Soulpepper Theatre Company

Soulpepper’s artistic mission is to create a home in Canada’s largest city for the great dramatic works of our collective cultural inheritance; to develop the audience of the future; to encourage the arts community; to employ youth outreach and mentorship as a vital part of our collective future; to develop a significant national literature based on the adaptation and translation of classical works from all cultures; to instill the notions of job security and civic responsibility for holistically integrated artists; to establish creative partnerships with artists and companies with different skills and approaches to the artistic process; to carefully and systematically address the issue of cultural and ethnic diversity on the stages of our community; and to become the leading conservatory training centre in Canada for actors, directors, playwrights, and designers.

Youth AccessOur Story What We Do

History of Organization

Soulpepper was established by 12 of Canada’s leading theatre artists whose goal was to combine classical theatre, mentorship and training, and to keep artists at the centre of the organization.

Soulpepper presented its inaugural season with two productions at the Harbourfront Centre in the summer of 1998. The company has since produced more than 140 of history’s great stories at theatres all across Canada. 25 of these productions have been original Canadian translations or Canadian adaptations of classical works.

The Soulpepper Academy, a full-time, paid apprenticeship program, was launched in 2006 and has become one of the most vital and unique launching pads for emerging theatre artists in Canada.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Since its founding in 1998, Soulpepper has built:

  • A year-round season of more than 400 performances
  • A passionate audience of nearly 90,000 annually
  • An artistic ensemble of 150 established and emerging theatre artists
  • A paid full-time residency for 16 emerging artists from across Canada
  • A fellowship providing established artists with artistic residencies
  • A robust portfolio of youth programs, reaching 7,500 youth annually
  • A 46,000 square foot state-of-the-art performing arts facility which anchors Toronto’s Distillery Historic District

Since its inception, Soulpepper has won 13 Dora Mavor Moore Awards, and been nominated for an additional 55.

No discussion of Soulpepper would be complete without a mention of Founding Artistic Director Albert Schultz. In 2013, he was named a member of the Order of Canada and he has also been a recipient of many other awards, including the 2014 National Arts Centre Award given by the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Foundation.

Our Programs How We Do It

PERFORMANCE: Soulpepper is the only theatre company in North America with a year-round repertory season and is proud to be a leading employer of theatre artists in Toronto. The company is grateful for the recognition of its artistic excellence from audiences, theatre critics and peers alike over the year. Soulpepper is the most consistently exciting theatre company in Canada. (Post City Magazine).

TRAINING: The Soulpepper Academy Academy sees emerging theatre artists undertaking a long-term residency to further develop their skills under the guidance of leading theatre practitioners, furthering their careers through involvement in Soulpepper productions, teaching in the classrooms of the local community, mentoring youth and developing a collective creation. The first group completed their terms in 2008, the second in early 2011 and the third group began their year in the program in the summer of 2011. A number of artists from the first and second groups continue to work with Soulpepper as Associate Artists or as directors, performers and designers on specific productions, or as instructors in our youth education and outreach programs. In accordance with the organization’s integrated approach, Soulpepper youth education and outreach initiatives are led by Founding Members, Associate Artists and Academy Artists. There is no other theatre training program in Canada like it.

YOUTH EDUCATION, OUTREACH AND ACCESS: Soulpepper is proud to inspire and educate children and youth through the magic of theatre. We welcome over 100 school groups and 5,300 students to Soulpepper annually, with another 900 children and youth participating in 35 free extra-curricular arts education activities run by Soulpepper on weekends and during school breaks. Soulpepper’s youth education programming has developed a reputation for high-quality content that is responsive to the needs of our young people. We have made it a priority to provide our youth participants – many of whom come from challenging situations at home – with a safe, caring and fun environment that is at the same time challenging and asks for a serious commitment. The success of Soulepper’s youth activities is based on the fact that participating artists themselves find deep and lasting value in the work they do not only for the good of the community, but also for themselves. Both the artists and the organization are energized and inspired by the involvement of youth, and this is reflected in the delivery of our youth program

Summer Intensives (Youth Mentorship Program, Youth Leadership Program)

Inspired by a vital and enriching relationship between a senior artist and a young person, our summer intensives see participants aged 16-19 matched with senior Soulpepper artists and exposed to various art forms including mask, movement, scene work, writing, and dance. Both programs incorporate an exploration of the great texts of world literature with collective creation and an end of program presentation. While learning about culture, history and various arts disciplines, participants develop self-confidence, interpersonal, problem-solving and communication skills. The Youth Leadership Program places a greater emphasis on self-direction from the particpants and is geared towards alumnus of other Soulpepper youth programming. The Youth Mentorship Program includes opportunities for mentorships with production staff and administrators based on requests from individual participants with a special interest in behind-the-scenes work. Summer Intensives are offered free of charge and a lunch/travel stipend is offered to individuals taking part in the summer programs to increase program accessibility.

