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Intensive entertainment primer for youth

Drayton Entertainment will be using the Zoom platform to engage young performers during its “April break” program. [Sumbitted]

March Break was postponed until April, and travelling wasn’t on the agenda for a week off at any rate. Given that reality, Drayton Entertainment has created a program to engage youth for this year’s unique “April break.”

Spring Break Broadway Bootcamp is a virtual theatre program aiming to connect youth to the stage from the safety of their homes.

Drayton’s youth programming coordinator, David Connolly, says this new program isn’t the first to go virtual, but the first do so in the digi-sphere.

“We started these training programs six years ago, so it’s been slowly growing over that time. This year has just kind of made us regroup, like so many other people have, and now we’re offering our training online.”

The lack of socialization being experienced as we are asked to stay at home has been challenging, and that is why this program for tweens and teens has been put together, he added.

“We know that the kids are feeling really isolated, and we know that their opportunities to find avenues to explore self-expression have been limited, very limited, so we wanted to keep them connected,” said Connolly.

“Because we have seven theatres all over Ontario, and some of them are in very small towns so that their access becomes even more limited, so we want to make sure there was an opportunity for them to meet and explore their training, performing arts training, and continue to build their community. It’s so important at that developmental age to find like-minded, creative-thinking people.”

For those nervous about a program labelled a boot camp, Connolly says the name simply reflects the packed schedule.

“It’s intensive, not intense. We have four different offerings within the two days, and so that means they sing whatever song is in their heart and then they get coached on that song and then they’ll move to another Zoom room and they’ll act monologues that we provide them with. They work with an acting coach on a monologue, then they move to another Zoom room and they’ll do improv with a coach there, and then they move to a fourth Zoom room and they have a dance class with an incredible choreographer. So those are the four classes, and then each day there’s also a Q&A session with a Broadway performer where they spend about an hour asking them anything they want actually but usually it’s about how they got to be on Broadway.” 

The two Q&A performers for the event are Jewelle Blackman and Paul Alexander Nolan.

“The thing about those two artists is that they’re both Canadian. So, we want to provide real inspiration for these kids to know that. And they’re both from small towns,” said Connolly. “We just want to make sure that kids know that anything is possible.”

The Spring Break Broadway Bootcamp was initially supposed to run in March until the week break was moved back. The event has received overwhelming support, selling out within the first 24 hours for the Monday and Tuesday, now adding a Wednesday and Thursday to allow more kids the chance to participate. 

Connolly said he hopes the province will soon allow for more in-person options or a hybrid between virtual and face-to-face in order for the theatre group to host their annual summer programs. 

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