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Going to Bootcamp on the way to Broadway

After four sold-out sessions, Drayton Entertainment’s Broadway Bootcamp returned again this week. The series sees youth 9 to 19 explore the performance arts through workshops all from the comfort of home.

Given the ongoing pandemic situation, classes are in session via a digital platform. David Connolly, youth program coordinator for Drayton Entertainment, notes that the bootcamp has been a good way of bringing theatre to youth during these trying times, keeping them engaged and interacting with their peers.

The format follows previous years, with special guests helping with the program.

“We have different guest artists for each bootcamp. They share their perspective; they tell their stories about how they started exactly where these kids are starting,” he explained.

The guests this month are Alie Ewoldt (the first woman of colour to play Christine in Phantom of the Opera), Astrid Van Wieren (Come from Away) and Mark Cassius (Shendonoah, Ragtime, and Jesus Christ Superstar –2012).

Interacting with established performers is a real boost to the young participants, said Connolly, pointing to a past appearance by Paul Nolan, a well-known name in the Broadway community. Nolan grew up in a small town (Rouleau, Saskatchewan), where he played hockey and eventually had to make a decision between choosing to continue on the ice or take a chance on the footlights. 

“To see these students hear that story about – because they have assumptions about Broadway stars,  they don’t ever think [about how] a Broadway star started – battling whether he should be in hockey or not [is educational]. All of those testimonials, I think are really what kind of separates this training.” 

Not being allowed on the physical stage has changed things for the classes in many ways, including expanding to areas that youth may not have been able to participate in the program before in a typical year. 

Broadway Bootcamp is broken down into different classes, including singing, dancing, improv, monologues and a ‘Q&A’ with the three guests.

For Connolly, one memory of a previous session sticks out to him speaking as a testament to why the Q&A session is such a significant aspect of the curriculum.

“The star of Jagged Little Pill (the Alanis Morrissette Broadway production) Lauren Patten, she had a cat in the frame when she was doing the ‘Q&A’ and this young person that lives up in the Barrie-Midland area on a farm asked what the cat’s name was. Lauren [told her the name and] said, do you have any pets? And the girl took the laptop through the house down the stairs, and showed her a field of cows and Lauren was like, ‘I love cows.’ And the girl was, like, ‘you do?’ So you know there’s no value on that, you know, there’s no dollar value on something like that girl’s right to keep dreams. That made her feel like she belongs to a bigger community.”

More information about the bootcamp sessions can be found online. The next session may be something of hybrid as the province eases into a reopening schedule.

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