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

Observe, Engage & Participate at WeeFestival

by Lauren Brotman

In Black and White, a Yellow Line - IMG_1805

Joana Pavão, In Black & White, A Yellow Line, Teatro do Biombo

Theatre Direct’s WeeFestival, the gathering of international artists who will be engaging the very youngest of theatre audiences, is just days away. In tandem with the programming of performances, activities and events scheduled for WeeFestival is a week full of exciting conference activity for parents, educators, academics, caregivers, artists, and observers. The activity brings together the leaders of the Canadian movement to share their experiences in promoting the importance of arts in early years, including a focus on the presence of digital technology in children’s lives. You will hear from international artists, scholars, researchers and companies about there inspiring approaches to creation, snapshots of their research and will be given opportunities to engage in a dialogue with them, all for and about the very youngest of audiences. Also on display is the powerful exhibition on the Charter of Children’s Rights to Arts and Culture on display at the Wychwood Barns all week.

Here is a breakdown of what the week will look like for those of you who are interested in attending/participating in the conference activity:

Monday, May 12, 2014Charting New Territory: Theatre for Early Years in Research and Practice, Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, 79 St. George Street

11:00 am – 12:30 pm Presentations from panelists
12:30 pm -2:00 pm Open Session

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 to participate in the discussion and ask questions. (Lunch provided courtesy of the Drama Centre, University of Toronto)

please visit for biographies of guest speakers and discussion topics.

2:30 – 4:00: Readings, & Viewings of Theatre Productions and Education Projects for preschoolers and kindergartners, Tarragon Theatre Studios

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

Tuesday, May 13: 10:45 – 12:15 Study in Performance Practice, Tarragon Extra Space
In Black and White, a Yellow Line, Teatro do Biombo (Portugal), “Let’s Talk Baby Theatre” Talk-back session with Joana Pavao

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 the inaugural WeeFestival of Theatre and Culture for Early Years, Theatre Direct is pleased to welcome the participation of a diverse range of companies from Europe and Québec, specializing in theatre for early years that began nearly a decade ago. Despite a challenging economic climate, the network of creators and presenters has grown. You are invited 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: Valeria Frabetti, Artistic Director, La Baracca – Testoni Ragazzi (Italy)

Followed by a roundtable discussion with: International Guests speakers. visit for details.

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?

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: Digital Kids, a new work in progress by Véronique Bossé (Québec), Tarragon Rehearsal Studio

About #DigitalKids: A 6 year old child, with his faithful Raplapla under his arm, enters a room filled with recognizable objects and games, including the always enchanting Ipad. Without warning, this computerized device ferociously begins to vacuum up objects, making them disappear. When Raplapla itself is swallowed by the machine,the child ventures into the virtual world in search of his beloved toy. The child passes through the screen where, on the other side, a fantastic, sometimes frightening, world awaits.

visit for schedule of related events and discussions

Dulce, a digital storybook installation
Sans Titre, a tiny puppetry work by Puzzle Theatre
Breadbox Theatre by Emil Sher

4:00 pm – 7:00 pm: Artists Circle and Creative Exchange, Tarragon Theatre Rehearsal Hall (A wide range of topics will be covered related to the present state and future vision of Theatre for Early Years).

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

2:30 pm – 5:30 pm: Professional Development Workshops
• Silent Performance led by Thomas Morgan Jones (Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse);
• Sharing Experiences, Creating Theatre for Early Years* led by Michael Lurse (Tarragon Rehearsal Studio) *this workshop is also available on Saturday, May 17 at 10:00 am, Helen Gardiner Theatre)

To participate in conference events, please register at:  Please note venue locations and show schedules when planning  so you don’t miss out. For a more detailed schedule of all events and activities at WeeFest, please visit:

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