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20 Performing Arts Academy to set the stage for youth involvement

Arts and Entertainment20 Performing Arts Academy to set the stage for youth involvement

A new musical theatre school for youth in Grades 6 to 12 is coming to the Brantford-Brant community.

Brantford residents Theresa Noon-Hunter, owner and artistic director of There’s A Production, and her long-time best friend, Kristen Henderson, have formally teamed up to create the new 20 Performing Arts Academy.

“We’ve been friends for over 20 years now and while we’ve worked together multiple times in the past, we’ve decided to officially team up to bring our vision of 20 Performing Arts Academy to life,” said Noon-Hunter. “This has been a brainchild of ours for as long as we’ve been friends and it’s just an absolute dream come true for us. Kristen is very business savvy and I’m very much into the creative process, so it works out perfectly because we’re both doing what we want to do but we also get to contribute to both sides and learn from each other too.”

Noon-Hunter said that the idea behind the school is to give children a safe place to learn about the performing arts and all that goes into building a theatre production from the ground up while focusing on the overall growth of the youngsters.

“We really felt there was a need for the kind of programming where kids can learn to hone their craft and understand what it takes to make a production happen in a space that is comfortable for them,” she said. “We’ve designed the academy to focus on personal and artistic growth so it’s going to help not only instill confidence, but with things like public speaking, self-discipline and putting in the time, effort and commitment into putting on a show. It’s not just about being the best actor on stage; Obviously, we want to give them the tools to be able to be that, but we really want them to find their people and find the parts of themselves that they didn’t know existed.”

Starting on Saturday, September 14, 2024, and over the course of 12 weeks, the youngsters will learn not only about the art and the history of theatre, but they will also be auditioning for a role and rehearsing for their final full-scale production of FAME Jr. during week 13 in December.

“We’re going to be teaching fundamentals and the basics of theatre based on people’s previous knowledge and because it’s such a large age group, we’re going to have different levels of the education aspect,” said Noon-Hunter. “That first week we’ll do an icebreaker activity and explain how things are going to work and then from there we’re going to start working on the show and slowly preparing for the final performance. Now, we are going to have them audition for the roles because while we want to push boundaries and encourage the kids to get out of their comfort zones, if somebody isn’t comfortable playing the lead, we never want to put them in a situation where it’s going to cause anxiety or stress.”

Theresa Noon-Hunter, owner of There’s A Production, shows off 20 Performing Arts Academy’s script for FAME Jr. Photo courtesy Theresa Noon-Hunter.

The cost of the full program, which includes rehearsal materials, participation in the musical and a performance t-shirt, is $275.00 however, Noon-Hunter and Henderson are currently offering an early bird $250.00 registration special until Saturday July 6.

“Compared to similar programs that are very expensive in other communities, we’re doing it at what we feel is an affordable price for Brantford-Brant,” said Noon-Hunter. “Inclusivity of all kinds is extremely important to me and Kristen and we want people to be able to have this opportunity and not be excluded financially. It’s really important to us that anybody can get into our program and if somebody really wants to be part of it but it’s not financially in the cards for someone, then we’ll try to help figure something out.”

While there will be enough roles for each student to fill, the program is also offering leadership skills in music direction, stage management, choreography, prop design, set design, costume design, lighting design, sound design, sound engineering, scenic art, marketing and front of house for Grades 10 and up.

“Not only do they have the ability to enroll to be a performer in the program, but we’re also offering Grades 10 and up the opportunity to earn their high school volunteer hours to work in both creative and production roles as well,” said Noon-Hunter. “So, if someone wants to earn their volunteer hours by doing just the tech side of things, they don’t have to pay to be part of the program and we will provide them with mentorship and the chance to lead. However, if they want the opportunity to both act and do tech then they would pay to be a cast member as all the materials are included.”

Registration for 20 Performing Arts Academy opens on Saturday, June 29, 2024. Photo courtesy Theresa Noon-Hunter.

Throughout the length of the program, classes/rehearsals will take place every Saturday from noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead National Historic Site in St. George, and the production will take place at Sydenham-Heritage United Church in Brantford on Friday, December 6 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 7 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Overall, Noon-Hunter said herself and Henderson are thrilled to be finally taking the steps toward their dream.

“It feels incredible to finally be in this position. I love working with kids and I wanted to be able to provide them the opportunity to do something new and as a mom myself, knowing that there will be a program available for my own child when he’s old enough is so special. We’ve spoken to some other parents in town about the program and we’ve received so many positive comments saying that there’s a need for this in our community and that they’re glad we’re putting this on. Personally, we’re so excited, and we just can’t wait to see everyone in September.”

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