Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre season at risk, points to Ontario teacher strikes as cause

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WATCH ABOVE: It’s been a disappointing season for the Young People’s Theatre with a number of shows cancelled, and more at risk. As Caryn Lieberman reports, the theatre’s executive director points to job action in the education sector as the cause of the problem – Jan 23, 2020

The oldest professional theatre company in Toronto is seeing a dip in ticket sales and it is pointing at the Ontario teachers’ strikes as being the cause.

“At this point, just in revenues alone, we’re looking at about a quarter of a million dollars, which is a very difficult thing for a charity,” said Young People’s Theatre (YPT) Executive Director Nancy Webster.

READ MORE: Ontario teachers’ strikes: A timeline of key events and actions taken

The not-for-profit theatre company announced it is canceling performances of the upcoming production of “Jungle Book”, placing 22 performances on hold and then it will assess the remainder of the season.

“We noticed in December when we were running our show, “The Adventures of Pinocchio”, that school sales certainly started to slow down. And then there was a point where there was an announcement that teachers should not book anything new. So at that point, all bookings stopped and they haven’t started again,” said Webster.

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For more than 50 years YPT has been putting on shows targeting young audiences. Students aged 5 to 18 years old make up 70 per cent of the theatre’s audience.

READ MORE: Rotating school strikes unlikely to impact Ontario economy: experts

With uncertainly in Ontario’s education sector and ongoing job action by elementary and high school teachers, Webster said YPT is struggling.

“We work so closely with the teachers … we certainly support them, but we also receive a very generous support from the Ontario government through the Ontario Arts Council. So for us, we are stuck directly in the middle. And so, what more than anything we hope is that a resolution will come,” she said.

Toronto teacher Joy Lachica, president of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto Local, acknowledged the impact on YPT and is encouraging her friends to bring their children to the theatre during March Break.

READ MORE: Elementary teachers kick off week of rotating strikes in Toronto, York and Ottawa

But, Lachica pointed to the Ford government as being the root of the problem.

“The government’s neglect of the critical issues that are impacting public education has brought us to this place,” she said, adding, “In the short term it is hard … but the government refusing to address our proposals at the table is what is taking the time.”

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Lachica could not say how long the job action will last.

“We certainly want this to be in the short term but this is for the longer term future of our children and for public education that we are engaging in this fight,” she said.

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