The Canadian government will invest $9.2 million dollars in the National Theatre School over the next two years, Heritage Minister James Moore announced today.
“To invest in culture is to invest in Canada,” said Moore, speaking at a packed press conference in the lobby of the National Theatre School in Montreal. Quoting politician and gay activist Harvey Milk, Moore said “I am here to recruit you!” – though in his case, Moore was referring to encouraging the private sector to make a firmer financial commitment in arts and culture.
“Any government that says it has a plan for economic recovery that does not involve supporting the arts is a government that doesn’t have a plan for economic recovery.”
Both Moore and Heritage Canada have been the focus of controversy within the arts community recently. The recent resignation of playwright Michael Healey from Tarragon Theatre and the loss of funding to Toronto’s Summerworks festival in 2010 are both incidents that have led Canadian artists to fear the government is adopting a new policy unfavourable to the arts.
Moore may be hoping to contradict these claims with the government’s generous two-year endowment. “Any government that says it has a plan for economic recovery that does not involve supporting the arts is a government that doesn’t have a plan for economic recovery,” Moore said.
His short speech also cited some revealing statistics about the importance of the arts to the Canadian economy, including the fact that last year the arts sector created 630,000 jobs.
The appropriately bilingual press conference began with performances from both the French and English acting students, beginning with a clown piece by the French class that featured roller-skating students dressed as Becketesque tramps. The English students supplied two acapella choral pieces, one in English and the other en Français.
Heritage Canada’s investment is the capstone to a year-long capital campaign launched in 2011 to take advantage of NTS’ 50th anniversary. CEO Simon Brault was beaming as he announced they had already raised over 10 million dollars out of their 12 million dollar projected goal.
“The renewal of our operating grant, along with the substantial growing support of the private sector, will allow us to meet educational, artistic and technological challenges in training the actors and creators who shape theatre,” Brault remarked.
Since 1960, NTS has been offering bilingual training in acting, playwriting, directing and technical design. They remain one of the few schools in the world that unite almost all of the theatrical arts under one roof. Their famous graduates include actress Sandra Oh, playwright Judith Thompson and writer / director Wadji Mouawad.