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Initiative for New Canadians


During Family Day weekend and March break 2018, Off the Wall hosted three hands-on, mask-making workshops at Factory163 Stratford, to introduce multicultural audiences (for the most part new Canadians) to some of the basic skills involved in backstage theatre production.  Participants, ranging from 10 to adult, created imaginative masks to use as wall decorations or with costumes.


We were thrilled to welcome participants from five Syrian families – three from Stratford, one from Mitchell and one from St. Marys – as well as newcomers from Ethiopia, Eretria, Bolivia and Cuba. We invited translators to assist the non-English speaking participants; however, the hands-on, visual nature of the workshop did not demand extensive verbal communication. Rather, teachers Michelle Jamieson and Jennifer Brickman gave one-on-one instruction, assisting students as they lent creative expression to their personal take-home projects.


This new initiative was generously supported by a multicultural capacity building grant from the Ontario Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Culture.


Off the Wall was pleased to reach out to two multicultural associations – the Multicultural Association of Huron Perth, and the Multicultural Theatre Space from Kitchener-Waterloo -- and we look forward to future collaborations with both groups.  We also approached English as a Second Language groups and social service organizations to promote the workshop opportunity for newcomers to our community, making as many as possible aware of the services we provide and encouraging recent immigrants and refugees to take part.


Hands-on, creative activity seemed very suited to their abilities and interests and many designed very inventive masks. Since they could work to their own level of ability, the activity was suited to children and parents alike.


As the majority of participants recently moved to this area from the Middle East, we asked the Lebanese chefs from Arabesque Restaurant in Kitchener to provide lunches during March break – their fabulous food was enjoyed by all participants.


Stratford is at the hub of the theatre community in Southwestern Ontario, and the mask making workshops gave newcomers a glimpse into some of the craft and skill areas related to theatre – both amateur and professional.  Our hope is that this interest may lead to further exploration and training by newcomers in the theatre milieu.

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