Summer Series: Rob Kempson at the Thousand Islands Playhouse

The Thousand Island Playhouse / Photo courtesy of Rob Kempson

The Thousand Islands Playhouse / Photo courtesy of Rob Kempson

Over the course of the summer, PAONE is looking at arts education in the blissful and sometimes chaotic summer months. (Summer Series: Chapter 1Chapter 2 and Chapter 3).

In the fourth chapter in this series, we chat with Rob Kempson, Associate Artistic Director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse about his work in Gananoque, Ontario.

PAONE: What are you up to this summer?
RK: From April to October, I spend my days working as the Associate Artistic Director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in beautiful Gananoque, Ontario. I grew up in Kingston, the nearest city, and the Playhouse is where I saw my first professional theatre. It feels pretty special to return now as an artist, and to have a chance to work with the incomparable Ashlie Corcoran and the amazing team here. Now in its 34th season, the Playhouse is nestled on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in the heart of the 1000 Islands Region. To say that it’s a magical place would be the understatement of the year.
 
PAONE: Can you tell us about your summer work and how it connects to arts education?

RK: My work here involves a litany of tasks, ranging from facilitation of the Playwrights’ Unit to Assistant Directing to helping Ashlie with programming. However, one of the biggest parts of my job is the Direction and Facilitation of the Young Company programming. Our Young Company is made up of university-aged artists who are interested in taking a step towards a professional career in the theatre.

The program begins with rehearsal and production of a touring show for children, which the company then performs for 14 weeks across Eastern Ontario. The troupe performs in parks, libraries, elementary schools, and retirement homes. While I direct their show, I’m also in charge of facilitating their experience. As a part of the program, they receive training from professional artists in various areas of the theatre, they observe rehearsals, they read Canadian plays, they attend Opening Nights, and they meet regularly with me. I have really enjoyed working with this program, and these young artists over the two seasons that I’ve been here.
 
I also help with Student Matinees in the spring and fall, and run a series of pre and post show chats throughout the season.
 
PAONE: What is special about summer programming? Why do you feel it’s important?
RK: One of the unique things about programming at the Playhouse is that we do not make any decisions without considering our audiences. That doesn’t mean that we pander to their every desire, but it does mean that all of the work we do here is for an audience, and we really care about their engagement. When programming, Ashlie considers what the audience is asking for, but she’s also interested in helping them find the things that they’re not asking for (but will really love). To me, the work that we do here has the capacity to change people’s lives; because we are in a small (and relatively conservative) town, the work that we produce is affecting and educational in both content and form.
 
Last year, we produced Mark Crawford’s Bed and Breakfast, which is the story of a gay couple moving to a small town. I have rarely attended work that felt this provocative, despite being a heartwarming comedy. Similarly, the piece made use of vocal masque for the two actors to play over 20 characters. Thus, our audiences were engaged with the HOW of the theatre as well as the WHAT. Theatre in rural communities is often underrated in terms of its impact, but as an artist and an educator, I can speak to how important this work is in the creation and development of cultural communities.
 
PAONE: What will you be doing when you aren’t working this summer?
RK: Writing. Reading. Swimming (at both my house and my office). Drinking too much wine. Playing a dice game called Farkle. Visiting farmer’s markets and flea markets. Going to country auctions. Watching DVDs of The Golden Girls. Listening to my LP collection. Listening to Broadway soundtracks as I drive down country roads in my 2003 Honda Civic. Seeing some really great theatre.
 
PAONE: What’s the best thing about summer outside of the city?
RK: When I’m in Gananoque, I live in a cabin in the woods without the internet, so life is pretty different and pretty perfect. I wake up to birdsong, and sleep to crickets. I have a private beach 20 feet from my front door, and I don’t have the distraction of having the internet at home. To me, summer has always been a rural experience, so when I’m here, I feel like I’ve really found my summer home. And I feel pretty lucky to have found that.
 
Thanks so much, Rob! It sounds idyllic and inspiring!
 
Rob Kempson General HeadshotRob Kempson is a theatre artist and educator. A graduate of Queen’s University, Rob works as a playwright, director, and performer. Writer/Director: Mockingbird (Next Stage Theatre Festival); SHANNON 10:40 (timeshare); explicit (Rhubarb Festival); #legacy (Harbourfront Centre); In My Own Skin (YRDSB); The HV Project (Community); Intersections (TDSB Arts Co-Op). Director: Violet’s the Pilot, Rose’s Clothes (Thousand Islands Playhouse); Songs for a New World (Claude Watson). As a performer, he was most recently seen starring in his Dora-nominated musical The Way Back To Thursday(Theatre Passe Muraille). He was a member of the 2014 Stratford Festival Playwrights’ Retreat and is currently the Associate Artistic Director at the Thousand Islands Playhouse. More info at www.robkempson.com or @rob_kempson on Twitter.

