Arts and Culture for Early Years       May 11 – 20, 2019        

About

The WeeFestival of Arts and Culture is dedicated to nurturing and showcasing the best in theatre and the arts for children 0 -6 years.

We passionately believe in the right of every child to engage with, and participate in, sophisticated, aesthetically-rich, intelligent, and stimulating arts experiences. We know that the first 2000 days of a child’s life are the most important in their emotional, physical, social, and intellectual development and that regular exposure to the arts throughout these years has a positive and profound impact on their long-term health and well-being.

The WeeFestival is a 10-day celebration of arts in early childhood and the artists, educators, parents, grandparents, and caregivers who believe in the power of arts from the start.

Whether for babies and toddlers, preschoolers, or kindergarteners, each show has been created with the emotional and social developmental needs and interests of young children and are presented in intimate venues to ensure every child is close to the action and fully immersed in the experience. In addition to engaging theatre productions, the festival will offer a range of multi-disciplinary programming designed to engage little ones and their parents.

Festival Facts

  • Many of the performances do not rely on language to tell the story, instead they combine music, light, design and movement for a fully-accessible experience for all young children.
  • The maximum audience size is extremely limited, as few as 16 spots in some cases and between 60 – 100 with other shows. This way every child can experience the magic of theatre up close!
  • Most performances last between 30 and 45 minutes with time to explore and play afterwards.
  • Every performance in the festival has played to young audiences around the world with great success. The performers are highly-trained and have extensive experience interacting with very young audiences.
  • All participating venues in the festival are physically accessible. All festival staff are trained to ensure the most flexible, accommodating, and welcoming experience for every child, caregiver, and educator!
  • Tickets are accessibly priced thanks to our funders and donors who like us, believe in equitable access to the arts for all children, schools and families.

Festival History

A project of Theatre Direct Canada, The WeeFestival was conceived by former Artistic and Executive Director Lynda Hill and was launched in 2014 as a 7-day event. The first of its kind in Toronto and second only to Festival Petits Bonheurs in Montreal, the WeeFestival joined the international arts for early years movement and brought together leading artists and companies from around the world to Toronto for one week of performances for children 0-6 years.

Subsequent editions in 2016 and 2018 reflected continued growth in audiences (from under 4000 in 2014 to nearing 6000 in 2018), venues, and partners from across the arts sector excited to support the festival mission and in 2019, the WeeFestival announced it would move from a biennial to an annual event! With this shift, Lynda Hill announced her departure from Theatre Direct in order to focus exclusively on The WeeFestival which will incorporate as a separate entity under Theatre Direct’s umbrella.

Territorial Acknowledgment

We would like to acknowledge the lands and waterways we gather on during WeeFestival. We hope you will help us in acknowledging and thanking all of the nations who have lived and cared for these lands in the past, those that are here today like me and you, and those who will continue to support the land in the future. Miigwech to the Mississaugas of New Credit, the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of Six Nations, and all other Nations recorded or unrecorded. Also thank you to the animals, the plants, the stars, moon, and sun, without all of that, we would not be here today so we are grateful, and to everything in creation for supporting us along this journey. Miigwech, thank you.

About Theatre Direct

Now, in its 43rd season, Theatre Direct Canada is one of the Country’s leading theatres for young audiences whose award-winning productions have reached audiences in schools and theatres across Canada and overseas. Theatre Direct’s work has been recognized with multiple Dora Mavor Moore Awards and nominations as well as 10 Chalmers Canadian Play Awards, and the Canada Council Theatre for Young Audiences Prize.

Mandate

  • To create and present sophisticated and uncompromising theatre for, with, and by young people that empowers, educates and inspires.
  • To present theatre that is socially-conscious, accessible, inclusive, and culturally diverse.
  • To nurture our audience’s appreciation of the arts and each other through community and education based programs.

Philosophy

Our work is driven by a belief that young people deserve truth not diversion, that they have a right to meaningful cultural content and experiences. We view our audience as thinking, feeling, complex individuals-not a market, not future audiences, but emerging citizens that demands relevant theatre that engages all their faculties, feelings and intellect.

Our audience inspires us to tackle big questions in the same way children and youth ask them: honestly, directly, and, courageously.