Funding and Program Partners

TELUS, Chawkers Foundation, Burns Family Fund (Winnipeg Foundation), Pitblado Family Foundation, S.M. Blair Foundation, Theatre Ontario, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, as well as Soulpepper's operating funders the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Program Impact

Every year, a total of 28 participants (14 for each program) learn the value of collaboration, hard work, discipline and creative processes and continue to carry these lessons with them in playing a leadership role among their peers and in their communities long after leaving the program. Several participants have gone on to pursue post-secondary education in the arts and over the years, a number of key individuals have returned to Soulpepper to advance our work in the area of youth outreach and education, in effect, giving back to the community.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“With the highest number of artists in the country, Toronto needs better funding and infrastructure support for its arts and culture sector.” Toronto Vital Signs®, 2010

“Almost all Ontarians polled in 2010 (95%) believe that the arts enrich the quality of life.” Toronto Vital Signs®, 2011

“Toronto needs to strengthen and sustain the fragile environment that supports cultural entrepreneurship.” Toronto Vital Signs®, 2011

Participant Vignette

Ankita is a Soulpepper alumna of the Youth Mentorship (2009) and the Youth Leadership (2010) programs. Ankita made significant contributions to these programs with her energy, passion for the arts and dedication to Soulpepper. Being a strong creative leader and collaborator made Ankita a perfect fit for her role in Soulpepper’s Youth Mentorship Program this summer (2011). It has been a pleasure to see Ankita grow from a youth participant to a young professional. Ankita remains an ambassador for our youth programs and an integral member of the Soulpepper community. Here's what she recently had to say about her experience at Soulpepper:

Often in life, we find that there are some places that we keep going back to. We may not know why – we only know that we’re drawn to them. Maybe it’s a vacation spot, or a particular city. Maybe it’s even simpler than that – perhaps a park, a coffee shop, a restaurant. Soulpepper is and has been one of the places that I can’t seem to get enough of. I have spent three summers in a row at Soulpepper. First, as part of the 2009 Youth Mentorship Program, then the 2010 Youth Leadership Program. And then, this summer, I came back to act as Paula Wing’s Assistant for the 2011 YMP. For me, the youth programs at Soulpepper gave me a place to play, explore, reach out and find myself as an artist. Growing up in Brampton, though I went to an arts high school – my understanding of theatre barely reached the borders of my high school drama department. By grade 11, I started to realize how little I knew about the theatre world in Toronto – a city so close to me, yet one that I had barely started to discover.

In 2009, I came into the YMP not knowing what to expect. I felt exhilarated, but also nervous – I knew the name “Soulpepper” came with a sort of prestige that I thought was a bit intimidating. However, this feeling went away very quickly. The feeling of love and care by all members of the Soulpepper team was something that I did not expect – we, as youth, were treated with a kind of respect and equality that we often had to fight for.

In the first week of the YMP, [instructor] Paula [Wing] reminded me that I didn’t need to “audition.” I was there for a reason, she said. I didn’t need to “prove” anything to anyone here but myself. These words helped me truly experience the YP for what it was meant to be – not about the ego or just the self, but about the collective – the experience of working with a group in such an intimate setting – and perhaps, most importantly, about opening up, finding new things about oneself with others.

Thus, coming back to work as a Program Assistant this summer was like a dream come true. I always felt like my voice was important – [Education Manager] Farwah [Gheewala], [Education Coordinator] Molly [Gardner] and Paula were always interested in hearing my opinion on the programming for the summer. And oftentimes, they would take my suggestions. The chance to come back and help the new set of fourteen find themselves as young artists was equally exhilarating. I knew what they were in for and I was excited to be a part of their experience. I was also able to see just how much heart it takes to run the Soulpepper youth programs. This summer, the YMP theme was “from the heart.” I don’t think we could have picked a more appropriate theme." -Ankita Kumar-Ratta

Soulpepper in the Schools/Soulpepper in the Schools ESL/School Matinees

Every year, Soulpepper artists make visits to schools across the GTA to enrich curriculum and build literacy skills through the study of Shakespeare and classical literature. We have also recently added non-classical elements to this program to include creative components incorporating storytelling, music and movement. The program is tailored to the needs of each school, teacher and class. We are particularly proud of our long-term educational partnership with Market Lane Public School, located in a socially and economically mixed community in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, adjacent to the Distillery District. Our ESL activities focus on the specific needs of ESL students by offering instruction in classical text as a vehicle for the development of oral and written communication skills and is led by Soulpepper Founding Member William Webster.

