In 2019, seven British Columbia drama teachers, having come to the conclusion that theatre education was shaping the lives of their students, noted that there was no national non-profit organization in Canada dedicated to educational drama and theatrical arts for middle and high school students.
That year, they formed a volunteer working committee to study the issue and launched the first thespian festival, which brought together about 200 students and drama teachers from across the province. The group also launched a series of teacher conferences where educational needs were expressed.
The Educational Theatre Association of Canada (EdTA) was born. Its purpose is to advance theatre education by honouring students' achievements in the arts and enriching their theatre education experience; to support teachers by providing professional development, networking opportunities and resources.
The following year, under the backdrop of the pandemic, our team responded in a time of crisis to meet an important need - To bring isolated young Canadians together. Having drama students and teachers from across Canada coming together was well received and much appreciated. The initial group of 7 teachers grew to a group of 24 volunteers from British Columbia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Alberta that formed the Association's Board of Directors.
The Association also launched the first national virtual festival with 100 participants. Furthermore, in response to student demand, the Association introduced an audition portal for vocational and post-secondary schools and a career portal for students to get their self-tapes looked at by professional acting agencies. At the same time, teacher programs expanded to include in-person conferences in Vancouver and Montreal, attended by over 160 teachers.
This year we now have 20 Regional Thespy Festivals operating in 9 different provinces across the country with an online event for those schools that do not have a regional close to home. These regional events in November and December 2023link to our Canadian National Thespian Festival - West in Metro Vancouver BC in April and the brand new Canadian National Thespian Festival - East in Ottawa ON in May 2024. Our annual Canadian National Drama Teachers Conference on October 20/21st 2023 will see hub locations take place in a record number of communities with the addition of: Calgary, Toronto, Kamloops, and Corner Brook NL to the current conference gatherings happening in Metro Vancouver, Montreal, Victoria, and Rothesay NB. We will continue our Star Search portal and Stagehand Search portal in Western Canada - expanding it east into Alberta and our Unified Post-Secondary Audition portal will continue to be fully accessible for the students across the country. This year in total we anticipate supporting nearly 400 teachers and over 3000 drama students at over 300 schools across Canada with our unique set of programs.
In the future we hope to see up to 30 different Regional Thespy Festivals take place annually across the country, with at least 1 regional festival in every province each November/December with an Online event for remote schools. We want to see every middle and high school in Canada have access to our educational theatre programming either in person or virtually. We see our regionals laddering into Multiple National Festival opportunities including the Canadian National Thespian Festival - West in Metro Vancouver BC in April and the Canadian National Thespian Festival - East in Ottawa ON in May. This allows students to take the learning experience they received close to home and take their passion even further! We plan to continue expanding our annual Canadian National Drama Teachers Conference each October with more locations opening each year so that teachers can gain advanced skills and network in a supportive community. We want to expand our Star Search portal and Stagehand Search portal from regional opportunities to national programs by reaching out to agents and staging companies across the country. We will continue working with Canada's leading post-secondary theatre and film schools to use the Unified Post-Secondary Audition portal. The expansion of these portals will allow us to create pathways for students to take the next steps on their journey to a career in the arts. In the next few years we anticipate supporting nearly 600 teachers and over 8000 drama students at over 500 schools across Canada with our unique set of programs.We are excited for the future and hope that you can join us as we continue our mission shaping the lives of young Canadians through theatre education.
The mission of the Educational Theatre Association of Canada (EdTA) is to shape lives through theatre education. EdTA honours student achievement in theatre, and supports teachers by providing professional resources.
Learn more about how EdTA Canada membership can benefit you.