Participants in the Soulpepper Youth Leadership Program 2007.
Founded a decade ago by 12 of Canada’s leading theatre artists — who themselves knew the value of having a mentor — Soulpepper Theatre’s commitment to arts education continues to extend well beyond merely selling out shows and rave reviews.
It involves making the arts accessible to everyone, especially to impressionable youth, regardless of their financial situation, who are in need of inspiration and a dream. The goal of the theatre company is to provide a creative space for artists and youth alike to hone their artistic talent through an appreciation of classical theatre and the benefits of mentorship, leadership programs and intensive training.
Through Soulpepper’s association with various inner-city youth programs and their dedicated supporters, Soulpepper Theatre is able to provide free access to main stage season productions for 1,000 youth per year who otherwise might not be able to experience live theatre or its many benefits.
Along with access initiatives, Soulpepper also hosts youth leadership, youth mentorship and after school theatre club programs all to help prepare students, through intensive training and professional development at the company, for post-secondary arts education or simply to give them a further appreciation of the art form.
Artist Christopher Mastropietro was part of Soulpepper’s Youth Mentorship Program two years ago and was invited back as an alumnus to be a part of the Youth Leadership Program. “I have done work here that has helped me develop a sense of artist appreciation. I recognize talents I didn’t even realize I had. Soulpepper teaches me the value of solidarity, an attitude I take with me as I approach school and community projects I’m a part,” says Mastropietro.
To be successful at theatre Mastropietro explains being patient, enthusiastic, and having a “relentless passion for learning, collaborating and creating” as key ingredients to success.
“All of our education programs believe strongly in the benefits of mentorship. In that regard, the programs are lead by the artists and directors of Soulpepper who are leading practitioners of their craft in the country,” says Jennifer Orpana, education manager.
“Our core values include our need to nurture the voices of young people in a safe and welcoming space. With an emphasis on team work towards creation and a strong dedication to practice, youth arts programs help to develop responsible citizens who aren’t afraid to think creatively or critically about the world around them,” says Orpana.
For York University student Sanaz Taghizadegan, Soulpepper is a great place to meet new people, network and experience the broad career choices in theatre. “I’m working on a career in lighting design. At Soulpepper I learned that when you get involved in something positive you build community. We never felt like we had to be perfect actors or writers to be involved. It was always about starting from where you were but having the desire to be challenged with new and exciting things,” says Taghizadegan.