by Franziska Ruelke

Sometimes, your gut feeling leads you to wonderful places. Places like YPT.

When I decided to spend my 4-month sabbatical in Canada, the only plan I had was to spend some weeks in Toronto. While scanning the internet for interesting things to do, an article about Young People’s Theatre caught my eye. I’ve always loved theatre and I spent most of my adolescence in theatre groups, so I looked up their website. The more I saw, the more excited I got. I have never seen anything like that in Germany. And a feeling arose: I wanted to be part of it! I wanted to see with my own eyes all the things they are doing! Luckily, they offered opportunities for volunteers, so I just wrote an email and asked if they would have me. And they did.

I arrived in Toronto at the beginning of February and seven exciting weeks lay before me. Norah O’Donnell, the wonderful Volunteer Coordinator, had already worked out a detailed plan for me with all the activities that I could join. During the whole time she looked after me and made sure I would make the most out of my experience at YPT. From the very beginning, I was in good hands.

And from the very beginning, I was involved in all kinds of activities, in-house as well as in the community. I have seen many young people enjoying their “dramatic” experiences, from the very young to teenagers, from outgoing personalities to introverted souls. There were programs for every theatre-related interest: in the Drama Sessions and Cultural Gym I saw kids exploring a whole range of drama while discovering their own creativity. In the [Junior and Senior] Ensembles and Writers’ Bloc I got to know ambitious young people who were caught up in the magic of creating a play and presenting it to the world.

I also saw that it is possible to put on a “Play in a Day” using the energy and input of various little individuals, who have or have not done theatre before, but who were all very proud when they presented their work to their (even prouder) parents. And I was astonished by how many kids participated in the March Break program and came day after day to engage in the drama activities and work eagerly on their performances.

"Play in a Day" at YPT, April 2016. Photo by Amber Ebert.

“Play in a Day” at YPT, April 2016. Photo by Amber Ebert.

All the kids that I have seen in the different groups and ages really seemed to enjoy themselves. Even though they might have been scared, reserved or shy in the beginning, they always left with more confidence and often with new friends.

Another wonderful experience was to watch the young audience during [YPT’s] outstanding performances – how they were fascinated and quietly following the actors on stage was great to see. And I was impressed by how many hands were raised in the Q&A after the shows and how many interesting questions the kids asked – a sign of how much the theatre experience was working. I also found the backstage tours and the explanations about all the important elements of a performance a good way to involve the young audience and to naturally raise their interest in theatre at the same time.

And then there were the different projects in the community. I attended some pre- and post-performance activities at local schools and got to see how the kids were processing what they had seen on stage. I also joined sessions at SickKids Hospital and Parent Resources, where I also experienced this positive impact.

I’m glad my gut feeling led me to this wonderful place. And just like the kids leaving their drama session, I left with new friends and the confidence that I should start something like this back home in Germany.