was originally pioneered between the Chicago Children’s Theatre and Oily Cart in the UK to create a theatrical experience for children with autism. Since its incredibly successful inception, a new partnership was forged between The Chicago Children’s Theatre and Theatre Direct so that a Toronto creation could be generated in a week long training and workshop. Upon Jacqui and her colleague Dawn’s arrival there was not a day that passed by that was not inspirational. We learned about children on the autism spectrum, the development that Chicago Children’s Theatre went through creating Red Kite, and some of the amazing sensory based experiences we [the Toronto team] would be creating.

On the Tuesday we were lucky enough to visit the truly exceptional Beverley School and meet with 16 lovely children [with autism spectrum disorder] who would be joining us on the Friday for the performance. I myself have been involved with children in a teaching capacity for about 10 years; however, this was really the first time that I had gotten to watch what it means to facilitate a drama class with a group of children who were all on the autism spectrum. It was magical and challenging and like nothing I have ever been witness to.  It was really a unique experience to be witness to Jacqui Russell leading “drama time” with the kids.

The following days were all about creation work amongst the actors, director and designer, and learning the ticks of the trade on the educational front of producing shows for both family and school audiences. The amount of personalization, attention to details, thoughtfulness and really…love that goes into these shows from beginning to end, from the actors to the administrators, is really something extraordinary. Also – an equally surprising part of the week was when we brought a few different test audiences of early years aged children (3 – 5 year olds) and how effective and engaging the piece of theatre was for their age group.

Also here at Theatre Direct, it was the final week of the fall session of our wonderful Wednesday Ensemble that I am lucky enough to teach.  The last 9 weeks that we have been together has been full of focus exercises, movement work, tableaus, story writing, story acting, and character creation, which culminated in a lovely short sharing with the friends and families of our participants. In our sharing the members of the ensemble wrote short Cinquain poems based on one of the four seasons, to which they proceeded to choreograph movement, gestures, or frozen poses. After which, they taught the movement to their peers and it was all set to some beautiful music to meld it into one large text/movement piece. They all did such an incredible job and so many personal achievements were met that day, and over the course of our fall session. I am really looking forward to our Winter session together. So, UNTIL THEN!

Melissa Haddad – Metcalf Foundation Education Intern

From November 25 – 30, 2013, Theatre Direct Canada partnered with The Chicago Children’s Theatre to bring Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and production manager Dawn Akelis to Toronto with the aim of creating a scratch performance for children with  autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“Red Kite” is the title of an exciting series of multi-sensory theatrical experiences for children with ASD. Developed by Jacqueline Russell, Red Kite performances are created for small audiences of no more than 10 children and encourage direct interaction between the audience and the performers.

A complex and multifaceted disorder, autism presents differently in each person who is on the spectrum. But one generalization that can usually be made is that children with ASD respond to sensory experiences. Because of this, Red Kite projects are built of sensory events, with little dialogue or narrative story. Under Jacqui and Dawn’s expertise and guidance, Theatre Direct’s goal was to train a group of artists in the methodology behind creating a Red Kite play.

The other fundamental partner in this project was Beverley School, a Toronto public school dedicated to supporting the needs of children with developmental and/or physical disabilities. Working with teacher Linda McLaverty, we arranged to go to Beverley School to meet the children with ASD who would be our audience.

At Beverley School, Jacqui led the children through a drama class. Theatre Direct Artistic Director Lynda Hill had worked with this group throughout the fall, so the children were somewhat familiar with the concept. For the Red Kite team, however, this was our first introduction to our audience and their first introduction to us. It gave us a chance to see how they responded and to understand Jacqui’s methodology.

After our morning at Beverley School, the project became specific. We knew who we were designing the piece for. They were individuals and we and busily learned their names, their likes, their dislikes.

