Yesterday, Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre (YPT) unveiled an expansion project that was millions of dollars and more than a decade in the making. The company’s Room for Imagination project included renovations at the company’s original Heritage venue at 165 Front Street East, as well as the creation of new facility -- YPT 161 Studios -- at 161 Frederick Street.
With the $13.5M expansion now complete, YPT is Canada’s largest state-of-the-art theatre complex for young people, with the capacity to serve 150,000 participants annually.
“First and foremost for me are the young people we serve,” says Herbie Barnes, Artistic Director for YPT. “When you consider what the last few years have been like for our young people, my strongest commitment at this time is to bring back joy in these new spaces – the joy of creation, the joy of imagination. And now we have room for it.”
YPT's original building has a storied history, initially housing the horses that pulled the Toronto Street Railway Company’s streetcars at the turn of the late 19th century. It then became an electrical generation plant until 1906, before spending some years as a warehouse owned by the Toronto Transit Commission. YPT took occupation in 1977, following renovations by Zeidler Partnership Architects.
YPT's original location circa 1930
In 2020 -- marking the company’s 55th anniversary -- YPT launched Room for Imagination. Martin Kohn of KOHN SHNIER architects stepped in to honour but modernize Eberhard Zeidler’s original design. KOHN SHNIER and Flat Iron Building Group worked jointly to improve accessibility throughout the Heritage venue, upgrade theatrical equipment to eco-friendlier models, and expand and redesign lobby areas, backstage areas, dressing rooms, box office, concession spaces, amongst more.
Meanwhile, YPT 161 Studios includes 12,000 sq. ft of purpose-built space to accommodate education initiatives, community programs, and drama courses. The new complex also includes accessible classrooms and barrier-free washrooms, a mainstage-sized TD Rehearsal Hall, a BMO Costume Shop, and rental and commercials to serve the community and bring in revenue.
YPT 161 Studios will open its doors to the public on October 6, commemorated by the world premiere of Herbie Barnes’ epic Indigenous tale, Bentboy.