Théâtre français de Toronto (TfT) announces its 2018/19 youth programming including four shows specifically conceived for children, teenagers and their families. For its 51st season, the company has also initiated several initiatives to deepen ties with audiences of all ages and the city’s schools.
New activities include the addition of a second show designed for teenagers to accompany the popular Les Zinspirés. In order to create Impatience, the internationally renowned director Anne-Marie Ouellet will work with three GTA secondary schools during the fall to introduce adolescents to her performance-based project. Teenage participants will select topics to be explored and then share the stage with professional actors in February at the Berkeley Street Theatre. In April, another first: TfT welcomes a show that features sign language. Traversée (Crossed) tells the story of a refugee immersed in the silent world of a mute caregiver who sends her on a journey to find her real mother. During the same period, TfT is collaborating with Alliance française de Toronto to present Le Bibliothécaire (The Librarian), a physical clown show which will delight younger children and their companions.
Workshops, school visits and an enhanced arts education program have been added to this season’s program. Arts education initiatives include Saturday morning classes, summer classes for children, long-term collaborative agreements with selected schools, and a growing relationship with the WeeFestival in order to foster access to theatre for francophone children under six. Finally, some school matinees will be given with English surtitles for students from schools offering introductory level French programs.
TfT Artistic Director Joël Beddows designed this enhanced youth-centered program because children and teenagers “deserve a theatre that lives up to their expectations” while introducing them to “current stage and theatrical trends.” Beddows continues, “I want to make youth theatre a spearhead of TfT, of equal importance to its creative projects and original productions for the general public.” This emphasis on children and adolescents underscores the company’s desire to remain accessible and as open as possible while maintaining the highest artistic standards.
TfT is clearly in step with its time. Toronto’s French-language school boards are growing with the opening of four new schools in September 2017 and two new ones in 2018. Immersion programs have never been so popular in English language school boards. TfT thereby occupies a privileged place in the cultural life of students from diverse backgrounds throughout the GTA and southern Ontario and remains, more than ever, anchored in a community looking proudly to the future.