With formal training only in dance, and performance experience only in music, I was nevertheless invited to join YPT under Jan & Susan Rubes as male apprentice for the 1975-76 season after auditioning for Greg Rogers. The female apprentice was Sonja Smits.
As apprentice, my task was to participate as fully as inhumanly possible in every production, understudy male roles, build sets, source/make props, provide musical accompaniment when needed, and essentially be forever available. And I was paid for the privilege, $70/wk! I was ecstatic.
Memorable moments abound: for the schools program, highlights include playing the King (for a day) of Beige in “A Knight in Kilometre Country”, a crutched character in “Billy Bishop & the Red Baron”, and Tom Longboat in “Cyclone Jack”. Entertaining the young people was reciprocally entertaining, and every cast member was terrifically encouraging and supportive–a real blast.
At Tarragon, it was night shift, turning a page or two for the pianist accompanying
“Fresh Disasters”. During a brutally cold winter stretch at OSC, flutist Dita Paabo and I (on guitar) formed the orchestra accompanying “Androcles and the Lion”. And I hung out with St Lawrence Centre stage crew for the run of “Popcorn Man”. The season ended all too soon.
February 1997. Maya Ardal was Artistic Director. I drove my little blue pick-up truck to YPT from Montreal for the first time, transporting the set of ‘A Promise is a Promise’ from Geordie Productions for a run on the mainstage. I was a young stage manager, with my first gig in the big city of Toronto. After a flat tire on the dreaded 401 and no shortage of bad driving weather, I arrived at the stage door of YPT. I rang the bell and the most dapper & dashing FOH manager I had ever seen, welcomed me to the city and the theatre. His name was Isaac Odell, and 3.5 weeks later we were engaged to be married! This year we celebrate 19 incredible years of marriage and our two beautiful creative sons are 9 and 14. I will always feel the thrill of true love in the walls of this building. Love of theatre, love of imagination, love of children and lifelong love. Thank you YPT for being ‘where it all began’!
– Gretel Meyer Odell
On tour with Of Mice and Men in 1980, George’s gun failed to go off (and this was the absolute closing moment of the play). Peter Donaldson was playing the role and, after three sad clicks of the weapon, he felt he had no alternative but to say “Bang!” The school audience hooted and hollered as the lights were lowered. Naturally Peter was not happy and, this being the first of two shows that day, he said to the S.M., “Get me a back-up gun for this afternoon or I’m not going on!”
Long may YPT continue and R.I.P., Peter.
– Christopher Kelk
I had an unusual childhood. By the age of 6, I had seen at least a dozen plays and only one film in a movie theatre. Most children, especially nowadays, have the opposite experience. This was partially because I was fortunate enough to have spent my early childhood in the 1970s growing up in a city like Toronto, which had such excellent children’s theatre. My mother took me to everything. One of the shows I have the most vivid early memories of was The Lost Fairy Tale. I remembered the theatre space vividly as well, which is why, after an absence of almost 30 years (due to the fact my family moved to the East Coast when I was in Grade 1), it was a surreal experience to step back into that theatre space to see Bunnicula. It was as though the space had shrunk as seen through my adult eyes! However, the magic in the performances was still the same. You cannot replace the magic of live theatre! More importantly, being exposed to such great theatre at a young age is why I am a working professional theatre artist today. Thanks for the inspiration and happy 50th Anniversary, YPT! (As a footnote, my mother now wishes she had exposed me to more science museums, so that I’d have become a scientist when I grew up!)
– Andrea Dymond, Halifax actor/writer/director/producer
One of my most memorable theatre experiences was at Young People’s Theatre in 2001 when, then Artistic Director Pierre Tetrault, invited me to be his Assistant Director on the production of Ghost Train. This was near the beginning of my theatre directing career when I was exploring the question: “How to make spirituality theatrical?”. The play Ghost Train by Betty Quan and based on the book by Paul Yee, was an incredible experience in helping me to answer this question and allowed me the opportunity to witness, understand and participate in a gorgeous reflection of love and spiritual connection between a father and his daughter. Led by Pierre’s inspiring vision and with the collaboration of composer Donald Quan, choreographer Peter Chin, photographer/videographer Cylla von Tiedemann, as well as other extremely talented designers and actors, a stunningly beautiful and magical production emerged. It was one of the most valuable and memorable learning experiences of my career and I will be forever grateful for that opportunity which launched my extraordinary 4-year journey working at Young People’s Theatre.
I was privileged to start my career in arts administration at YPT in the early-2000’s. I learned so much from the staff about running a top-notch arts organization, instilling a love for theatre in young people and the importance of having fun at work. “Uncle” Peter Gallagher’s infectious dedication and passion for teaching theatre to young people inspired me as my career verged into teaching drama, and I thank all of the wonderful people on staff that I met there, who I consider close friends to this day. The annual holiday floor crawls are still HANDS-DOWN the best holiday parties I ever attended.
Congratulations on 50 years and here’s to another 50 more!
Our Holy Cross students have had the privilege of attending great theatre presentations through the Arts Impact program. The pre-shows and post-shows have been so valuable getting students to inference, use critical and analytical thinking skills to better understand the themes and big ideas of a show. Young People’s Theatre has been a great resource and source of happiness for many of our children who have enjoyed the great theatre shows and many who may not have otherwise been able to afford. I personally have loved seeing many talented actors bring fairytales, folk tales and other stories to life. Thank you for the great partnership!
Thank you, YPT, for existing : for creating a desire and relevance and joyfulness and legitimacy and necessity and whimsicalness and gumption for/in/and about theatre, from the firstest to the lastest.
– Matthew Jocelyn, Artistic Director, Canadian Stage, Toronto
My first experience in the theatre was at YPT. I was in the second grade at St. Jane Frances, a Catholic school in the Jane/Finch neighbourhood. I was so excited about traveling to the City. My mom packed my lunch – I’m sure it was the dreaded Mortadella sandwich – but she gave me a bit of money to buy a drink. Before the school bus arrived to take us home my whole class jammed into the tiny downstairs basement where we ate our lunch. Thank you YPT for filling my heart and my tummy!
– Franco Boni, General & Artistic Director, The Theatre Centre, Toronto