Northern Ontario high school's performing arts program marks 30 years
'It excited me to think that what interested me as a kid ... I could pursue in high school and have a career'
Back in the early 1980s, a high school in Sudbury, Ont. was dying.
Inspired by his daughter who was active in music and dance in the city, principal Joe Drago envisioned a school for the performing arts in downtown Sudbury.
But he says many other principals and some school board trustees were not thrilled with this idea of a school magnetized for the arts — and to which students could be bussed in from the surrounding area.
"There was a tremendous uproar from my colleagues and they didn't think this was right and they thought we were going to steal some of their better students," says Drago.
"A couple of them who were adamant that this never happen became principals at Sudbury Secondary — and told me it was the best school they ever worked in."
Students were 'enthused'
Grant Cvitkovich was part of that first class of 1985-86. He says he was "terrified" to go from his hometown in Noelville to audition in the big city of Sudbury, but left that first meeting with the teachers enthused about the future.
"It excited me to think that what interested me as a kid was actually something I could pursue in high school and have a career out of it," says Cvitkovich, now a graphic designer in Toronto.
Drama teacher Judi Straughan, who taught in the performing arts program for 16 years, says the goal from the beginning was not to simply produce professional actors and artists, a mandate that is still intact today.
"You would just be a happier citizen, a happier person, a more well-rounded person — not a star on Broadway," she says.
"But we've had our stars."
How the show began
CBC reporter Erik White tells Morning North radio show host Markus Schwabe about the genesis of the performing arts program back in the early 1980s.
Lori attended the performing arts programs in its early days in the 1980s and, for the last 22 years, has operated her own dance studio in Sudbury.
The son of a minister from "conformist" Lively, Rose attended Sudbury Secondary in the early1990s. It was there he discovered his future was on stage — and he now runs his own theatre company on the other side of the country.
Her dream of being an actor or a playwright never came true, but this 1996 grad says her arts education has help set her up for a life in business and in chocolate.
In the 20 years since he graced the stage at Sheridan Auditorium, he's gone on to star in films and in musicals in London's east end. But he still has a soft spot for the "paradise" of his hometown.