Artstrek 2016's Exploration III Sharing Day | Photo: Courtesy of Theatre Alberta

Artstrek 2016

Summer theatre school injects youth with skills, knowledge, and self-assurance

Amy Jo Espetveidt

Alabanza a Dona Claudia, Senor. Alabanza, alabanza. Sung strong and proud, those few powerful words echoed the end of a life changing experience for a group of Alberta teens this week.

Last Saturday morning, a large group of family, friends and supporters filled the Arts Centre Theatre at Red Deer College to see Exploration III’s Sharing, the culmination of a week-long summer theatre school for teens.

Each summer Theatre Alberta presents Artstrek, an integrated theatre arts curriculum for Albertans aged 13 to 18. In 2016, 302 students, from 74 different cities and towns across Alberta, attended Artstrek and 79 of those students were from Calgary and area.

“Central to the Artstrek philosophy is admission based on referral from an educator or community member who can attest to a student’s enthusiasm—we have been welcoming any and all Alberta teens passionate about theatre for 56 years,” says Keri Mitchell, Theatre Alberta’s Executive Director. “Priority is placed on learning and exploration, and at the end of the program, students are given the opportunity to demonstrate and present their class work stemming from the play, rather than performing its entirety.”

With excepts from the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights combined with acting exercises that showcased their learning, the Sharing offered families, friends and supporters a unique look at the process.

Artstrek students explore the play of study through acting, movement, directing, design, music, creation and collaboration| Photo: Courtesy of Theatre Alberta

Artstrek students explore the play of study through acting, movement, directing, design, music, creation and collaboration| Photo: Courtesy of Theatre Alberta

“Artstrek’s curriculum is centred on a single play, which is selected annually based on a three-year cycle of musical theatre, contemporary drama, and classical drama, with a Canadian play featured at least once every six years of the program,” explains Mitchell. “Each summer we contract a new team of instructors to develop core lessons inspired by the selected play and teach in the areas of acting, voice, movement, design, and creation/collaboration. The three-year cycle of plays and carefully curated professional faculty teams help ensure that students who attend for more than one year are exposed to different styles and genres of theatre, and that Artstrek always provides a fresh and evolving comprehension of the discipline.”

By the end of Exploration III’s Sharing, tears and smiles filled the room as participants walked off the stage up the theatre steps while singing Alabanza. Holding hands, singing strong, it was obvious to all that this was a life changing week.

“As a provincial arts service organization with a mandate to encourage the growth of theatre in Alberta, Theatre Alberta believes there is no better way to accomplish our goals than to provide Alberta youth with the skills, knowledge, and self-assurance they need to create and participate in theatre,” she continues. “Artstrek’s legacy is demonstrated through the impact of its alumni on the wider theatre community. Notable alumni include former MLA for Edmonton-Centre Laurie Blakeman, current MLA for Calgary-Hawkwood Michael Connolly, founding Artistic Director of Soulpepper Theatre Company Albert Schultz, Artistic Executive Director of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival Brenda Leadlay, and Calgary theatre artists Kevin McKendrick, Kate Newby, Christopher Hunt, Kelly Reay, Jenna Rodgers, and Jacqueline Russell, to name just a few. Many, many more Artstrek students go on to become ardent arts patrons and supporters.”

Memories of Artstrek 2015 | Video: Theatre Alberta

For more information on Artstrek, visit theatrealberta.com.

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