Young performers showcase their talents in annual festival

CCPA’s second-year students hone theatre skills for local audience

The Canadian College of the Performing Arts Year II students showcase their work this week.

The annual TD New Works Festival is a CCPA tradition celebrating artists starting out in their careers.

“It’s quite an extraordinary event. You’re really seeing them at the birth of their training,” said CCPA instructor Christopher Weddell, a playwright who shares his “successes and failures” as a mentor to students. “It’s been very well attended over the years.”

Each artist works closely with a mentor for three months. Over time, each artist’s piece is honed, torn apart, reconsidered and rearranged.

Weddell works with students to create 10-minute scripts to present as lectern readings during the festival.

“The focus is really on the story, with the audience listening and feedback session afterwards,” he said. “It’s about how the piece works as a theatrical event.”

He helps them develop a practice to apply as theatre artists later, learning techniques such as use of writing time and overcoming writer’s block.

“They go through the whole process from writing exercises to really trying to determine what they want to write about,” he said.

“Some at the beginning of the year are not sure what their voice is. It’s great to see their voices begin to emerge.”

A number of students have gone on to write professionally given the opportunity to explore “writing as another option for the theatre artist,” during their time at CCPA.

“A number of the writers have honed their work a year or two years afterwards and presented it publicly in another forum. This is the beginning of a lifelong process for some of them. I’ve seen a couple of pieces morph into brand new or longer plays that felt constrained by the 10 minutes,” he said. “It’s kind of a jumping off point. They discover, ‘Oh I have another skill I can use.’”

The script readings are just one area the students showcase during the annual festival, with other students working in dance, choreography and voice work.

The TD New Works Festival runs Dec. 6 to 8, 7:30 p.m. at 1701 Elgin Rd. Admission is by donation.

Visit www.ccpacanada.com to learn more about the event and other coming performances.