Stage Door News

Cambridge: Drayton Entertainment announces its new Youth Academy

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Exciting news! We are looking to the future and moving ahead with long-standing plans to open a new Youth Academy space that will serve as a hub for our expanding arts education initiatives.

While our organization has been devastated by the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has effectively shuttered all seven of our stages across Ontario over the past 18 months, the interruption in producing live theatre has enabled us to plan for recovery, which includes cultivating the next generation of theatre artists, technicians, audience members, arts advocates, and community leaders.

The new Youth Academy will be located at 145 Northfield Dr. W. in Waterloo, with a formal launch date yet to be announced. Building on our extensive work over the past five years in the area of arts programming and education for young people, the various initiatives developed at this cultural hub will have province-wide reach and directly impact the communities of Cambridge, St. Jacobs, Drayton, Grand Bend, and Penetanguishene, and many points in between.

“Our organization is at a pivotal point in its history. Even though it’s been a very tough time for us, we know that this Youth Academy is an important investment and will help us emerge from this difficult period stronger than ever. We see our best opportunity to make a real impact and lasting change in our society through youth education, and in so doing, positively affect the quality of life for the community-at-large.”
- Alex Mustakas, Artistic Director and CEO

By providing training opportunities to youth in the Drayton Entertainment brand of performing arts excellence, facilitated by passionate, professional industry mentors, the new Academy will be a cultural incubator to cultivate community, inspire leadership, spark imagination, and boost confidence in a socially aware, inclusive environment. 

The Academy will provide a safe place where youth feel empowered to share their ideas and feelings regarding race, gender, ancestry, language, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, disability, thinking styles, opinions, and life experiences. 

A Tuition Bursary Endowment Fund will be implemented to remove the cultural, economic, communication, and physical barriers, which impede participation for marginalized and underrepresented groups, including youth identifying as Black, Indigenous, and/or Persons of Colour (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, new Canadians, and Persons with Disabilities.

“It’s very clear to us that there is a need for more arts education in the various communities that we serve,” says Mustakas. “We want to support the next generation of storytellers and theatre makers.” 

Known for their successful auto dealership and substantial philanthropic contributions, the Willy Heffner and John Heffner Jr. families have provided the space for the Academy. It is conveniently situated adjacent to the Region of Waterloo’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, public transit, and shopping, and just minutes away from the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.

"Simply put, the arts unite people. We’ve seen firsthand how access to and participation in the arts positively impacts a community. We are proud of our history of support for cultural activities, and we look forward to being part of the lasting legacy that this new Youth Academy will create,” says Willy Heffner. 

Renovations are already underway to transform the industrial warehouse into a 10,000 sq. ft. educational complex with cultural infrastructure to serve the community. The interior is designed for multi-use so that youth may be engaged in a variety of artistic disciplines and culturally-diverse pursuits that foster leadership, creativity, communication, and teamwork. The Youth Academy hub will include rehearsal halls, classrooms, music rooms, and acting studios, plus access to Drayton Entertainment’s adjacent professional Production Centre for the Technical Arts, generating thousands of hours of new arts activity every year.