Cultivating Creativity: Opportunities for youth of all ages

By Vicki McCollouch

The Marble Arts Student Theatre (MAST) and the Marble Arts Players (MAP) provide opportunities for local youth and kids of all ages in the Tweed area to foster their inner artist.

T&AAC Board member Bonnie Marentette has directed two MAST sessions every year since 2012. The idea was originated by Roely DeVries: each April and November up to 15 children participate in a month of classes with two student leaders, culminating in a public performance at the Marble Arts Centre. Productions have included an annual Christmas at the Centre show, as well as adaptations such as Charlie and Friends, The Grinch, and most recently Belle and the Beast. Bonnie’s amazing sewing skills are put to good use creating wonderful costumes; this spring, she transformed an Easter Bunny head into the Beast.

Many students re-enroll in subsequent sessions, and some have themselves become student leaders. In fact, MAST is looking for a student leader for the Nov. 2019 session, as one of them is moving on to educational pursuits. Alumni include Tim Porter, now a professional actor and Artistic Director of Tweed & Co. Theatre, who was the instructor for the first two MAST sessions! Grace Lindsay was one of his students. Says her mom Tristan, “Grace didn’t want to join the theatre company at that time, she desperately did, but anxiety was terrible then. At that time Grace was so shy she found it extremely difficult to speak to anyone who was not a close family member. We knew that she had a beautiful voice, but needed courage to let the world hear it. Tim was the saviour. It was through his kindness and gentleness that she was able to share her voice and find the courage to share it. He didn’t push, he nudged which is exactly what shy children need. Grace has already been accepted to Queens University as a vocal music major, and is auditioning for Wilfred Laurier’s Musical Therapy program. The world will know her voice, because Tim helped her find her courage.”

As Bonnie observes, seeing the transformation when kids put on their costumes, and their growth in self-confidence, is very rewarding.

The MAP are led by musician (the Charlie Bird Band), improv comic (The Improvmonauts), actor, playwright, director, and poet Mark Lesage. Some of you may know him as The Rebel of Hungerford from his one-man show dramatizing the events surrounding his ancestor Pierre’s arrest for treason in the Rebellion of 1837. He has also recently appeared in Tweed & Co.’s critically acclaimed productions of Hastings: the Musical and Aleck Bell. MAP productions have included Love Letters, The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby and the annual Solstice, Anyone? Tweed’s favourite pagan ritual. Mark joined T&AAC several years ago, looking to get a theatre thing going, and here we are. He finds it satisfying to get on stage and be somebody else; in the case of Rebel, it was his great-great-great-grandfather! “Writing and performing that play was an opportunity to learn about my ancestors, indulge my love of history, and reflect my politics. It really brought together Lesages from near and far; many did not know the story and were fascinated by it.” The talents of Mark and those of all who participate in the Marble Arts Players – including Regina VanderWey, fellow actor and director/producer – are always appreciated by their audience. The MAP are always looking for new volunteers/performers.

Since 2006, the Tweed & Area Arts Council (T&AAC) has enriched the cultural life of our community by promoting awareness of and appreciation for the arts. T&AAC is a volunteer organization, and membership is open to all – artists or those who support the arts.