Arts and Culture for Early Years       May 4 – 24, 2020        

Festival Archive

Conference & Delegate Info

If you wish to participate in conference events and are not registered please contact

Monday, May 12, 2014

11:00 – 2:00 pm
Charting New Territory:  Theatre for Early Years in Research and Practice
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse
Hosted by The Drama Centre, University of Toronto

Join scholars and researchers from a wide variety of disciplines as they present snapshots of their research, discuss themes and trajectories relating to early years, creative development, cognitive ability, theatre, digital media, and play.

The wide variety of perspectives and research positions provide a unique opportunity to consider how different disciplines connect to the inherently interdisciplinary work of making theatre for the very young.  The session is open to observers, and everyone will have an opportunity participate in the discussion and ask questions. (Lunch provided courtesy of the Drama Centre, University of Toronto.

4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Artist and Educator Circle & Reception
Tarragon Theatre Studios

For information on conference details, please click here.

Tuesday, May 13

10:45 – 12:15  Study in Performance Practice
In Black and White, a Yellow Line, Teatro do Biombi (Portugal)
“Let’s Talk Baby Theatre” Talk-back session with Joana Pavao
Tarragon Extra Space

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2:00 – 5:00
Think Small!
Inspiring approaches to creation, audience engagement, touring and presenting..
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, Performance Studio

As part of our inaugural WeeFestival of Theatre and Culture for Early Years, Theatre Direct is pleased to welcome the participation of a diverse range of companies specializing in theatre for early years. Each company is active in a growing movement of theatre for the very young that develops productions, workshops, exchanges, publications, exhibitions, or other events intended to foster a culture of arts for children ages 0 to 3 and 3 to 6. Despite a challenging economic climate, the network of creators and presenters has grown over the past decade throughout Europe, the UK, and Québec.

Nearly 10 years into the movement, what can we learn from these trailblazing companies? What experiences, reflections and visions of our own can we bring alongside those of our international colleagues? How can we support each other in seeking ways in which we can generate and disseminate imaginative projects that stem from a deep belief in the impact of quality arts experiences on a child’s development and their future cultural participation?

We invite you to listen to presentations from festival companies on their unique approaches to engage very young audiences, followed by a collegial dialogue and exchange on touring and presenting theatre and performing arts for the very young and their families in Ontario.

Keynote Address from Valeria Frabetti, Artistic Director, La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi (Italy)

Followed by roundtable discussion with:

Michael Lurse, Artistic Director, Helios Theater (Germany)
Kevin Stewart and Carolina Ramos, Co-Artistic Directors, Katarsis, Educacion y Teatro S.L. (Spain)
Grainne Powell, Executive Director, Sticky Fingers (Northern Ireland)
Hélène Blanchard, Artistic Director, Le Théâtre des Confettis, (Québec City)
Alain Grégoire, Executive Director, La Maison Theatre, (Montréal)

5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
WeeFestival Opening Reception and Exhibition Launch
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, Performance Studio
By Invitation

Thursday, May 15, 2014

10:00 – 11-15 Study in Performance Practice
Bedtime, Katarsis, Educacion y Teatro S.L.
talk back with Carolina Ramos and Kevin Stewart
Tarragon Extra Space

11:15 – 11:45 & 1:30 pm
Digital Kids, a new work in progress by Véronique Bossé (Québec)
Tarragon Rehearsal Studio

11:45 – 12:15
Post-show discussion with attending preschool and kindergarten child

12:30 – 1:30 Lunch time Discussion
Digital Technology in the Early Years-Hilary Leung and Nick Shim

Tarragon Rehearsal Studio

3:00 – 4;00
Artist’s Show & Tell
Informal presentation of new works
Helen Yung & Tom Kuo -Dulse
Puzzle Theatre-Sans Titre
Emil Sher-Breadbox Theatre
and more…

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Artists Circle and Creative Exchange
Tarragon Theatre Rehearsal Hall