Soulpepper also encourages teachers to bring their classes to the theatre for special school matinees. Through the generosity of our donors, free tickets and transportation are made available to schools in priority neighbourhoods whose students might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a Soulpepper performance. Study guides are provided to educators to extend the learning opportunity beyond the theatre and post-performance chats and workshops are also offered to further enrich the experience of attending a live play.

Funding and Program Partners

Individual donors, TD Securities Underwriting Hope Charity Auction, BMO Financial Group, Soulpepper's endowment fund, operating funders the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Program Impact

Soulpepper's educational programming has successfully connected and built community relationships between hundreds of students, their teachers, and artists. In addition to supporting classroom learning by exploring the curriculum from new perspectives and using creative approaches, our programs engage students through hands-on learning opportunities and exploration and celebration of imagination, collaboration and personal potential. We have been especially moved by the achievements of the students in our ESL program, who have come to appreciate and even recite Shakespeare! Our in-school and youth outreach programs and student matinees reach over 7,500 children and young people annually.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“Almost all Ontarians polled in 2010 (95%) believe that the arts enrich the quality of life.” Toronto Vital Signs®, 2011

Soulpepper's educational programming provides an unusual way to engage in theatre and for many of those attending performances, serves as an introduction to live theatre. Programming also supports classroom learning for students by exploring the curriculum from new perspectives and using creative approaches; engages students through hands-on learning opportunities to develop their literacy and communication skills, their creativity, curiosity, and their self-confidence; and explores and celebrates imagination, collaboration and personal potential.

Participant Vignette

Excerpt from a thank-you letter sent by an educator:

-I thought I would just share one of the many positive comments made in the students' end of year reflection regarding their trip to Soulpepper. For many of my students, it was a life changing event and certainly had a powerful influence on their own writing and appreciation of the theatre.

"One of the favourite things I did in Playwriting this year was to write my very first ever play! But, the most impressive was when we went to Soulpepper Theatre. I have never gone to see live theatre before. I thought it would be like seeing a movie but it's not. It's so much better! Walking around the Distillery District and visiting the shops and cafes was the perfect start to memorable day. The play was so wonderful. I couldn't believe it! It was powerful and left me reeling. So much to think about. It made me want to get writing. It had a huge influence on my own play. Thank you for taking us and please thank the theatre for giving us the tickets. It was an experience that I will never forget. I already have an idea for my next play. I think I will write about my experiences in my homeland and my journey to Canada. This time, I think I will write in my native tongue, Russian, but, I'll give you a copy in English to read."

Soulpepper Academy

The Soulpepper Actors’ Academy locates the finest graduates of Canada’s theatre schools and offers them an opportunity for a one-year intensive “finishing program” heavily invested in classical programming, intellectual and physical rigour, and hands-on apprenticeship work, all of which serves to prepare each individual for a flourishing theatrical career, either with Soulpepper or further afield. By offering what amounts to a professional, paid training apprenticeship, Soulpepper aims to continue the development of some of Canada’s finest young talent, with the intention of providing comprehensive training in classical theatre unique in North America. The ultimate goal of the Soulpepper Actors’ Academy is to discover and promote excellence in Canadian theatre, and to provide an opportunity for these young actors to shine on the Young Centre stages while developing the skills that will continue to distinguish themselves, the company, and the country for years to come.

Goals:

Find, cultivate, and promote the finest young talent Canada’s theatre schools have to offer - the cultural leaders of tomorrow.

Provide a transition year between theatre school and industry which helps young actors find their feet and gain some national exposure.

Revive the dormant tradition of actor apprenticeship within a senior company.

Distinctiveness:

The Soulpepper Actors’ Academy offers a chance for professional performance mentorship within a company. The apprenticeship of young actors within a senior company environment is a tradition as old as theatre itself, but is rare in our contemporary environment. This program offers the opportunity to learn through doing, alongside the best.

