For over fifteen years the Boardmore Playhouse has played host to the Youth Theatre Festival (also known as CADSFest, after the main group involved – Class Acts Drama School). For students aged five to eighteen, it is a chance to walk the boards of a real theatre with all the tech and costumes that go along with that, often for the first time.
Students spend a few months working on mostly original scripts written by CADS students and instructors, past and present, rehearsing their lines, blocking, and learning how theatre works as a collective art. Many who have started with the Youth Theatre Festival have gone on to continue working with theatre in their adult lives.
Wesley Colford, artistic director of the highly successful Highland Arts Theatre had one of his first stage experiences in the the Youth Theatre Festival. Trying his hand not only at acting but also writing and directing in youth, Colford has very positive things to say of his time with CADS and the Youth Festival.
“The CADS Youth Festival provides an invaluable opportunity for Cape Breton’s youth to tackle scary, hilarious, raw, vital theatre for maybe the first time and present it to an audience in a safe and nurturing environment,” explains Colford. “From age five to high school, they are able to take on material and risks that challenge them without patronizing their intelligence or maturity. CADS taught me more than acting and playwriting, it taught me to be a teacher, a student, a leader, a servant, and the creed by which I try to live my life: Dare to Fail.”
Beyond providing an early experience in theatre, the youth festival provides an educational aspect as well. Each night, following the plays, one of the instructors of CADS joins all the participants on the stage and, along with the audience, discusses various aspects of the shows; what worked well, what can be improved, as well as asking questions of the students about their roles and plays. Erin Thompson, instructor with CADS says, “The idea is to create a positive atmosphere for all of our students and for their audience. Everyone is there to have fun.”
“It led directly to my decision to become a teacher,” Thompson says about her time with the festival, both as an instructor and a student.
This year’s festival features fourteen different plays from Class Acts Drama School, the Whitney Pier Youth Group, and Munroe Academy. From April 13 to 18 at the Boardmore Playhouse, CBU, you get the chance to see the stars of tomorrow trying out their craft. Admission is $5 (profits of which go to the Boardmore Playhouse scholarship fund).