2017 DAREarts Toronto Summer Camp – “Be not afraid of greatness.”

In the final weeks of July, 25 DAREarts Toronto Summer Campers leapt into the whimsical world of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Walmer Centre and the TSA (Toronto School of Art), thanks to the generosity of Northbridge Insurance, the TSA, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, Coach Canada, and the Stratford Festival. The teens, aged 11 to 18, engaged in intensive arts workshops led by DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon, artist-educator Jennifer Parr, and DAREarts Lead Teaching Assistant Mackenzy Willis. Assisting the teens were our seasoned DAREarts youth mentors: Dante, Jaiden, Samira, and Sylvia.

In just seven days, our campers were dared to put on their own abridged performance of Twelfth Night, adapted for DAREarts by Jennifer Parr. The teens were eager to become their own theatre company after an introduction to the work. By the end of their first day together, they felt confidently versed in Iambic Pentameter and the plot of Twelfth Night. The following days were filled with workshops to help our campers refine their artistry as they worked toward their performance.

Visual Artist Tina Oehmsen-Clark of the Toronto School of Art led the campers through the process of creating their own backdrop masterpieces, where the campers used ink and alcohol to layer colours into abstract works of art. Volunteer Zlata Huddleston of Wells Fargo assisted the campers using her own arts experience. Musician Ciara Adams led a singing workshop and taught three versions of one of the most well-known Shakespearean songs, Feste’s “Hey Ho, the Wind and the Rain”. Kaitlyn Riordan, Artistic Director of Shakespeare in the Ruff, helped our young company delve deeper into the text of Twelfth Night, enabling them to better interpret Shakespeare’s verse.

On their sixth day of camp, our burgeoning company staged their final scenes and worked on rehearsing to perfection. Many even chose to stay for an extra hour to keep practicing! During the day they were joined by CBC Radio’s Rima Hamadi, who interviewed four of the campers and DAREarts Lead Teacher Laura MacKinnon. Listen here.

There wasn’t a shred of nervousness left as the campers arrived on their performance day. With great confidence, they did two full rehearsals of the show in the morning! On their makeshift stage decorated with their artworks, they greeted the audience after everyone settled in and then took to the spotlight. From the opening shipwreck ensemble to the traditional jig after the final scene, the campers supported each other with precise timing and flawlessly executed lines!

After the show, a reception allowed the teens and their families to connect with us about this experience. One parent shared how proud she was to see both of her daughters share an arts opportunity together, something they hadn’t done before. Another shared how important this was as her child’s school has been cutting back on arts programming. Many others shared how much this experience meant to their children, and how amazed they were at the calibre of their work. We wholeheartedly agree — we’re so proud of our campers!

To finish their camp experience, the teens had one more day ahead of them — their journey to the Stratford Festival to see Twelfth Night performed by a world-renowned theatre company! The trip began with a 2-hour drive from Toronto to Stratford, and upon arrival we were brought into the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s costume warehouse for a tour. The teens learned the history of many of the costumes, and were thrilled to be able to try on several pieces. After lunch in the park, we met with resident teaching artist Edward Daranyi to present a special mural created by the youth of Neskantaga First Nation as part of the DAREarts-Stratford Spirit Bear Project. We then journeyed to the Festival Theatre to see Twelfth Night, followed by a Q&A with actors E.B. Smith and Emilio Vieira. The day ended with a trip to Boston Pizza, where the teens had the chance to unwind and reflect on their experiences at Stratford. We then boarded the bus for the long journey home.

“This was my first time attending DAREarts Summer Camp, and it was an awesome experience. I was really nervous since it was my first time acting, but really quickly I felt comfortable. I think that this summer had to be the most funnest summer I’ve ever had. Thank you to everyone who helps with this program, I hope to see you next year!” – Candy

DAREarts is a children’s charity that uses the arts to empower at-risk young people to become leaders. DAREarts is grateful to all its supporters including National Supporter: Northbridge Insurance; Lead Supporters: Anne Livingston, Scotiabank, TD Bank Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Summer Camp Education Partners: Toronto School of Art, Wells Fargo, United Way Worldwide, Stratford Festival, Coach Canada, and TDSB. We’d like to send a special thank you to volunteers Alan DunlopZlata Huddleston, and Kaitlyn Riordan.

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