Montreal’s renowned YOUTHEATRE celebrates 50th anniversary with 2 world premieres

The opening of “The Kissing Game” and “Crossing the Ocean” coincide with the 25th anniversary of Michel Lefebvre’s tenure as Artistic and Executive Director

Montreal, November 13, 2018Youtheatre celebrates a monumental 50 years of providing Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA), coincidentally the 25th anniversary of Michel Lefebvre’s tenure as Artistic and Executive Director of the company. To celebrate the momentous occasion, Youtheatre has commissioned two new plays to have their world premieres in its 2018-19 season. The first, Rhiannon Collett’s The Kissing Game, will open the season with a public performance at the Théâtre Rouge du Conservatoire (4750, av. Henri-Julien) on November 28, 2018. Student performances will continue November 29th and 30th, after which it will tour local schools from December 3 to 14. The second creation, Crossing the Ocean, is a devised work by Michel Lefebvre, Associate Artist Jeremy Segal, and theatre designer Martin Sirois, which will be presented to schools at the Théâtre Rouge from March 11 to 15, 2019.

“For a Canadian cultural organization, especially an Anglophone TYA company in a French province, to thrive for 50 years is a singular accomplishment”, said Michel Lefebvre. “I’m proud of my 25 years with the company and honoured to be here to celebrate its 50th anniversary. We are a well-respected nationally recognized company that has been the launching pad for many Canadian artists. The Canada Council cites our ‘achievements in maintaining high production standards’ as well as, ‘the depth of its [Youtheatre’s] commitment to developing new work and original voices’. The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec says our contributions to the development of the TYA discipline are ‘remarkable’. But it’s the kids’ reactions to our plays that are the most rewarding. When I hear one student say to another that the play they just saw was good and the other replies, ‘No, it was awesome”, that speaks volumes. Now, more than ever, young people are in the world with us, not in some protective bubble oblivious of what is going on around them. They are incredibly perceptive, able to comprehend complex ideas and formulate insightful ideas and reactions to the plays they see. We need to engage with them in how they are seeing and living in the world around them.”

Youtheatre was founded on November 28, 1968 by Doreen and Wayne Fines to bring theatre to Anglophone students in the Montreal area and has since grown to become Quebec’s oldest professional theatre company producing TYA. Seen by over 1 million young people to date, Youtheatre’s goal is to engage its audiences through work that often pushes traditional boundaries to tell stories that resonate with today’s savvy youth; to create theatre that provokes, questions, challenges and entertains.

Following the departure of the Fines in 1981, Andrew Johnston followed by Angus Ferguson led the company for the next decade. Then a significant change in the company’s history came in 1992 with the arrival of Youtheatre’s current Artistic and Executive Director, Michel Lefebvre, who championed the need for developing new Canadian voices and plays. “For me a theatre company must support the voices of Canadian playwrights and theatre-makers,” said Lefebvre, “and new work should be the focus”. Youtheatre’s mandate was officially changed in 1994 to incorporate this new vision and the company has since created over 30 new plays for young audiences.

A Youtheatre production often begins with an English-language text, which is then enhanced by design elements rooted in Quebec’s francophone culture, making the company a unique hybrid in the Canadian theatre landscape and an important link between the two linguistic communities. With its major area of focus the creation, development and production of new works, some of Canada’s finest playwrights have contributed their talents to Youtheatre, including Judith Thompson, Sheree Fitch, Drew Hayden Taylor, Carol Bolt, Ed Roy, Kathleen McDonnell, Nathalie Boisvert, Hannah Moscovitch, Greg MacArthurand Sarah Berthiaume. As a result, Youtheatre’s productions have been presented at some of Canada’s most prestigious venues, including the National Arts Centre (Ottawa), Young People’s Theatre (Toronto), the Grand Theatre (London), the Imperial Theatre (St. John, NB), Y Stage – Vertigo Theatre (Calgary), and the  Manitoba Theatre for Young People.

In 2000, Youtheatre began producing work in French, making it is the only TYA company producing new Canadian work in both official languages. Subsequently, French productions have been presented by Festival Les Coups de Théâtre, Festival Petits Bonheurs, Festival Eureka!, Maison Théâtre, Centre national des arts (Ottawa), Théâtre La Catapulte (Ottawa), Théâtre La Seizième (Vancouver), Centre Méduse (Quebec City), and Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario (Sudbury). Some Youtheatre productions remain in the company repertoire, thereby allowing these works to speak to new generations of young audiences.

In 2007, Youtheatre embarked on its first international tour to various UK venues with Ed Roy’s Bang Boy, Bang! The company is also the recipient of multiple Dora Mavor Moore and Montreal English Theatre Awards. Youtheatre believes in the importance of representing its culturally diverse audience on stage, making every effort to depict diversity among its cast, as well as cultivating a spirit of acceptance and inclusivity by addressing topics such as racism, homophobia, and gender neutrality in its productions. All of these artistic achievements added to the relevance of the high-calibre productions it presents, have earned Youtheatre a loyal following throughout Quebec and across Canada.

Commissioned by Youtheatre with support from Toronto’s YPT Leaps & Bounds Program and the Banff Playwrights Lab, The Kissing Game is an urban fantasy for teens that explores love, betrayal, friendship, and identity. Kate and Sam are best friends but there`s a tension building in their relationship. When Kate’s sister falls victim to an act of violence, Kate is determined to bring the perpetrator to justice. Her actions, however, have strange consequences and the two are left to ponder the cost of retribution and whether any of us is truly worthy of forgiveness. Written and performed by Rhiannon Collett, it is directed by Michel Lefebvre, with lighting and set design by Martin Sirois, and sound design by Sara Magnan.

Rhiannon Collett, who self-identifies as a non-binary interdisciplinary artist, said, “My work centres on the ritualization of grief, gender performativity, queer identity, and the psychological effects of sexual objectification. Exploring these issues through the arts with students entering adulthood is, I believe, incredibly important and necessary work.”

Crossing the Ocean integrates new media and more primitive technologies to inspire a sense of wonder at the power of human connection. Staged in the round, Youtheatre’s Artistic Director, Michel Lefebvre, previously seen in Simon & the Egg, invites audiences to consider how we engage with one another in the world today. Are we communicating more but connecting less?

Mr. Lefebvre explained that for Crossing the Ocean, “I, Jeremy Segal and Martin Sirois had multiple roles in its creation. All three artists contributed collaboratively to the process to investigate how it is that in this hi-tech world of instant global communication, we feel so alone. How can we navigate this ‘ocean of data’ that seems ready to swallow us whole to reach out and truly connect with others?”

The Kissing Game Public Performance Nov. 28
Wednesday November 28 at 7:30pm
Théâtre Rouge du Conservatoire
4750, av. Henri-Julien, Montréal, H2T 2C8

Théâtre Rouge Box Office: 514-873-4031 ext. 313
Youtheatre Box Office: 514-844.8781

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