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August 24, 2011

From the Heart: Soulpepper Youth Outreach – Ankita Kumar-Ratta

Ankita is a Soulpepper alumna of the Youth Mentorship (2009) and the Youth Leadership (2010) programs. Ankita made significant contributions to these programs with her energy, passion for the arts and dedication to Soulpepper. Being a strong creative leader and collaborator made Ankita a perfect fit for her role in Soulpepper’s Youth Mentorship Program this summer. It has been a pleasure to see Ankita grow from a youth participant to a young professional. Ankita remains an ambassador for our youth programs and an integral member of the Soulpepper community.

– Farwah Gheewala, Education Manager

Often in life, we find that there are some places that we keep going back to. We may not know why – we only know that we’re drawn to them. Maybe it’s a vacation spot, or a particular city. Maybe it’s even simpler than that – perhaps a park, a coffee shop, a restaurant. Soulpepper is and has been one of the places that I can’t seem to get enough of.

I have spent three summers in a row at Soulpepper. First, as part of the 2009 Youth Mentorship Program, then the 2010 Youth Leadership Program. And then, this summer, I came back to act as Paula Wing’s Assistant for the 2011 YMP.

For me, the youth programs at Soulpepper gave me a place to play, explore, reach out and find myself as an artist. Growing up in Brampton, though I went to an arts high school – my understanding of theatre barely reached the borders of my high school drama department. By grade 11, I started to realize how little I knew about the theatre world in Toronto – a city so close to me, yet one that I had barely started to discover.

In 2009, I came into the YMP not knowing what to expect. I felt exhilarated, but also nervous – I knew the name “Soulpepper” came with a sort of prestige that I thought was a bit intimidating. However, this feeling went away very quickly. The feeling of love and care by all members of the Soulpepper team was something that I did not expect – we, as youth, were treated with a kind of respect and equality that we often had to fight for.

In the first week of the YMP, Paula reminded me that I didn’t need to “audition.” I was there for a reason, she said. I didn’t need to “prove” anything to anyone here but myself. These words helped me truly experience the YP for what it was meant to be – not about the ego or just the self, but about the collective – the experience of working with a group in such an intimate setting – and perhaps, most importantly, about opening up, finding new things about oneself with others.

Thus, coming back to work as a Program Assistant this summer was like a dream come true. I always felt like my voice was important – Farwah, Molly and Paula were always interested in hearing my opinion on the programming for the summer. And oftentimes, they would take my suggestions. The chance to come back and help the new set of fourteen find themselves as young artists was equally exhilarating. I knew what they were in for and I was excited to be a part of their experience. I was also able to see just how much heart it takes to run the Soulpepper youth programs. This summer, the YMP theme was “from the heart.” I don’t think we could have picked a more appropriate theme.

Click here >> for more information about our Youth Outreach programs.