Friday, May 16

10:00 am – 11-15 am Study in Performance Practice
The Boat and the Moon, La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi (Italy)
Talk back with Valeria Frabetti and Carlotta Zini
Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm Study in Performance Practice
Old Man and the River, Theatre Direct (Canada)
Talk-back with Lynda Hill and artists of the company
Alliance Française de Toronto


THINK SMALL! & Other Conference Bios



Hélène Blanchard began a career dedicated to all aspects of theatrical creation in the 1970’s. In 1977, she founded Théâtre des Confettis with Judith Savard: they remain the artistic co-directors of the company to this day. The company has created 26 shows for children. Mme. Blanchard ardently follows the work of Quebec and international artists p actors, director, designers and others – inviting new talents and renowned creators to join the team of Confettis. She has acted in 11 works and co-authored 7 others, and has also assisted the direction of 8 performances. In 2008, she directed Une histoire pour Édouard, and in 2003, Clara dans les bois.



Véronique Bossé graduated from the Theatre Program at Sorbonne Paris III, with a specialisation in Directing (2012). Before studying in France, Véronique founded Calliopé, a professional theatre company primarily focused on producing theatre for young audiences (2005). Following her time at Cégep St-Hyacinthe, her directorial debut was an adaptation of Tu peux toujours danser by Louis-Dominique Lavigne. In 2009-10, Véronique worked alongside Diane Cormier, Director of École du Théâtre Parenthèse in Montreal. While in Paris, she assisted Gérald Garutti, the Artistic Director of C(h)aracteres, on projects in Paris and London (2010-12). Upon her return to Montreal, Véronique worked closely with Michel Lefebvre, Artistic Director of Youtheatre, as Assistant Director (2013). Recently, Véronique was invited to take part in an international conversation on taboo topics in the field of theatre for young audiences as a representative of ASSITEJ Canada at Taboo Workshop 2013 in Uruguay. She is currently working on developing a production for young adults that explores grief as experienced through social networks, entitled Iseult and Evaelle, as well as a new work for the very young, entitled #Digitalkids, which will be workshopped in May 2014 at Toronto’s WeeFestival.



Born in Ottawa, Dominique Denis lives in Toronto. He worked as a journalist (print, television, radio) for 25 years, and currently works as a freelance translator and French language teacher. His broader interest is the exploration of the ways in which arts and education intersect. Dominique worked as the artistic director for the Toronto-based cultural institution, Alliance Française de Toronto. In 2012, he was named Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government for his work in the cultural field. Dominique also sits on the board of directors of Théâtre la Tangente, a Toronto-based theatre company.



Jean-Yves Dorion is a born magician. He managed to capture the attention when he enters the stage; he mesmerizes and fascinates children and adults with his tricks, his jokes and expressions. When he looks at you, hard not to laugh… because with a face like his, he does not need a mask, he is the man of a thousand faces. Jean-Yves is a juggler, musician, and singer; he also does fancy makeup, sculpture and drawing. After more than 15 years experience in festivals animation, conferences and children’s parties, he launches today in
#DigitalKids to mystify minds and create the magic of Virtual, in the most effective way!’’



Valeria Frabetti took part in the foundation of La Baracca in 1976. The company is dedicated to theatre for children and young people; Ms.Frabetti works exclusively within its structure as artistic director, author and


director; her plays have been translated and represented in many foreign countries . She also acts in the company’s productions and is the team leader for the company’s workshops in Italy and abroad . Ms. Frabetti is also the founder of Small size – European Network for the diffusion and development of performing arts for early childhood – funded by The European Commission-Program Culture 2000 -Program Culture 2007 (2009-2014). For La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi she has coordinated, planned and produced courses, settings, exhibitions and many special projects for children, such as Visions of future, visions of theatre – Festival of culture and theatre for early childhood. For this project in May 2008, during the 16th ASSITEJ International World Congress held in Adelaide (Australia), La Baracca received the “ASSITEJ Award for Artistic Excellence 2008”. The award, is assigned every three years to remarkably interesting and innovative companies operating in the field of theatre for children and young people.



