Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Not just an act

MTYP helps you become more than you ever believed you could

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I've had the extraordinary privilege of being part of the Manitoba Theatre for Young People for almost 10 years. I started volunteering before my daughter was born, drawn to the building and shows. I began accompanying its musical theatre classes, then applied to become a teacher. With my degree in theatre, it was a no-brainer -- I could share the joy of theatre to children, and get paid to do it? Bonus!

When my daughter, Keira Jordan, was born around the same time, I knew she'd also share in the magic. She saw Comet in Moominland when she was only 21/2 years old. She took her first class shortly after, and has participated in classes and camps every year since then -- for seven wonderful years.

She has run around in every studio, seen most of the shows, danced in the theatre and the rehearsal hall, and played hide-and-seek around the lobby stairs. She knows the shortcuts, the props and costumes hanging throughout the building ("There's the dragon, Mom! Those umbrellas were from Seussical!"). She begs me to let her try on costumes. She has even been a "junior assistant" for me when I'm teaching, helping younger children build puppets and props and teaching them her favourite drama games. She is thrilled to be old enough this year to volunteer at performances. She takes tickets, hands out programs, and even passes the hat among the audience, asking them to help MTYP.

She is not a naturally outgoing person -- it's a struggle for her to talk to people, to perform, to be in the spotlight. But she loves the atmosphere, and the opportunities, and I know that she would be painfully inhibited if she didn't have the outlet MTYP provides. I know, because she is like me.

I didn't have an MTYP when I was young. I struggled -- still struggle -- with social anxiety. I hid at the piano and behind books. It wasn't until I discovered an aptitude for theatre in high school that I learned how to overcome some of these anxieties. After all, if you don't feel comfortable, I told myself, you can just "act" like you do. Fake it till you make it.

Thanks to MTYP, she sees the world differently than I did at her age. She knows it's OK to be silly, to be different, to let your creative juices flow. She sees adults performing for kids and kids performing for adults -- and supportive energy flowing in both directions. She makes up stories and songs. She builds. She creates. She sees that it's OK to make mistakes, as long as you keep trying.

Children's theatre isn't just a season of plays. It isn't simply classes where kids play games. And it's not just a building that houses the same. It is a place of grounding, of learning, of growing. Of reaching inside and finding out that you can be MORE than you originally believed.

Winnipeg is blessed with an amazing arts and cultural scene, but that scene would be missing a major character if MTYP were absent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 31, 2013 A8

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