Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hug-in a show of affection

Rally shows support for youth theatre

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Members and fans rallied at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People Saturday to show their support with a group hug.

The theatre has amassed a debt of about $1.5 million and has been described as being on life support.

"We want to get enough people to stop by to wrap around the whole building," said Kim Zeglinski. "We're hoping people will spend the day with us."

Zeglinski is a theatre artist, former MTYP theatre instructor and, most importantly, a mother who wants to impart the love of theatre to her children.

"Today is an awareness-raising event," said Zeglinski, who organized the hug-in. "Every week I have to warn my boys that the theatre may not be open. I have to warn them that we may go up to the doors and they may be locked."

She thinks the public doesn't understand the seriousness of the situation.

"I don't think the public realizes how many people this place affects," said Zeglinski. "Not just the perspective of the theatre that it runs on stage, but by virtue of the school that runs here and the hundreds of thousands of students that come here, who would otherwise be left unoccupied in their extracurricular time."

Zeglinski said the sudden and unexplained dismissal of founding artistic director Leslee Silverman could not have come at a worse time.

"We don't know what the financial woes are," said Zeglinski. "All I know, as a theatre artist, is this is very bad timing to fire an artistic director at this time of year when the seasons are being planned, when the seasons are being announced, directors, actors, everything is being put in place."

Silverman, who was dismissed March 5 for no official reason after 31 years at the MTYP, was at the hug-in, but she was not allowed in the building.

"Today means that the community is speaking about their love and concern for MTYP," said Silverman. "There hasn't been any public explanation of what's going on, why I have been dismissed, or what the plan is, or what 125,000 children can expect with no general manager and no artistic director in place."

She said a wrongful dismissal lawsuit is possible.

"I have asked the board to meet with me, to look for reconciliation, to please elaborate their concerns to tell me what the strategic business plan is ... and so far there has been no response."

David Gillies is an actor who was in the first show Silverman directed at the theatre as well as her last show.

He came to the hug-in to show his support for what he says is an important part of Winnipeg.

"I'm here because this theatre is a very important asset to Winnipeg," said Gillies. "It is a transformative place for young people. Lives have been changed here. I've seen it myself."

steph.crosier@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2013 A4

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