Summer Series: Amber Yared at the Canadian Opera Company

COC participants hard at work / Photo courtesy of the COC

COC participants hard at work / Photo courtesy of the COC

Over the next few weeks, PAONE is looking at arts education in the blissful (and sometimes chaotic!) summer months. (Summer Series: Chapter 1 and Chapter 2).

In the third chapter in this series, we chat with Amber Yared, the Children and Youth Programs Co-ordinator for the Canadian Opera Company, one of PAONE’s organization members.

PAONE: What are you up to this summer at the COC?
AY: Right now it’s camps camps camps! I coordinate the COC’s Scotiabank Summer Opera Camps, and am focused on them for the month of July. But, in between contacting parents for health and safety information, talking about programming with our artist educators, designing invites, and other Camps-related administrative duties, I’m also working on planning the other two programs I coordinate that run through fall, winter, and spring.

PAONE: Can you tell us about your summer work and how it connects to arts education?AY: I think a lot of people conceive of camp in terms of fun and as addressing a need for childcare. But many camps are learning spaces in which both educators and kids are free of the pressures of the assessment, evaluation, and curriculum objectives imposed on schools. A yoga teacher I know once told me that we can’t learn unless we’re feeling relaxed and grounded. I feel like that level of comfort and openness is something we strive for at the COC’s camps—we want the kids to be feeling good and if they’re feeling good, relaxed, and confident then it’s more likely they’ll come away with some new, deep understanding of opera—the creation process; how to collaborate; what it means to perform; technical skills in singing, composing, drama, and/or stage design. The kids who attend the COC’s camps leave having had a pretty intensive art education experience.

COC participants hard at work / Photo courtesy of the COC

COC participants hard at work / Photo courtesy of the COC

PAONE: What is special about summer programming? Why do you feel it’s important?
AY: I love summer programming. It’s one of the only times we get to engage with kids and youth for extended periods of time. We get them first thing in the morning for many days in a row instead of once a week at the end of a tiring school day. It’s a chance to get to know them in a different way and to work with them more intensively.

For the kids, summer programming means they get to leave the more generalized space of school and encounter other kids who share their interests. This is really important—especially for teenagers. And while I think that many kids don’t have nearly enough unprogrammed time in their lives, I also think that providing an alternative learning environment, outside of school, is truly valuable.

PAONE: What will you be doing when you aren’t working this summer?
AY: Mostly spending time with my husband and kid. Playing in the park, going for walks, visiting with friends and family, and trying to keep cool.

PAONE: What’s the best thing about summer in Toronto?
AY: It’s just great to be able to get outside. My family and I are taking full advantage of the splash pads in the park and are loving the summer fruits and vegetables.

Thanks Amber!

IMG_0179Amber Yared is the Children and Youth Programs Co-ordinator at the Canadian Opera Company. She has an unshakable interest in art education that has led her to teach and coordinate programming in schools, art galleries, and community art programs and organizations.

 

Summer Series: Annis Karpenko at Visual Arts Mississauga

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Visual Arts Mississauga

Over the next few weeks, PAONE is looking at arts education in the blissful (and sometimes chaotic!) summer months.

In the second chapter of this series, we chat with PAONE member, Annis Karpenko, Executive Director of Visual Arts Mississauga.

PAONE: What are you up to this summer?
AK: I love this time of year and I am so fortunate to come to this beautiful garden and art centre to work each day.

PAONE: Can you tell us about your summer work and how it connects to arts education?
AK: Summer days at Visual Arts Mississauga are filled with creative kids enjoying our popular Arts Camp! Our art instructors and volunteers work with kids ages 6-13 in six studios making magical creations in all sorts of mediums. Summer evenings find adults and teens enjoying courses and workshops in watercolour, acrylic, oil and drawing. And in the office, the VAM team is getting our fall program of visual arts courses and workshops ready to launch.

PAONE: What is special about summer programming? Why do you feel it’s important?
AK: Summer is a wonderful time for creativity. The days are longer and I think everyone feels more relaxed and ready to learn. VAM is set in a beautiful natural oasis and to have that combined with visual art making is very special. I love seeing young children leave at the end of a day with their new creations – they are smiling, their parents are smiling. It’s great.

