Ontario teachers’ strikes put Young People’s Theatre season in jeopardy

Several performances of Jungle Book have been cancelled as the company faces a minimum of $250,000 in lost revenue


Labour unrest in Ontario’s education sector and restrictions on student field trips have caused Young People’s Theatre to cancel several performances of their upcoming production of Jungle Book. 

The 54-year-old company, North America’s oldest professional producer and presenter of theatre for young audiences, sent out a press release today saying they are cancelling performances and putting 22 other performances on hold. They’re also assessing the remainder of their season, which includes Blue Planet, Jack And The Magic Bean and Cartography

“We create programming specifically for school audiences – it’s at the centre of what we do,” says YPT’s executive director, Nancy Webster. “The impact of sector unrest on students, our core audience, and on YPT is staggering.” 

Webster says the company felt the effect of school restrictions in early December when school sales for The Adventures Of Pinocchio abruptly dropped off. 

“With the majority of school groups now unable to book and attend performances, we’ve assessed the potential revenue loss for YPT at a minimum of $250,000.” 

All four of Ontario’s major teachers unions have initiated some form job action, including one-day walk-outs and rotating strikes, as contract talks stall with Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario is the province’s largest union, with 83,000 teachers and education workers. Members began rotating strikes this week and had previously begun a work-to-rule campaign, which means teachers are not participating in extracurricular activities, such as field trips.

Students aged five to 18 make up 70 per cent of YPT’s audience. The changes in education will potentially affect 20,000 student attendees.

In order to give children the chance to see Jungle Book – adapted from the Rudyard Kipling by Craig Francis and Rick Miller – outside of school hours, YPT has added seven public performances on weekends and during March Break. The revised performance schedule can be found here

If this situation continues, the company – one of the most diverse theatre companies in the country – will be reviewing the impact on the contracts of 100 artists, staff, crew and artist educators. 

The last time the province experienced this level of labour unrest among teachers was over 20 years ago. Class sizes, wages, full-day kindergarten and e-learning courses are among the sticking points.

@glennsumi

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