MONTREAL — The Academy of Performing Arts will be opening at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts at The Saidye next month.
A professionally led program for children and teens was one of the major innovations promised when the former Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts was revamped into the Segal Centre last year and the 40-year-old School of Fine Arts (for adults) was closed.
The new academy, which opens Feb. 4, offers the public 20 bilingual courses in theatre performance and production, music education, circus arts and video production.
The winter semester has something for youngsters from three to 17, as well as a few for small children and their parents, and a lunchtime music history course for adults. The programs take place in newly renovated classrooms and feature new, up-to-date equipment and instruments.
“The academy is one of the pillars of the Segal Centre. Its mission is not only to produce the next generation of performing artists, but to nurture future patrons of the arts as well,” said Bryna Wasserman, the centre’s artistic director and head of the academy’s theatre performance department.
The other department heads are Norbert Muncs, theatre production, who most recently was director of the technical production program at the National Theatre School of Canada and, since 1990, production manager of the Ballet-Ouest de Montréal; George Doxas, music education, chair of the acclaimed music department at Lindsay Place High School for 23 years and head of his own recording studio; Yves Neveu, circus arts, a veteran performer and director, now head of the École de Cirque de Québec and president of the National Circus Arts Association; and Harlie Dover, video production, an MA graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, who has worked with independent documentary makers and at various film festivals.
Introductory-level theatre performance classes are available for kids ages nine to 17, while the theatre production program consists of occasional workshops and offers internships and apprenticeships on a case-by-case basis. The music classes start at age three, while older children can learn how to play saxophone, drum, bass or electric guitar, as well as singing, in a group setting.
The music department also offers Yiddish songs for babies as young as newborns, and their parents, in a program called the Yum Bum Club.
In the circus arts department, children from two (accompanied by a parent) to 12 can learn such skills as balance, clowning and juggling.
Classes in the video media workshop are for those aged nine to 17.
Among the 19 staff members are Caroline Bâcle, who was assistant director of Undying Love, which won the Gemini Award for best historical documentary in 2003; drummer Jim Doxas, who has performed at Carnegie Hall and on Broadway; Phyllis Lewis who edited The Danish Poet by Tovil Kove, which won an Academy Award last year for best animated short; Samir Mallal, co-director of Discordia, a documentary about the aftermath of the violent anti-Netanyahu protest at Concordia University in 2002 and of the Gemini-nominated Bombay Calling; Paul Shore, who directed IBM and the Holocaust; and Moira Wylie, a veteran actor who has appeared at the Shaw Festival and Centaur Theatre.
Leanor Segal, vice-president of the centre’s board, said, “With the academy, we intend to reach out to young people by offering them both educational support and an outlet for their creativity. They are our future and it is for us to provide them a solid foundation to build upon.”
The Segal Centre inaugurated another of its new features last month, a second performance space called the Studio, which formerly housed the Liane and Danny Taran Gallery. The opening event was the premiere of Mark Doherty’s Trad, produced by the centre’s new resident theatre company SideMart.
The space can hold up to 177 moveable seats and is intended to be used as a dance studio, cabaret/jazz bar or concert/lecture hall, as well as for innovative theatre productions.
SideMart’s next scheduled productions are Macbeth (April 22-24), to be staged in conjunction with the Haitian community’s the Other Theatre, in English, French and Creole; and The Haunted Hillbilly (May 1-12), an adaptation of Derek McCormack’s novella of the same name, which is described as a “shockingly original and macabre re-imagining” of both the life of Hank Williams Sr. and the modern musical.