Parents thank DAREarts for “Opening Up Possibilites” for a child on stage
Toronto – Once again, DAREarts is on stage with a rave production of the Canadian Opera Company’s Peter Grimes. Several young DAREarts students joined the ranks as supernumeries in the 2003 staging of ‘Peter Grimes.’ Since that production, several more DAREarts children from priority neighbourhoods have stepped onto the COC stage. Fast forward to a decade later and Connor McNeil.
10 year old Connor McNeil and his dad were in Algonquin Park camping when they received a call from his mom. “Get his measurements!” They used a piece of string for measurements and sent them to the costume department of the Canadian Opera Company for his role in Peter Grimes.
“Well, what I do is in the first part is when we come on we eat cookies which we call biscuits and we steal a fake cigarette and a Bible but I get caught and we play tug of war and get shooed off. We watch Peter Grimes drag a boat across the stage and we’re all like.. (he stares in horror) and then we play tag again… the last scene is another morning. But they’re all looking out at sea cause they see Peter Grime’s boat sinking…we eat more biscuits. And we steal another cigarette. We don’t steal the bible this time. We get the rope. I tight-rope walk on it, and the curtain goes down and that’s basically the end of the play.”
Connor is having a big year. He was accepted at the Karen Kain School of the Arts Middle School. “I’m running for student Parliament.”
His Dad beams. They’ve driven for an hour and a half through rush hour traffic to get to the theatre. “You know what, DAREarts comes up in conversation at home all the time. That’s an excellent program. It really does a lot for the kids. “
Connor nods, “My best memory of DAREarts is actually the show. I was the leader. They chose me. I felt like I had a big responsibility, so I felt like a Leader. That really boosted up my confidence.”
Every year, over 300 DAREarts Delegates finish up six weeks of intensive study in all the arts with a performance for their families and the community. The TDSB selects priority kids they feel could use a little help.
“I was kinda like that really shy kid that no one understood, right? And then, after DAREarts, I felt like I really knew who I was inside.” His mom, watching her son with pride, earnestly reiterates her son’s heart-felt thank you. “He’s been dancing since he was two and a half. He was getting bullied a lot at school, because he was doing something that was not considered a boy’s activity. He really means it when he says I wouldn’t be who I am today. I understand how important it was to him, because he was thinking I really shouldn’t be doing this but I really love it. He was fighting with himself. DAREarts opened up the possibility that men in general can play instruments, they can dance…for him it was really life changing. It’s a special program.”
Connor, and other DAREarts students who don’t normally have access to the arts in a meaningful way, attributes DAREarts with his ability to step up with confidence. “And so, I thank DAREarts so much. Cause without DAREarts I wouldn’t be here. And I wouldn’t be at the school where I am right now.”
Mrs. McGlashan brushes his hair back from his face. “I don’t think a lot of parents understand. I do. Because I can see what he was like before. I’m his parent. I can tell him, ‘You’re fantastic. You have a skill.’ But to have other people tell him that makes all the difference.”
This production of the COC’s Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten opened on Saturday, Oct 6 and runs to Oct 26th. DAREarts will, no doubt see more students like Connor and those before him discover the extent of their excellence on stage and in their own lives.