Alain Grégoire developed his passion for theatre in adolescence. He has worked as an actor and directed in dozens of productions, and has taught in numerous theatre schools in Quebec; he has also served as artistic director for numerous organizations in Québec and Ottawa. Since 2002, he is the president and general director of La Maison Théâtre in Montréal. He is a founding member of Théâtres Unis Enfance Jeunesse, and president of the Association des diffuseurs spécialisés en théâtre. Alain Grégoire is often consulted as an expert in matters of arts policy with regard to theatre, both within the field and in a wider public context; he is a member of the Table de concertation en diffusion des arts de la scène, established by the Ministère de Culture et de Communications; committee member of the Quartier des spectacles since 2011; member of the Comité Théâtre Jeune Public au Conseil québécois du théâtre (CQT) since 2008; and administrator for CQT and La Vitrine culturelle. He also participated in the creation of the manifesto « Vers une politique du theater professionnel pour les jeunes publics » (2012-2013) with the Association des diffuseurs spécialisés en théâtre (ADST).



Thomas Morgan Jones is a Toronto-based director, playwright, dramaturg, instructor, and movement coach.  His productions have received seven Dora Mavor Moore Awards and three nominations, he received the 2011 Dora Mavor Moore Guthrie (Stratford Festival), and has been nominated twice for the John Hirsch Award (2008 & 2011) and for the Pauline McGibbon Award.



He has collaborated with companies including: Theatre Direct, Stratford, Theatre Passe Muraille, Cahoots, Theatre Rusticle, Buddies, Carousel Players, Theatre Jones Roy, The CULTCH, The Charlottetown Festival, Cia Enviezada (Brazil), and many others. He holds a B.A. from the University of Guelph, an M.A. from the University of Toronto, and recently trained with SITI Company in NYC, Madrid, and Paris.



Teaching credits include: The Stratford Festival Birmingham Conservatory, Theatre Direct, Cahoots, The Paprika Festival, The University of Guelph, The University of Guelph-Humber, The Randolph Academy, The Charlottetown Festival, CBC’s Triple Sensation, as well as hundreds of guest workshops with elementary and secondary schools. He is currently an artist educator in residence with YPT, and an associate artist with Theatre Direct.



Following the successful completion of his puppeteer training course in 1986, Michael Lurse has worked as a freelance performer, author, director and set designer in theatre for children, teenagers and adults. He was one of the founders of the HELIOS Theatre and has assumed the role of artistic director since the theatre’s relocation to Hamm. Under his auspices, the children’s theatre house has been conceived and established. Since 2002, he has also been shaping the international youth theatre festival hellwach (“wide awake”) in the capacity of artistic director.



In his artistic endeavours, he has focused on working with puppets, objects and materials. Since 2005, he has increasingly dedicated himself into developing theatre for the youngest audiences. As both performer and lecturer, Michael Lurse has been frequently invited to present his productions and workshops at numerous festivals all throughout the world.



Grainne Powell has spent over 15 years specializing in the development and promoting the arts for very young children in Ireland. She is the founding director of Sticky Fingers Arts, the first dedicated arts organisation established specifically for the early years. Sticky Fingers Arts launched the first early years international Festival in 2007 for the UK and Ireland and were invited to become the Northern Ireland partner in Small size, the European network for the performing arts for very young audiences. Sticky Fingers Arts has successfully created and established original and imaginative ways of engaging young children in the arts across Ireland.



Spanish artist and educator Carolina Ramos and Canadian actor Kevin Stewart are the founding artistic directors of Katarsis, Educación y Teatro S.L. Established in 2006 and based in A Coruña-Spain, Katarsis is a school that offers educational activities related to the theatre. The company promotes pedagogical renewal using drama techniques through the exchange of ideas, needs and dreams of educators and artists. Carolina is a specialist in applying theatre and drama techniques to language learning.




The WeeFestival of Theatre and Culture for Early Years is a project of Theatre Direct Canada, features productions created especially for children under 6 years by leading theatres in Québec, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Ontario.

Project support for the festival is provided by The Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts. Operating support for Theatre Direct is provided by the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

The WeeFestival Conference is sponsored by The Drama Centre, University of Toronto and Tarragon Theatre.