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An Inspiring Performing Arts Community Grows In Brampton

Steven Schipper heads a dynamic, concerted outreach program

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Steven Schipper is seen meeting with donors of Performing Arts Brampton. His success as Executive Artistic Director followed his three decades of excellence at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. (Photo: Supplied)

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After 30 successful and fulfilling years as Artistic Director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Steven Schipper took on a new position as Executive Artistic Director of Performing Arts Brampton. He is at the helm of five civic theatres which present a wide variety of local, national and international shows, as well as a robust education and outreach portfolio of programs.

All four theatres and one outdoor venue are available to Brampton community artists and entrepreneurs, as commercial partners, co-presenting partners, and as curators.

The undisputed jewel in the five-venue campus is The Rose, a state of the art, stunningly gorgeous, acoustically sublime theatre with 868 seats, none of which is further than 70 feet from the stage.  

Schipper and his team are addressing a necessary challenge – to diversify their audience so it more accurately reflects Brampton’s cultural mosaic. While much progress has already been achieved in diversifying the artists onstage and staff offstage, the audience has been, until recently, predominately older and white.

Recognizing the imperative to rejuvenate its audience and set the foundation for the City’s future artistic success, Performing Arts Brampton recently announced a five-year Strategic Plan that provides a roadmap to follow and utilize to achieve its goals. As Schipper explains, “Our vision is to build an inspiring performing arts community that reflects the spirit and diversity of Brampton”.

Schipper elaborated that ‘to build’ also “implies to do the work. Talk is cheap.”

“Our vision requires tremendous effort and commitment from everyone on our team as well as from Brampton’s Mayor and City Council, who have enthusiastically endorsed our Strategic Plan. The word ‘inspiring’ means to help people feel better and more creative. The spirit of Brampton is open to interpretation. To me, it means resilient and entrepreneurial. The diversity we speak of, envisions artists on our stages looking out at the audience and seeing Brampton’s mosaic reflected in their faces.” 

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In today’s Brampton, 78% of the population is made up of immigrants from such places as India, Pakistan, Ghana, China, Italy, Portugal and the Caribbean. Together, they represent a dramatic mixture of cultures, beliefs, lifestyles and interests and have brought with them their own unique musical and artistic styles, evolved from years of rich belief systems, cultures and histories.

In spite of an effort to present culturally relevant shows and entertainers in order to attract a changing audience, more work is needed to ensure that the shows offered will be of interest to both the established audiences and members of the Brampton mosaic.

The task for the theatre is to reach out and create deeper connections with the more recently established communities and theatre audiences and to demonstrate a strong interest in creating linkages between these communities. 

A stunning night time image of the Rose Theatre, now known as The Rose Brampton. An iconic destination of Downtown Brampton that showcases local and world-renowned performers. (Photo: Alex)

Utilizing a dynamic, concerted outreach program, Schipper and his team are welcoming artists and artistic entrepreneurs from under-served communities to use available city facilities to present plays, concerts, exhibits and other creative events. The invitation includes affordable rates as well as assistance with technical needs and marketing support.

Performing Arts Brampton has also continued and expanded a series it calls This is Brampton, wherein local impresarios are provided performance space, technical and marketing support, as well as monies with which to curate presentations.                     

The series currently features eleven local curators, each of whom leads their own individual series, usually representing a particular genre of music, but also live theatre and stand-up comedy.

These series include Stand-up Stitches, curated by Keesha Brownie which features stand-up comics and comedians from around the globe; Hype, curated by Jerome Kent, billed as a talent showcase featuring local artists and dancers; Rising Vibes, a Hip Hop cabaret curated by TC Spades; and QueeriaCity, Peel Region’s first queer and trans performance series, curated by Radha Verma. 

The Larnell Lewis Band, led by the Grammy Award winning, Brampton-born musician, composer and educator, headlined the first ever Brampton International Drumming Festival last September. Flow Fest 2022 also presented  DJ Joshua Lucas, roaming musical ensembles, steelpan, food vendors, an art exhibit and more. (Photo: Christina DeMelo Photgraphy)

Several other exciting programs were initiated in the fall of 2022.  Originated by some of Brampton’s leading artists within its diverse community, these programs were well received and will return this fall.

Flow F est, an Afro-Caribbean drumming festival, took place at the Rose Main Stage.  It featured The Larnell Lewis Band and The Joy Lapps Project. Audiences were fully immersed in an evening of Afro-Caribbean drumming, music and culture. Monsoon Sound, an evening of South-Asian Hip Hop, featuring and curated by Brampton artist Noyz, infused its pulsating energy throughout a new, unique performance space in The Rose Lobby, devised specifically for the show.

While Performing Arts Brampton tries to diversify its audience, it isn’t abandoning the loyal patrons who have supported the theatre since it opened in 2006.

The Rose continues to feature performances by both mainstream Canadian and international artists, such as The Tenors, Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams, and Brampton born and raised, Johnny Reid.

In conclusion, Schipper notes “Our city is at the crossroads of Canadian culture.”

“We enjoy tremendous support from Brampton’s citizens, and we in Performing Arts strive to fulfill the needs and aspirations of our cherished artists and audiences. Together, we’re building an inspiring artistic community.”

Judy Weinryb is a published author who facilitates a Creative Writing class on zoom at the Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living. She has been a freelance writer for the Canadian Jewish News, the Jewish Tribune and the Markham Review. A social worker for many years, she has an interest in Jewish Community from both a professional and personal perspective.

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We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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