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Sears Drama Festival

A letter from John Lewis of IATSE
posted on 8:19 AM, October 23, 2017

To my fellow industry leaders:

Most of you are familiar with the Sears Drama Festival, which brings together high school students, teachers, theatre professionals, and community members to view and critique the students’ creative efforts under the guidance of experienced adjudicators.  It is entering its 72nd year and is the largest festival of its kind in Canada.  Though it originated in Ontario, the festival expanded eight years ago to BC and Atlantic Canada, and there are plans to expand next to Alberta and Manitoba.  It is an important part of the nation’s theatrical training landscape.  All of our organizations have members and leaders who are graduates of the program, and who now have careers in the arts; either in theatre or in film & television.

With Sears Canada filing for bankruptcy, the festival has lost its sponsor.  The IATSE contacted Wayne Fairhead, the festival’s director, to see what we could do to help.  Gideon Arthurs, the CEO of the National Theatre School had also reached out and has committed to partnering with the festival. We were advised that, on top of all the volunteers that make the festival possible, the total running costs are approximately $200,000 annually.  In addition to a significant monetary contribution, the National Theatre School has offered to provide both a structure and staff to assist where needed.  Notably, because the school has charitable status, they are able to accept donations and direct them to the festival, which was not possible under the festival’s structure.  The IATSE will be making a donation and I will be speaking to our locals to encourage donations from them as well.    

The festival is an important trainer for our industry, as many of your members will attest.  Some have already stepped up, as individuals, to help.  I am asking for your assistance in supporting this organization.  They need funds to keep the festival alive; particularly for this first year, so that they can buy some more time to find another major sponsor.  I will also be having conversations with corporations with whom I have contacts to see if they might be willing to pick up the mantle as the festival’s sponsor.  

If you are able to make donations, cheques should be made out to “The National Theatre School of Canada” with a notation (either on the cheque itself or an accompanying letter) that the funds are for the Sears Drama Festival.  Donations should be sent to:

The National Theatre School of Canada
5030 St. Denis Street
Montréal, QC  H2J 2L8

I thank you in advance for supporting this organization that inspired many of our members to choose entertainment as a career.


John Lewis
International Vice President
& Director of Canadian Affairs
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