Anishinaabe artist inspires a new generation in Toronto’s youth theater

Anishinaabe artist inspires a new generation in Toronto's youth theater

Sydney, 2022-01-28 22:00:00. Anishinaabe artist inspires a new generation in Toronto’s youth theater

The new artistic director of Toronto’s Young People Theater is inspiring young people on and off the stage.

“I have to be responsible for opening new doors, opening new paths and creating relationships with communities that are often forgotten or neglected,” actor and playwright Herbie Barnes told CTV News.

A member of the Ondeck Omni Kaning First Nation on Ontario’s Manitolin Island, Barnes is the first Aboriginal person to lead the popular youth theater, which has seen the likes of Drake and Kiefer Sutherland perform on stage. In his new role, Barnes not only performs for young people, but is also a teacher and mentor.

“I constantly try to encourage young writers to stop writing from the victim’s point of view, and start writing about our heroes,” Barnes said.

The Youth Theater was formed in 1966 and is the largest theater of its kind in Canada. Since 1977, it has been housed in a heritage building in downtown Toronto that is currently undergoing a $13.5 million renovation: the company’s largest expansion project ever.

The theater offers online programming at the moment, but when renovations are complete and reopens to the public this fall, Barnes Bent Boy will be on stage—an arrangement made by chance before Barnes was brought in as artistic director.

“Herbie has a reputation as a wonderful actor, wonderful arranger and educator in the arts community,” Nancy Webster, executive director of the theater, told CTV News.

From musicals to stand-up comedies, Barnes traveled across North America to live out his dream of performing—a dream he’s dreamed of since he was a child. In the youth theater, he will be able to entertain and help other children live that dream as well.

“I think it’s a huge honor,” Barnes said.

Files from writer Daniel Otis

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