PAONE: What will you be doing when you aren’t working this summer?
AK: I have a pile of books waiting to be read, a dozen art projects waiting for me in my studio and I will be spending some time back in my heart’s home, the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

PAONE What’s the best thing about summer where you live?
AK: A lot of people are away so I feel the city is a little less crowded and congested and there is so much to do – galleries, museums, music, theatre. It’s wonderful. The weather is pretty darn great and I love the festivals in Port Credit’s Memorial Park and I love just wandering by the lake neighbourhoods from the Beaches in the east to Bronte in the west.

Thanks Annis!

DSC_0031Annis Karpenko has an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from Goddard College and a MEd in holistic education from OISE/University of Toronto. She began her administrative journey as a stage manager and brings with her an eclectic mix of experience gleaned from her time as General Manager for the Bishop’s University Students’ Representative Council and Executive Director of Townshippers’ Foundation in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and Coordinator for the York University Centre for Feminist Research.

Summer Series: PAONE’s Amber Ebert at Young People’s Theatre

YTP Drama School / Photo by Hanna Wolf

YTP Drama School / Photo by Hanna Wolf

Over the next few weeks, PAONE is looking at arts education in the blissful (and sometimes chaotic!) summer months.

In the first chapter of this series, we chat with PAONE board member, Amber Ebert, who is also the School & Community Programs Manager at Young People’s Theatre.

PAONE: What are you up to this summer at YPT?
AE: During the summer YPT shifts gears. Our production season finishes in May and our Summer Camp takes over the building for July and August. Every space in the theatre is filled with children playing and creating new theatrical work. As the School & Community Programs Manager, I am not directly involved with Summer Camp and generally, for me, summer is a quieter time where I focus on reporting and planning for next season. However, this summer we are already confirmed to facilitate 25 workshops at summer camps and organizations throughout the city such as at the Toronto Public Library, H.appi Camper and Macaulay Child Development Centre. So, it’s going to be busy! 

PAONE: Can you tell us about the programming and how it connects to arts education?
AE: Each of the community programs that we are delivering this summer support youth-led creation and facilitated play. The programs range from one hour to a series of sessions delivered over a full month. The participants range from parents and their toddlers in Regent Park to teenagers taking part in a special workshop at their local library to Syrian refugee children spending their first summer in Canada. In all of our programs we aim to introduce drama and theatre skills, encourage creativity, and build confidence in the participants.

PAONE: What is special about summer programming? Why do you feel it’s important?
AE: The partner organizations we are working with approached us to provide a special opportunity for their campers/participants as a fun change of pace from their regular programs or as a way to provide them access to a particular arts discipline. I believe that summer is a time to have fun and grow – it is my goal that our programs provide the opportunity for the participants to do just that. For most children, attending camp or participating in an activity in their local community is an opportunity for them meet new friends and interact in ways that differ from their normal ‘in-school’ life.  While sometimes scary, the freedom that comes from these new experiences has the potential to make a big impact on their social and emotional development.

PAONE: What will you be doing when you aren’t working this summer?
AE: Getting outside, playing in the sun, sleeping on the grass, and swimming as much as possible. I love riding my bike and have already been able to take some time off to go on a cycling and camping trip to the Adirondacks. I try to get outside as much as possible during the summer to take advantage of the long days by playing beach volleyball after work. I’m also lucky that I have access to a family cottage on Lake Erie and I try to get there on weekends whenever I can.

PAONE: What’s the best thing about summer in Toronto?
AE: The diversity of activities. I love that there is always something to happening from big art and street festivals to small community art shows. You can be as busy or as lazy as you choose.

Thanks, Amber!

Sept2010-620Amber Ebert is a PAONE board member and the School & Community Programs Manager at Young People’s Theatre where she facilitates educational programming for students and teachers. Amber has a background in professional theatre and music performance, management and education.

 

PAONE Big Thought committee ~ July 12, 2016

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We are inviting our members to join us as part of a PAONE committee to determine Toronto’s “big thought”. This is partly an extension of an event hosted earlier this year by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (in partnership with the Toronto Arts Council) where Big Thought (a Dallas-based, not-for-profit organization) joined them and some of Toronto’s arts and cultural stakeholders to discuss what arts education in our city could look like.

We want to move this discussion forward and bring it into action in our own context. While we will be using Toronto as our focus at this point in time, the hope is that we will be able to extend our learning more broadly. To that end, we encourage our members who are not Toronto-based to participate – we value your insights.

We will meet twice over the summer to create a plan together for an event in the fall where we can address some of the key questions we feel we are facing as a community. We will have a few guiding questions prepared to guide our conversations.

The first meeting date will be on Tuesday, July 12th from 6-8pm at Betty’s at 240 King St. East.

Please RSVP by Thursday, July 8th at noon if you’d like to join the conversation: info@paone.ca