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The National Theatre School of Canada has announced $60,000 in financial help for theatre school students and recent graduates during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Montreal-based institution plans to dole out 80 Art Apart bursaries of $750 to young and emerging actors, playwrights, directors and designers to present a piece of art online – regardless of what theatre training program they attend or have attended.

The selected applicants will also get their work disseminated through the school’s social networks with the hashtag #ArtApart.

“There are a lot of folks in theatre programs with cancelled plays, readings, end-of-year performances,” Gideon Arthurs, the chief executive officer of NTS, said in an interview Monday morning.

“Our fund also is open to students who have graduated in the last five years. [...] All those part-time jobs [many emerging artists] rely on are evaporating as well.”

Theatre professionals have had to absorb a lot of difficult news in the past two weeks as, first, individual shows were cancelled and then entire seasons were curtailed or postponed as governments across the country recommended or mandated that mass gatherings be shut down. On Friday, the Stratford Festival alone announced 495 layoffs that are hoped to be temporary.

But many young people aspiring to work in the theatre industry also find themselves in limbo, unable to attend rehearsals or hands-on courses that are seemingly incompatible with either social distancing or online learning.

At the National Theatre School, students have not been to class since March 13 – and, on Sunday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that schools would remain closed in the province until at least May 1.

Arthurs, who oversees a variety of theatre-arts training programs in both English and French at NTS, says he and staff have decided to begin offering training content online in all the programs starting Monday next week. “We will be busy this week developing exactly what that means,” he said.

The NTS’s Art Apart project grants, which are open to artists of any language and those following alternative types of training in addition to those enrolled in university and in conservatory programs, follow last week’s announcement by the National Arts Centre and Facebook Canada of a $100,000 package for Canadian musicians, dancers and theatre artists to present live online performances.

Arthurs says the money for the Art Apart program comes from NTS’s Theatre Engaging Communities fund, which usually supports certain productions by the school’s students and recent graduates. “We’ve repurposed that money and made it available for the wider community – maybe to cover a month’s worth of rent,” he said.

Full details on eligibility and how to submit work or project proposals is now on the NTS website.

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