Inspired by the ‘Cultural Revolution’, Drayton Entertainment to Open Youth Academy in Waterloo

Alex Mustakas may not be sure what shows will be showing this summer, or even when he can get his theaters in southwestern Ontario back up and running, but he does know one thing: Drayton Entertainment’s Youth Academy. is ready.

And that keeps him optimistic, even when the outlook is bleak.

In the past 20 months, the company has only put on two shows: Back home for the holidays at the Hamilton Family Theater in Cambridge, and A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline in Saint-Jacques. Both opened and closed in December – barely making a full run as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 pushed the number of cases to levels never seen before.

“We stood in line for a bit, the ticket sales kind of stopped,” the company’s artistic director told CBC KW. The morning edition.

“And then by the way at the end of the race, as it got a little more serious, we started having negative sales – where people were canceling.”

But the show continued, sometimes in front of an audience of just a hundred people – any audience was better than no audience, Mustakas said.

“For these artists who actually performed, as well as the musicians and the team involved, they were so happy to be back on stage, performing in front of a live audience. Whether they had 200 or 250 or even sometimes less than 100; they still gave 100 percent, ”he said.

New spaces for new voices

Now Drayton is focused again on his new Youth Academy – where he was during much of the pandemic. The new facility at 145 Northfield Dr. W. in Waterloo is the company’s offering for the future.

“The Cultural Revolution during the pandemic, it really sparked in-depth conversations about how we can – as creators of theater – be involved in creating this change that needs to happen,” said David Connolly, Artistic Director associate of the theater, and the person who will be directing the academy.

The answer is what Connolly calls radical inclusion, “creating new spaces, new stories, new opportunities for voices that haven’t necessarily been heard yet,” he said.

The academy is not designed to compete with Sheridan College’s musical theater training program, the nation’s best-known program of its kind.

Instead, it’s based on Drayton’s summer lineup, which he has been running for five years, and is open to anyone between the ages of 1 and 100, Connolly said, with arts training and technical arts as well.

Students of Drayton Entertainment’s Youth Academy will have the opportunity to learn not only to play, sing and dance, but also the technical arts: lighting and sound, sets and costumes. (Submitted by: Drayton Entertainment)

“Only a certain percentage will become future artists,” Mustakas said.

“I think what we’re doing is we are developing life skills that people will use forever. Communication skills and belonging skills. We are going to train the next generation of teachers, politicians and of business leaders, who will support all the arts – who believe that the arts are fundamental to a balanced community. “

There will be acting lessons, improvisation lessons, choir lessons – even voiceover sessions. In technical training, the academy will teach lighting, sound design and costume making.

Much will be done in person, but some will be online, Connolly said, and company staff will act as teachers.

“So the kids will benefit from the lived experience – from contemporary artists, who are in the business right now, not from people talking about what it was like 20 years ago,” Connolly said.

Mustakas said he hopes the lineup will be up and running by the end of February. Initially, the plan was to start classes in person for the Family Day long weekend, but a virtual offer may be more convenient now, he said.

James C. Tibbs