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A scene from a 2019 Canadian College of Performing Arts production set during the Spanish flu pandemic.


When the unpredictable strikes, it helps to be led and supported by some of the nation’s most creative humans.

At least, that’s the experience of students at Victoria’s Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA), which virtually reinvented itself and its programs for the 2020-21 season.

While most arts colleges have yet to return to in-person instruction, CCPA will present six productions this season, in livestream digital and as part of live, small-capacity, socially distanced theatrical experiences, with priority seating for subscribers. (The generous support of donors has allowed CCPA to offer subscriptions at reduced rates.)

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The Studio Ensemble series, featuring the work of third-year students, illuminates the pandemic experience by reflecting themes of isolation, passion, frustration, free will and adaptation.

After the COVID-19 shutdown derailed last year’s program, the college quickly pivoted to a live-streamed variation of Newsies. But the challenges were just beginning, admits managing artistic director Caleb Marshall. “We then turned to adapting our policies, studios and technology to ensure safety, but also to continue refining and enhancing our programs to remain current to our shifting industry and society.”

The monumental work of making the college safe for students, staff and faculty to return to this fall was made possible through the generous support of donors, funders and government programs.

Barbara Greeniaus
Board chairperson, Canadian College of Performing Arts

None of that could have happened without the support of donors, who responded generously to the CCPA’s “Distanced but Not Disconnected” campaign, which helped fund new education initiatives, technological upgrades, construction of a large studio for socially distanced training and counselling for students. To make its programs even more accessible and impactful, the college also formed a Cultural Safety Working Group.

“The monumental work of making the college safe for students, staff and faculty to return to this fall was made possible through the generous support of donors, funders and government programs,” says Barbara Greeniaus, the CCPA board’s chairperson. “We are incredibly grateful for all the ways the community has supported the college this year.”

Despite these successes, the college continues to navigate uncharted territory, says Mr. Marshall.

“Normally, as a not-for-profit institution, we are very fiscally responsible. At this point, still in the midst of a pandemic, we’re investing in absolutely everything that we need for safety, knowing this will result in an extremely challenging year financially. With the support of our donors, we hope to address the financial implications of COVID-19 in the future. For now, it’s all about our students' safety, and ensuring they get the highest calibre performing arts education.”

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Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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