There's a double meaning in the name of the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, the new home of Toronto's much-lauded Soulpepper Theatre Company. The name refers to a patron who coughed up $3 million to kick-start the $14 million project, which was inaugurated in 2006. But it could also refer to the educational programme that is at the heart of this spicy theatre troupe, the scene's hottest indie company. While searching for a permanent home, Soulpepper partnered with George Brown College Theatre School and together they built a unique performance and education space.
Soulpepper was founded in 1998 by 12 actors who wanted to immerse themselves in theatre classics of the 20th century (chiefly Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter and other Absurdist playwrights). Every theatre company dreams of having a home, and artistic director Albert Shultz proved to be as deft in the boardroom as on the boards. He managed to secure a venue in the Distillery District that needed some night-time activity; he hired a top Toronto architect firm to transform the industrial space; and he established a mentoring programme, all in the space of a few years. The founding artists had themselves benefited from tutoring at Ontario's established theatres, as well as at the Stratford Festival and the Shaw Festival, and decided to make youth outreach and theatre education an integral part of the house that Soulpepper built.