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Theatre Orangeville celebrates local program participants with Academy Showcase

December 21, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Last week, on Tuesday, Dec. 12, Theatre Orangeville presented its Academy Showcase, an extravaganza concert of all the stages the Academy sponsors – Junior, Intermediate and adults. It saw performances from Theatre Orangeville Young Singers (TOYS), after-school programs, and Young Company and Theatre Orangeville Exceptional Players (TOEP). 

The place was packed, and the entertainment was highly cheered and loved. Each of these stages has a history, and the Citizen wanted to use the last page of 2023 to tell them. We sat down with Theatre Orangeville’s artistic director, David Nairn, and the program coordinator of the Academy, Kait Gallant.

Ms. Gallant graduated from theatre studies at York University, with a focus on devised theatre, having taken up this position about two years ago. Devised theatre is a form of writing and producing plays or productions where the cast creates the story and the show collaboratively amongst themselves.

“The Showcase was spectacular,” was Mr. Nairn’s enthusiastic claim. “The kids just love strutting their stuff on stage, to show their incredible talent.”

He went on to explain that these programs are primarily about opportunities for the process as young people “discover themselves through the theatre arts.”

Ms. Gallant has brought the programming all together, and it was noted that it has been years since T.O.Y.S. was part of this show, but they are back as a growing force of kids from eight years old and up to sing under the direction of Elisabeth DuBois.

The miracle of theatre is ever evident, as Mr. Nairn related, about parents faithfully bringing their shy child who lacked self-confidence to the rehearsals over eight weeks. When it comes time for the show, they are blown away by the changes they see in their youngster, exclaiming with joy, “I can’t believe that’s my child!”

Now, they are seeing their darling on a stage, singing for an audience of strangers, confident and so happy.

Historically, Young Company was run through July as a musical production only. Yet, there were budding thespians who wanted the same chance to perform but did not want to be in a musical. So, August became the month to rehearse, learn and produce a drama.

Likewise, when David Nairn was admonished at a function by a father who asked him what program he had for that man’s neurodivergent son.

“Nothing,” said the artistic director, but by Monday, plans were being made.

As director of many plays of Theatre Orangeville’s regular season, David Nairn told us that the Academy shows remind him when he has forgotten the joy and creativity in the “art of creative expression.”

For Kait Gallant, she was hired during the pandemic and the relief of her casts being able to perform on stage together has also made her very happy.

As a bit of a side step, we talked about another leg of the Academy, the Theatre for Young Audiences, TYA. This involves up-and-coming young professional actors who tour for a month in a van to produce Mark Crawford’s play, Boys and Girls and Other Mythological Creatures, in schools. This year, in honour of the 30th Anniversary of Theatre Orangeville, all these performances are free to the schools, as have been all the school performances of on-stage productions, specifically this year’s Panto, Cinderella – If the Shoe Fits. This generosity has been possible through the kindness of a few Theatre Orangeville supporters and those who are convinced of the idea of bringing children into the theatre.

The touring TYA, doing two shows a day, may perform in as many as 50 schools, Ms. Gallant estimated.

The Youth Advising Committee, ages 12 to 16, influences what Young Company produces on stage; they bring their own knowledge of what young people now want to see and want to talk about on stage, both for the musical production in July and the drama in August. One member of the committee is also on the Board of Directors, a young voice but an important element of the Board.

Said Mr. Nairn, “I’m learning more from them than they are from me. They are bringing conversation from the schools. A 16 year old can tell us what students are thinking and talking about.”

We asked Kait Gallant what the surprises were from this approach, and she told us that she had learned a lot about how they wanted more free time. Days off just to do what they want. That feeling was echoed with the cast of Cinderella, and Mr. Nairn admitted they worked smarter to accommodate the freedom.

He pointed out that thanks to the theatre’s patrons and supporters was essential for them to understand that all the programming the theatre runs can only happen because people come to the theatre; they attend the galas and events; they donate in a number of ways. It is absolutely down to the individuals and the sponsors that Orangeville can boast the only professional theatre across the Central Counties Tourism region.

Kait Gallant is not at all new to Theatre Orangeville. As a youngster herself, she was a member of TOYS. Now, she is here in her home territory, managing an essential part of Theatre Orangeville’s domain.

What young people and the gang that is TOEP, the wonderful neuro-divergent adults who redefine theatre with every show they perform – what all they learn from their participation in the Academy is “Courage, confidence, magic, light and the idea of something bigger than themselves,” said Mr. Nairn.

He pointed out that young people have joined the summer camps of Young Company from further afield than the town and Dufferin. They have come from Newmarket and Collingwood every day for a month or both the months, for a couple of years of Young Company because other cities do not host programs anything like Theatre Orangeville.

As for Kait Gallant, as she looks forward to the New Year and the years to come, her ambition is to grow the programs and do her best to bring the magic of theatre into as many lives as they want to participate.

To register for the Academy, go to or call the Box Office at 519-942-3423.

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