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Young People’s Theatre

Theatre for young audiences, founded in Toronto Ontario by Susan Douglas Rubes in 1966. Young People’s Theatre changed its name to the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People in 2001 to acknowledge an extraordinary contribution made by Kevin Kimsa to honour his mother, former president of the Canadian Dance Teachers Association, and co-founder in the 1980s of Broadway North, a community theatre. In 2011, it returned to its original name.

YPT/LKTYP is the largest non-profit theatre company for young audiences in Canada, presenting new Canadian plays, innovative works and classics from children’s literature. It supports weekend performances for family audiences, weekday school programs for students, workshops for teachers, and a year-round Drama School. In 2007, it created the Education and Participation Department, which targets community outreach. In 2010, it established the Artist-Educator Residency Program.

In its first decade, Young People’s Theatre established a strong reputation for its family shows and school tours. The company took its 1973 production of Henry Beissel’s Inook and the Sun to London, England in 1975; and its 1976 production of Larry Zacharko’s Maximilian Beetle to the Montreal Cultural Olympics.

Susan Rubes commissioned and produced many new musicals and plays, including Billy Bishop and the Red Baron (1975) by Len Peterson, and Cyclone Jack (1972), My Best Friend is Twelve Feet High (1972), Tangleflags (1973), and Maurice (1973), all by Carol Bolt. Many young Canadian actors began their professional careers at YPT. Rubes also employed important Canadian directors such as Paul Thompson, Ken Gass, and Martin Kinch.

In 1977, YTP found a permanent home in a former stable, located on Front Street in Toronto, and constructed two theatre spaces.

When Susan Rubes left in 1979 to become the head of CBC Radio Drama, Richard Ouzounian became Artistic Director, succeeded in 1980 by Peter Moss, who continued the tradition of employing talented actors and directors in the productions, such as directors John Stephen Hirsch, Robin Phillips, and Christopher Newton; and actors Eric Peterson and David Fox. As A.D., Moss also increased the audience capacity of both stages. His productions included plays by Canadian playwrights such as John Lazarus (Dreaming and Duelling 1981) and Dennis Foon, who served as playwright-in-residence in 1983-84. Their plays tackled controversial contemporary issues such as suicide and racial discrimination.

Maja Ardal was Artistic Director from 1991 to 1998, continuing YPT’s commitment to developing new Canadian plays and workshops. She also initiated the WordPlay Festival playwriting competition for teenagers, and a Community Advisory Board.

In 1998 Pierre Tetrault became YPT's Artistic Director and Nancy Coy its Managing Director. In 2001-02 the company was renamed the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, and Allen MacInnis became A.D. in 2002. Nany Webster joined the company as the Managing Director in 2003.

YTP/LKTYP has since produced Emil Sher's Hana's Suitcase (2006); Jean Yoon's Hongbu and Nolbu; the English premiere of Andri Snaer Magnason's Blue Planet, and Michele Riml's The Invisible Girl (2010). To celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2006, the company cut its prices by forty per cent to allow greater accessibility to children of all ages.

For the 2011-12 season, with the change in name back to Young People's Theatre, MacInnis launched an ambitious season, including a touring production of Seussical, and Beyond the Cuckoo's Nest by Edward Roy, about teen mental health. The Company has also hosted productions by other theatres, including The Great Mountain by Red Sky.

For the 2015/16 season, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Young People's Theatre announced an ambitious and diverse lineup: Hana's Suitcase by Emil Sher, Baobab by Helene Ducharme (trans Leanna Brodie), Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang by Mordecai Richer, P@ndora by Sarah Berthiaume (trans Nadine Desrochers), Mistatim by Erin Shields, produced by Red Sky), One Thing Leads to Another by Maja Ardal, Goodnight Moon by Chad Henry, Scarberia by Evan Placey (dir. Nina Lee Aquino), and The Wizard of Oz.

In 2021, playwright and director Herbie Barnes was appointed Artistic Director. An Anishinaabe theatre artist from Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Barnes has a long history of performing in plays by Drew Hayden Taylor, including Toronto at Dreamer’s Rock in 1989 and Cottagers and Indians in 2018.

The archives of YPT are at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

Web site: www.youngpeoplestheatre.ca

Sources: Joyce Doolittle. “Young People’s Theatre,” The Oxford Companion to Canadian Theatre. Eds. Eugene Benson and L.W. Conolly. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1987.

J. Kelly Nestruck, "Nestruck on Theatre," Globe & Mail 2 March 2021.

Further Reading: Joyce Doolittle and Zina Barnieh. A Mirror of Our Dreams: Children and the Theatre in Canada, 1979.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof

Last updated 2021-03-03