Toronto Youth Theatre’s mandate to produce uncompromising theatre with young actors means they tackle big shows with even bigger themes. Their youth casts continue pushing boundaries this season with Bare, a pop opera.
Director Tanisha Taitt explains that Bare is an especially timely show for audiences as it follows two gay students just trying to survive in a Catholic high school: “Dealing with issues of sexuality, and . . . self-awareness and trying to find their place in the world,” Taitt says. “Navigating relationships that aren’t quite what they hoped or expected. Straight girls in love with gay boys, gay boys in love with each other secretly, other men in love with the girl who’s in love with the gay boy. It’s high school.”
For long-time musical-theatre performer Allison Reed, the sexual orientation of others has never been a big deal, so Bare presents new challenges for her, and for audiences. “There’s a section in the show where Peter, my son in the show, tries to come out to his mom, and she won’t accept it. That moment, there’s a lot of teenage angst going on; you see the teenaged side of it, and the mom not wanting her kid to come out. That’s a story that needs to be told, and it’s different seeing it than just hearing about it.”
“Bare is a very mature show, dealing with mature content, and the fact that TYT is doing it is what makes the company so amazing,” says another long-time TYT performer, Laila Kharouba. “Also, you have cast members who are playing the age they’re supposed to be, so it makes it real.”
This was a conscious choice for Taitt: “Through the audition process, we ended up falling in love with these two boys who ended up being the youngest in our cast, and they are the leads.” Newcomers Nicholas Webster and Riley Baldwin will take the lead roles, and, Taitt says, “I don’t think the characters of Jason and Peter in Bare have been played by people this young at all.”