News (National): Former Sears Drama Festival Has New Sponsor

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News (National): Former Sears Drama Festival Has New Sponsor

National Theatre School of Canada

Victoria Ahearn | Canadian Press | January 17, 2019

A nearly 75-year-old Canadian youth theatre festival where Rachel McAdams, Margot Kidder and David Cronenberg got their start has secured a much-needed new sponsor.
 
The Montreal-based National Theatre School of Canada has announced a new deal with TD Bank Group as the presenting partner of the annual event, which was known as the Sears Drama Festival until 2017, when the struggling retailer withdrew its long-standing sponsorship and the future of the storied stage showcase was in question.
 
The National Theatre School, with the help of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union, took on responsibility and costs for the festival’s 2017/2018 season.
 
With the new agreement and sponsorship with TD, which begins this year, organizers plan to eventually expand what’s now called the National Theatre School Festival beyond its current events in Ontario, British Columbia and the Atlantic Provinces.
 
Gideon Arthurs, CEO of the National Theatre School of Canada, said he hopes the new sponsorship will allow the festival to expand across the country and — his “dream of dreams” — establish a national final in Montreal.
 
“We’re developing new regions that we want to launch soon. Quebec would be a priority. We want to be in Alberta.”
 
Founded in Ontario in 1946 by the late Ken Watts, the festival is said to be Canada’s oldest theatre event of its kind.
 
It sees students from hundreds of high schools presenting theatre productions from September to May. The productions are typically staged at district, regional and provincial levels in front of adjudicators.
 
Attendees can also participate in workshops, classes and social events with professional artists.
 
McAdams, Kidder and Cronenberg are among the festival alumni.