Over the course of the next three days, Jacqui fleshed out a framework for the show. The boxes were packing boxes. A family had just moved into a new house and the children in the family are having a hard time going to sleep – they wanted to keep exploring the boxes and find treasures. A series of sensory events were developed, each bracketed by “Papa Tim” trying to get the children to sleep. A pillow fight, dance party, flashlights in a tent, a car wash – all created with textures, sounds, lights. The culmination was a lullaby and the whole theatre space filling with stars – points of light gently moving outward. It was a calm, dream-state event that filled everyone with wonder. “Red Kite, Brown Box” was born.

In addition to the play, we created an art installation. Since the children were in two groups, one group would view the play while the other explored the installation at their own pace. Because the play took place in a “house”, we decided that the installation would be the “garden” right outside the house. Creating the Garden was like building a whole other show. We used the same principles as we did for the theatre piece (sensory experiences), but in this case the children would be the ones to find and discover things on their own.

No one could predict how the kids would respond. When the time came, everything was predictably unpredictable, just as Jacqui and Dawn said it would be. In the garden, a child dove into the tent and played happily with a pile of crayons for fifteen minutes. Another crumbled a pile of dried leaves and pinecones. One ran erratically. One had a meltdown. One shredded all of the paper boats in the water pool. All behaviours were acceptable. We were fascinated by what captured their attention, and what did not. Each child responded differently and what appealed to one child was often disregarded by another.

The “Smile Family” came out into the garden and guided children into the “house” (the theatre) as they sang the song “Our House”. Each actor was responsible for two children and helped them into their own bed/chair built out of a cardboard box. The bed was a home base, but the children weren’t expected to necessarily stay in it. The play then became a series of negotiations and offers that guided the children’s engagement: “Hey, why not hit me with the pillow, instead of hitting the light?” “Would you look after this bedtime bear?” “Do you want to take your car through the car wash?” “Dance Party!” It was the most intense, exacting and in the moment theatre I have ever seen.

After the children left, and we had a chance to de-brief, everyone on the team overflowed with excitement. We wanted to see those kids again, right away, to have the opportunity to perform for them, be surprised by them, learn from them. From the perspective of the teachers and caregivers from Beverley School, the students were amazingly engaged, and had had a number of breakthroughs in which they expanded their repertoire of responses.

It is hard to convey how unique and moving this project was. It was work that stretched us all as artists, and as people.

Amanda Lewis, Associate Artist And Project Coordinator

What an incredibly full month it has been here at Theatre Direct. I got to spend a week with Rhona Mattheson from Starcatchers where we had extensive talks about early years work with Storytellers, artists, and many other professionals in the creative community. My favorite part of her visit was the talk given that Theatre Direct organized at the Ontario Arts Council. It was just such an amazing experience to be in a room full of such a diverse group of people interested in what creating art for the early years means, how important it is, and engaging in conversation about it.
Another highlight this month was getting to visit the Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy on two separate occasions. Once was to tour the brand new building, made with the utmost thought and detail for the approximately 700 kindergarten students who go to school there in the Thorncliffe Community. The building is truly immaculate. It’s one of the most inspired buildings I have ever seen because every inch was designed with the thought “how can this benefit the 4 and 5 year old’s who will be attending” from the coded numbers and letters on the outside of the building – to the ramps and soft play atrium area on the inside. It’s honestly amazing. The second trip to Fraser Mustard was to do a teacher training in preparation for a very large residency project – The Firefly Project – that Theatre Direct is facilitating at the school. Watching Lynda Hill speak about the vision of the project, and run exercises with the teachers got me excited to be able to observe this massive and important project.

The teacher training drama workshop also got me thinking about the fast approaching beginning of Drama School here at Theatre Direct. I will be teaching a 3-term long after school program called the Wednesday Ensemble for children grade 3 – 6. After having worked intensively with children full time for 12 weeks this last summer at Seattle Children’s Theatre, it was nice to have a break and to be in the office aiding in coordinating education programs… but I am definitely now anxiously awaiting the beginning of my program. I miss the kids!!! Also Saturday morning drama club begins the same week and I will be observing Lynda in her class with the JK-SK’s to see some early years work in action!

Melissa Haddad – Metcalf Foundation Education Intern