Eighteen months after launching a new theatre production company aiming to get more Highlands youth interested in acting, co-founders Amy Leis and Tim Nicholson feel like they’ve hit the jackpot.

Last year was a busy one for the Ctrl-ARTDel team. After bringing its debut production, Cherubs, to life on-stage at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavilion last spring, Leis and Nicholson have been hard at work preparing for the troupe’s 2024 season.

There will be three shows – A Valentine’s Cabaret, a one-night show at the pavilion Feb. 16; Mustard, their premiere production, will run for four shows May 2 to 4, also at the pavilion; and The Wolves, featuring an ensemble cast, plays five show at the Haliburton Legion Aug. 15 to 17.

We’re really excited about this upcoming season… We have a lot of young performers who have gotten involved and will be making their stage debut, which was the whole reason [for forming] Ctrl-ART-Del,” Leis said.

The duo worked with four youth at a series of workshops late in the summer, with three of them cast in this year’s productions and the other apprenticing as stage manager.

Auditions held at the Haliburton Legion late last year were a huge success, Leis noted, with most roles for all three shows now filled.

It was two, full, 12-hour days. There were some wonderful surprise moments – we had several young kids that had never been on stage before come in and absolutely blow us away,” Leis said.

Nicholson said the recent response, particularly to the open casting call, was overwhelming.

“The response we’ve had from the community has been incredible. After the success of Cherubs, we knew the demand was there. It’s been a heartwarming ride. It’s been validating. It feels like the ideas we had a year-and-a-half ago when we decided to do this – we were right. There is a place in the County for young contemporary theatre,” Nicholson said.

The new season debuts with A Valentine’s Cabaret, a collection of nine, 10-minute productions headlined by Jerelyn Craden, bringing her Maybelle Morton character, known to listeners of CanoeFM, to life on-stage for the very first time. The show boasts a 30-member cast, most of them teenagers, Leis notes.

The cabaret, promoted as a “wild romp of one act plays, improv and music for both the romantics and the cynics,” will serve as a fundraiser for Ctrl-ART-Del’s two feature productions.

Mustard is a Canadian dark comedy written by Kat Sandler, focusing on a 16-year-old girl having trouble shaking her childhood imaginary best friend. “It’s a real coming-ofage story about having to accept change and the things we go through as we grow up,” Leis said, noting the cast is made up of six performers – all locals.

The 2024 season will end with The Wolves, which follows the trials and tribulations of a girls’ indoor soccer team. Seven of the 10 characters included have been cast, with Leis and Nicholson still looking to round out the team.

“The roles are for three teenage girls – anyone who might be interested, get in touch and we’d be happy to set up an audition,” Leis said.

For more information, or to schedule an audition, contact info@ctrlartdel.ca.