Actors are called upon to work six days a week in rehearsals, workshops, group collaboration and private study, to make their experience all-encompassing and utterly thorough. Academy members participate in Soulpepper youth outreach activities as mentors, learning the value of multi-generational engagement from the senior standpoint, developing their sense of civic responsibility, and receiving validation and respect as artists with something to offer the larger community

Funding and Program Partners

The Soulpepper Academy receives support from the Michael & Karen Vukets Family Foundation, the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, the RBC Foundation and the Hal Jackman Foundation.

Program Impact

Since its inception in 2006, the Soulpepper Academy has already played an important role in furthering the careers of some of our most promising theatre artists, many who have already gone on to distinguish themselves at Stratford, Luminato, Mirvish, La MaMa, the Globe and several other local theatre companies including, of course, Soulpepper. Academy alumnus Ins Choi's play "Kim Convenience" is the first full-length Canadian play to have its debut at Soulpepper and was selected to open the 2012 Season. The play is directed by Academy alumnus Weyni Mengesha and designed by Academy alumnus Ken MacKenzie.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“With the highest number of artists in the country, Toronto needs better funding and infrastructure support for its arts and culture sector.” Toronto Vital Signs®, 2010

“Toronto needs to strengthen and sustain the fragile environment that supports cultural entrepreneurship.” Toronto Vital Signs®, 2011

The Soulpepper Academy provides some of the best and the brightest next-generation theatre artists with an important bridge between theatre school and the professional theatre community. It is hoped that the emphasis on group work and community engagement will contribute to the development of future cultural leaders.

Participant Vignette

"The Academy… is a core activity of the company and a central part of the company’s artistic vision. As such, the training, the pedagogy, and the structure of the Academy are directly aligned with the commitment of the theatre to artist training and professional development; to providing opportunities for artists; to creating a healthy working environment for artists, to youth outreach, and to development the next generation of cultural leaders and nurturing new audiences. My assessment of the artistic direction is that the Academy is a unique artistic entity designed specifically to further the development of professional artists who wish to experience the artistic vitality of Soulpepper Theatre and embrace its distinctive approach to theatre practice, with its underpinnings of pedagogy, youth outreach and civic/cultural responsibility. There is no other training program in Canada that is completely integrated into a professional year-round company with this mandate. Further, there is no other training in Canada that engages emerging artists through the lens of this commitment to youth outreach, civic responsibility and cultural leadership. As the only training program in Canada integrated into a working theatre, the program is unique in this country. However, what elevates this from unique to important is that Soulpepper Theatre itself has a distinctive mandate and vision unlike any other theatre in Canada; and its vision has been recognized as vital, bold and inclusive. – Independent Assessment commissioned by a department of the Federal government.

"It's the type of production and the type of interpretation of the show that could only happen with the resources that we have had, with a company that has given the time to try things... Instead of just auditioning actors and bringing them in for one show and then letting them go, they (Soulpepper) concentrate on a group of actors for a prolonged amount of time… To be able to have four weeks to work on the play is a luxury, and then, in addition to that, we did a whole three weeks in the last year just messing around with ideas, design ideas and concepts, concepts that help create the magic that is important in A Midsummer Night's Dream." - Soulpepper Academy Graduate Brendan Wall, on his involvement in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which featured the entire graduating class of the 2009-11 Academy

What You Can Do

Summer Intensives (Youth Mentorship Program, Youth Leadership Program)

Activities a donation will support

Financial support makes it possible for us to hire artists to send out into the schools to deliver programming. Donations also go towards providing free tickets and transportation to targeted classes and schools in low-income/underserved communities, encouraging attendance of at-risk children and youth to our school matinee program.

Donation impact

With financial support, Soulpepper will be able to send its artists to schools in underserved neighbourhoods to provide valuable in-class programming with high-quality content that is both engaging and educational.

Soulpepper in the Schools/Soulpepper in the Schools ESL/School Matinees

Activities a donation will support

Financial support will enable us to remove financial barriers to participating in the Academy by providing a stipend to successful applicants. Funding will also go towards hiring instructors and ensuring the ongoing engagement of of artists and mentors in the program.

Donation impact

With financial support, Soulpepper will be able to nurture the next generation of theatre artists and cultural leaders who have been instilled with a sense of civic responsibility and regard for the positive impact they can have beyond the stage as artists who are engaged with their communties.

Connect

Join the Conversation

community