Sears Festival Too Important To Drop
What Drama Kids Look Forward To Every Year
How Do You Pull Funding After 71 Years?
I had the great fortune of being involved, albeit peripherally, in the Sears Drama Festival when it was hosted by Bear Creek Secondary School a few years ago. A colleague of mine asked me to host a scriptwriting workshop, if memory serves, and although most of my writing involves fictional pieces of the non-script variety, I told him I'd give it a go.
It was a blast. These were kids who were enthusiastic, eager to learn, and most of all, absolutely passionate about the arts. At the time, I thought about how fortunate these kids are that they have a drama festival of this nature to be engaged in and learn and more importantly, collaborate with to become even better artists. Sure, the festival gives prizes every year to entrants, and kids are definitely excited to receive those (who isn't?), but the kids just loved the idea of being able to perform for a wider audience beyond their own school, and the Sears Ontario Drama Festival offered them that opportunity for some 71 years.
When news broke on August 27 that Sears, who is currently under creditor protection, was pulling funding, it felt like a stunning blow. While there are few individuals who wouldn't understand that a business that is absolutely struggling for its own survival can't exactly afford to sponsor a range of activities, there are a few issues right now with Sears that people can't help but be somewhat dismayed by.
Firstly, the company completely failed to give workers that had been with the company for years any sort of severance. The most famous case of all the workers being denied severance has got to be comedian Mike Myers' brother, Peter, who after 29 years (and doing a commercial featuring his brother insisting that the company wasn't going anywhere) was let go without severance.
Secondly, although the workers were denied severance, several millions of dollars were offered to executives as an enticement to keep them during this restructuring process. Dubbed "retention bonuses," several news outlets reported shortly after news broke over the lack of severance pay that up to $9.2 million could be paid to "key executives" during restructuring.
While these bonuses are apparently court approved, why is it suddenly okay for Sears to just walk away from a drama festival it's been supporting for 71 years?
Parents and teachers everywhere have commented about the lack of arts support in school boards, and funding for one of the biggest student drama festivals in Ontario can just be eliminated no problem?
It is a problem, though.
A Student Drama Festival In Ontario Matters
Boundless Creativity, Discipline, Focus
Here's the thing; every school across Ontario knows that the minute second semester starts, prep work for the Sears Drama Festival goes into high gear. Teachers know that things are going to get crazy for all involved - especially for the drama department, but tech crew also has to be ready to rock, too.
While there are other drama festivals, Sears was undoubtedly one of the biggest, and kids across the province would join together just for the opportunity to show what they've been working for.
There have also been a number of kids outside the drama department who work together on scripts for Sears, and let me tell you, the ideas generated from these highly creative kids know no bounds. They would have people swinging from the rafters, if they thought it was okay to do so as part of their scripts and insurance wouldn't have issues with them doing so. My point is, eliminating funding from this drama festival eliminates a voice for these kids who need that voice and venue so badly.
The Sears Ontario Drama Festival has given kids a voice for 71 years, and if Sears is stepping out, someone else - someone who can become a champion for the dramatic arts and the kids involved in them for the long term - needs to step in.
I want to see big businesses go beyond the bottom line of their company and look to what's good for future generations - not just what's good for their revenue. I want to see them throw their support behind something that has only continued to grow for decades, and be community minded in ways that few businesses have done over the years.
Who will step forward and give these drama kids the support they need so the drama festival they've loved for decades can continue?
I'm hoping a corporation (or two) can, and soon.
These kids - all kids - deserve that support.