Heather Dick took her passion for the theater and founded the Etobicoke-based Sirius Theatrical Company in 1989 to offer after school classes teaching youth the fundamentals of acting and storytelling.
Many theatrical classes focus primarily on the glee club aspects of singing, dancing and acting, Dick said. Her company differs, in that the focus is solely on acting and the requisite skills.
Sirius has been a member of the Toronto Association of Acting Studios since 1977. Its instructors use learning techniques to help bring even the shyest of children to a place where they feel comfortable to express emotion and creativity in front of others.
“We are trying to provide a bridge between acting skills and what they’re expected to be able to do at school,” Dick said.
Melanie Fernandez teaches a junior acting ensemble group of children at Sirius between the ages of eight and 10.
“First and foremost, before the acting is giving them an opportunity to self express in a safe environment,” Fernandez said.
She uses games and fun techniques to get the children to feel comfortable enough to interact with each other. She then pushes them to learn how to speak up, expressing their thoughts and emotions through physical movement together as a group, not as individuals.
Anne Frost, a teacher in Humber College’s Arts Administration & Cultural Management program said early exposure to the arts helps prepare young people to express themselves.
“Theatre artists work in groups. You can’t succeed unless you can get along – or at least not for long. Divas only have a limited shelf life before no-one will work with them any more,” Frost said.
Dick said working with others and in groups from a young age helps the children build communication skills as well as the skill of compromise. They come to learn that everyone moves, works and learns at different paces.