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76By Christine GreshamexCeptional theatre foryoung peoplehile arts enthusiasts have long ascertained thattheatre is a valuable and inspiring form ofentertainment, it is also well understood that dramais of paramount importance in the social and intellectualdevelopment of young people. With this in mind, perhapscreativity, innovation, and kids have never been more powerfullycombined than they are within the walls of Theatre Direct, atrailblazing Canadian theatre company that is dedicated toproviding sophisticated theatre for young audiences. WFounded by playwright David Craig in 1976, Theatre Direct hasproduced and toured over 85 productions, reaching as many as45,000 young people annually. Over the years, the company hasreceived numerous nominations and garnered six Dora MavorMoore Awards, 10 Chalmers Canadian Play Awards, as well as theCanada Council Theatre for Young Audiences Prize. In 2009,Theatre Direct opened the doors to its new home in the ArtscapeWychwood Barns, a redeveloped historic site surrounded byexpansive parkland in the heart of mid-town Toronto. The company'sWith seemingly endless debates over educational artsfunding, and more budget cuts looming on the horizon,it's alarming for many parents to think that their child mayhave limited access to theatre during their formative years. Celebrating35 years oftheatre DireCt

77facilities include a fully equipped 200-seat theatre and aneducation studio, maintained by a staff of talented individuals whoenthusiastically produce intelligent and uncompromising work. Since the theatre's inception, it's been a platform for creativityand ingenuity, both at home and abroad. Over the first 25 years,the company built a reputation for tackling controversial buthighly relevant issues, and making them palatable for youngaudiences, focusing on youth aged nine through 15. Bycommissioning some of Canada's top playwrights and award-winning creative teams, the theatre's commitment to a highstandard of excellence resulted in several historical andgroundbreaking productions. Some of these high-profilesuccesses include mountings of Flesh and Bloodand Binti'sJourney, both dealing with HIV/AIDS in Canada and abroad; theDora award-winning production of Sanctuary Song, which wascreated as an opera for young audiences; Beneath the BanyanTree, a story of self-discovery and truth across cultural boundariesthat integrated puppets, dance and legend; and most recently,Head à Tête, a joyful and poignant piece delivered in both ofCanada's official languages, that shows how two opposing sidescan mend fences and cooperate. Many of these works have goneon to tour across the country and internationally, playing to sold-out runs and pushing the creative boundaries that define theatrefor young audiences. In keeping with its commitment toexcellence, the company has used the last decade to not onlycontinue to present work, but to also intensify the integrationbetween arts and education. Accustomed to performing for schoolgroups, the team has created unique full and half-day programs tofurther engage young people through art. Students are invited towatch a performance in the company's theatre, and following eachshow, take part in innovative workshops with the actors, allowingparticipants to explore themes of communication, culture and theenvironment that builds on their school's curriculum. Artistic Director Lynda Hill is dedicated to maintaining thecompany's accessibility and inclusiveness for families withchildren of all ages, creating a diverse range of drama camps and