Maja Ardal, artistic director of Young People's Theatre, is resigning after seven years in the job and a total of 15 years with the theatre.
One of Canada's most vocal advocates of racially diverse casting, Ardal is completing a tenure that includes nominations for three Dora Mavor Awards and several hit productions, among them a new musical adaptation of Oliver Twist.
A firm believer that theatre for young people need not only be for kids, Ardal has spent her years at Canada's premiere theatre for young audiences making sure that as many families as possible are exposed to challenging and occasionally provocative work.
Coming out of George Luscombe's Toronto Workshop Productions as an actor (for many years TWP was the city's premiere left-wing theatre company), it makes sense that Ardal has occasionally pushed the envelope of what school boards would support, especially when she chose to tackle such sticky topics as AIDS and child molestation. It is her willingness to take risks and force discussion on some taboo subjects that have made Ardal's years at YPT important ones.
She told me recently that she wants to leave quickly before she changes her mind. "Even my kids grew up here (in fact, her recently born grandson was treading the YPT boards inside a pregnant Oliver Twist!), so the place is very much in my blood" she said. "But as an artist, at this time in my life I need to be in an unpredictable space of personal creativity. I want to go back to performance, writing other than plays, and my piano and accordion playing. "And I want to leave here before I lose my edge. The theatre is in really good shape now and I want to hand it over while I still have fire in my belly."
YPT expects to make a quick decision, although Ardal will stay on until the summer to help ease in the new artistic director. After that, she goes to the National Theatre School to direct final year students in Wedekind's Spring Awakening.
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By Mira Friedlander