Silverman’s sudden firing came before the organization, which has seen a spate of key staff departures, had finalized its 2013-14 season. Since then, Bajon has attempted to gain the rights to plays and hire directors for a list of shows Silverman had intended to produce. The workload became too onerous.
“I’m leaving because I can’t take it any more,” says Bajon, who predicts his successor faces a three-to fiveyear job to turn MTYP around. “Last night I was up to two o’clock in the morning tossing and turning about all the things I have to do. I’ve realized that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.”
The troubles at MTYP, which ends its season with the final performance of Zoozoo on Sunday, are not unusual for young people’s theatres across Canada. Several companies are hurting financially and the measures it can take to change that are limited. MTYP has never had a deep-pocketed benefactor to come to its rescue in times of economic crisis and corporate support was spotty right from the time money was solicited to build MTYP’s distinctive $5.2-million home at The Forks, which opened in 1999.
Mavis Reimer was the MTYP board president in the late 1990s and did her share of door-knocking at city businesses. She found her pitch included much education about what MTYP is and what it contributes to the community. Often she was told MTYP was a second-tier company.
“It is not as prestigious to be associated with a children’s theatre as it is with an opera company or symphony,” says Reimer, a University of Winnipeg English professor and Canada Research Chair of Young People’s Text and Cultures. “These are much more visible markers of high culture.”
Many would suggest that Winnipeg has a thriving cultural scene due to MTYP’s grassroots development of future arts consumers. Reimer says that MTYP is an amazing accomplishment and speaks to Winnipeg’s distinct culture.
“Maybe there’s a need for another round of public education as to what we have in the city at The Forks and why we should want to fight to keep it,” she said.