Aaron Francis’ summer Soulpepper experience

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by Noreen Young 

For a talented young person whose passion is acting and the theatre, what could be sweeter than to be chosen one of only 14 students to attend a Youth mentorship Program in Toronto this summer with one of Canada’s premiere theatre companies?

AaronAaron Francis is that talented young person and being chosen by Soulpepper Theatre is a very big deal for a kid, especially a kid from Almonte.

Aaron is a 16 year old student in Grade 11 at Notre Dame Catholic High School. Ever since he was a little kid he has loved to act. “I love getting on stage, performing in front of strangers, and allowing emotions of a character to sweep me away”. One day he hopes to be in movies, or on theatre stages, doing what he loves.

Toronto based Soulpepper Theatre is an artist-founded, classical repertory company renowned for presenting the world’s greatest stories with a vital Canadian interpretation. One of its main purposes is to train a new generation of theatre artists and to inspire and enrich youth through mentorship and access programs. That’s where Aaron comes in.

In March he completed the application for the Youth Mentorship Program and then waited …and waited. About a couple of months later he got a call from Soulpepper’s Education Coordinator, Molly Gardner, who interviewed him over the telephone and advised him that he was one of many applicants and that she’d contact him if he made it. The final call came in a few weeks. “I was anxious and excited all at the same time”, admits Aaron. “Then she said, ‘You’ve made it!! Congratulations!’ I finished up my school year and went to Soulpepper on July 4th”.

During the acting course, Aaron and his fellow classmates in the 14-member group were given workshops in Drumming, Dance, Visual Arts and Improvisation. The goal was to finish the program with a collaborative performance with the theme, “From the Heart”. “We were encouraged to go on trips to downtown Toronto to explore and ask questions that involved this theme”, says Aaron. “And, from the answers we got and the interesting people we met, we formed skits”. As a lead-up to the final performance, the students were asked to do many different small plays to help them get to know their own strengths and weaknesses.

Living with his uncle in Toronto for the summer and taking the subway, a bus, and then the subway again to get to Soulpepper Theatre was a new challenge for Aaron. “I think that the different adventures that I went through molded me into a more mature person. Trying to fit in was the hardest thing for me to handle, but as the weeks went by I got more comfortable with my peers and I felt safe.”

Aaron is back in school now but, after his Summer Soulpepper Experience, he is well on his way to fulfilling his dream of making his career in theatre.

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