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Theatre group holds lessons
Youth invited to learn dance, singing and theatre from pros

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, March 5, 2015

An outreach program that brings artists North to hold workshops on dance, theatre and singing will be stopping in Fort Simpson this weekend.

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Hannah Brunette, left, Shemika Robertson playing guitar and Makayla MacKay were past participants in the What's Your Story community youth outreach tour by Akpik Theatre in Yellowknife. - photo courtesy of James MacKenzie

The Akpik Theatre group and Open Sky Creative Society will be hosting a three-day workshop starting March 7. It includes a public performance by the artists involved on Saturday at 7 p.m.

That show doesn't have a ticket price. Attendees are instead asked to pay what they feel is an appropriate amount.

What's Your Story is the name of the program created more than a year and a half ago by Reneltta Arluk, the theatre group's founder and artistic director.

The premise is that skilled performers are brought in to teach youth who otherwise might not have access to such lessons.

About 30 teens between 12 and 17 years old learn dance, theatre and singing in free sessions at Thomas Simpson School.

Renee Benson, a singer and songwriter from New York is one of the performers who will be in Fort Simpson.

"She's an amazing singer," Arluk said.

The second is Alex Twinn, an actor and dancer from the Swan River First Nation in Alberta.

The first day they do exercises and go home with homework such as a song.

They're asked what's important to them and asked how they'd like to share the story. It could be through dance, through story or another form.

Each person has their own part of the storytelling with the youth participants essentially directing it.

It all builds to a final performance showcasing what the youth have learned over the three days.

The teens can decide whether it will be public or just for parents.

The program was created based on Arluk's personal experience in the North.

Originally from Fort Smith, Arluk said she wasn't exposed to arts when she was young.

"It's not that arts weren't available, it's that they weren't available to me," she said. When she turned 19, she decided to go into acting and went to theatre school in Toronto.

"I found what I was meant to do. I found my voice," she said.

From there, she's wanted to bring the arts to those communities in the North.

The first three community tours of What's Your Story was held more than a year and a half ago, visiting Fort Smith, Yellowknife and Hay River.

"It was hugely successful."

In Hay River, they had a full audience for the opening show.

"We packed that place. I was really impressed with the youth and the community," she said about the previous tour.

"I'm interested to see what Simpson is like," she said.

For the second tour, she's received some funding from the Northern Arts Council and more from Canada Council for the Arts.

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