Twelve-year-old Madilyne Bernat (everyone calls her Madi) had just registered for spring classes at MTYP when the public health crisis put those plans on hold.  The grade eight student, who attends Springfield Middle School in the town of Oakbank (a short drive from Winnipeg), would have been attending MTYP for the first time.

When Madi found out that MTYP was shifting some of its summer camps online, she didn’t hesitate to sign up.

“I love performing on stage whether I am acting, singing or dancing,” says Madi, who dances competitively and also enjoys practicing her guitar, singing and reading books. “Singing is something I enjoy doing all of the time especially when my little sister plays her ukulele for background music. Singing is a great way to express myself.”

Over the summer, MTYP’s Theatre School offered both on-site classes and online courses. By summer’s end, Madilyne had taken three different online courses, including Broadway Bound, Musical Theatre and Improv. “The online courses were a great option this summer,” says Madi. “I loved the small class sizes. It was very easy to get to know your classmates and the teachers were very helpful. It was different to sing on Zoom. In particular, the biggest challenge was filming myself singing a solo.”

MTYP’s online courses took place on video conferencing, once a day over five days. Broadway Bound instructor Erica Hastings says that video conferencing presents a challenge with students not being able to sing together because of sound lags. Also, the platform only allows one voice to be heard at a time. However, knowing this in advance, Erica decided to have the students work with solo numbers.

“Madi did great work in Broadway Bound,” says Hastings. “She was quite outgoing, and was eager to dive into the work. She always had great ideas to share. She was also an awesome supporter of her classmates when they shared their thoughts and ideas. I was especially impressed with her solo that she sang. It was very expressive and she really told a story through song. It was great to see her growth throughout the week and I hope to work with her again!” 

The whole experience provided some opportunities for learning for the instructors as well, as they figured out how to deliver courses in new ways. “I was pleasantly surprised with how we were all able to connect and perform. We came up with a mini musical using songs from popular shows. On the last day of camp we invited loved ones to join the video conferencing meeting to be our audience. The students blew me away with their dedication and work ethic.”

This fall, MTYP Theatre School is planning its classes to be held on-site, albeit with some changes from previous years. Smaller class sizes will allow for safe physical distancing and courses will be organized into ten week sessions. Should Provincial Health regulations change and on-site classes are not viable for any period of time, MTYP is confident it will be able to accommodate that and still provide students with a meaningful learning experience. If courses have to move online, MTYP knows how to make this happen.

Having gotten a taste of MTYP, Madi wants more. “I would love to take more classes at MTYP. Particularly, musical theatre since it combines everything that I enjoy.”