Young People's Theatre

Family Shelter Program

Young People's Theatre (YPT) is Canada’s largest and oldest professional theatre for young people. The company produces and presents a full season of theatre and arts education programming, serving approximately 150,000 patrons annually. In 2022, YPT launched the next stage in the company’s storied history, co-led by Artistic Director Herbie Barnes, and Executive Director Nancy Webster. This new era also marks the unveiling of YPT’s expanded and renovated theatre complex, more than 10 years in the making. With the purchase of a multi-use building across the street from its historic theatre, YPT has expanded its footprint, increased its accessibility, refreshed its lobbies, and upgraded the theatrical equipment capabilities of its 450-seat Ada Slaight Stage and 115-seat Studio. United in vision, the two facilities now anchor the corner of Front and Frederick Streets in downtown Toronto creating Canada’s largest theatre complex for young people. Over the past 57 years, YPT has staged many of the most important plays that form the canon of work for youth in our country. YPT continues to develop new work and create partnerships with theatre companies across the country and around the world. But that’s not all. The enriched learning experiences of YPT’s Education & Participation Department provide young people with opportunities to develop their whole being. Through our educational initiatives in Toronto classrooms, Drama School programs in three locations throughout the GTA, and training and apprenticeship opportunities, we place learning at the centre of everything we do. At YPT we strive for a positive and lasting impact on the emotional, social, and intellectual development of young people – giving them the chance to grow into the unique and wonderful people they were born to be.

YPT’s Family Shelter Program is a weekly drama-based program for children aged 6 to 11 living with their mothers or families at two City of Toronto Shelters: Birkdale Residence and Toronto Plaza Hotel. The program uses facilitated play and drama exercises to explore self-esteem, confidence building, and positive self-expression with the young residents. There can be up to 100 children and youth living at either shelter at one time and our workshops are delivered to approximately 20 participants at each location, each week. Programming is executed by a team of YPT Resident Artist Educators (RAEs), some of whom were born outside of Canada or are recent newcomers themselves.

In addition to the drama workshops, YPT also provides subsidized tickets to our productions for children living at both locations. This affords us the opportunity to tie themes from current shows into the workshops the RAEs provide in order to continue the learning from the shelter through to the theatre. We also offer bursaries to YPT’s Drama School for these children once they have moved to their permanent homes in order to provide ongoing access to YPT.

Project Initiation




Organization Website

“First and foremost for me are the young people we serve. When you consider what the last few years have been like for our young people, my strongest commitment at this time is to bring back joy in these new spaces – the joy of creation, the joy of imagination. And now we have room for it.”

Herbie Barnes

Artistic Director