Are you indulging in your local arts communities? It seems as though arts organizations everywhere are struggling to bring in funds and gather loyal audiences. Art is slowly becoming too expensive and inaccessible for the wider public — a fact that not only affects artists but our city’s culture. 

Art has the power to bring people together, question major political issues, challenge our societal impact, and allow us to live joyfully. We indulge in art. We immerse ourselves in art. We should be seeking art out. Fighting for it to be a part of our daily lives and a part of our city’s fabric. 

Keshia Palm, Artistic Director of the Paprika Festival, says that “Creativity, diversity, and culture is in Toronto’s DNA” and I couldn’t agree more. So how can we make sure this DNA is honoured, seen, and celebrated? Well, attending this year’s Paprika Festival is a great place to start. 

The Paprika Festival (May 14 – 19) is an opportunity for young theatre artists to develop their craft, network and connect with both established and emerging artists — and most importantly, to showcase incredible, bold, and passionate work. Paprika is “where the future of theatre begins”, a tagline that rings true in the theatre this year’s cohort of artists has produced. From the Creators Unit’s Fast Fashion’ to creative producer Keira Marie Forde’s ‘Generation Gentrified’ to ‘Back To One’ a workshop led by Cindy Dzib, this programming will keep you engaged and entertained all week long. 

Held at Native Earth Performing Arts Centre’s Aki Studio, Paprika prioritizes storytelling that speaks to a new Toronto. 

It’s no secret that it’s getting harder and harder to live in the city, and the stereotype of a young artist who side-hustles as a barista or caterer while they try to build a career for themselves is becoming more and more of a fantasy,” says Keshia. “We need places like Paprika to keep young artists in the GTA, or else we’re at risk of our arts and culture landscape gentrifying in the same way our streets are…Torontonians need art and artists that are from here to see ourselves reflected in the city we live in.”

The entire festival is free/by donation, meaning anyone and everyone can attend. And if you want to add a little spice and social connection to your theatre-going experience, lucky you—this year’s festival is packed with super fun community events. 

“We’ve designed the festival so that folks can come by pretty much any night to hang out, meet other people, do something fun, and then catch a performance,” Keshia explains. “You can come with a date, or your BFF, or come solo and maybe meet a new BF(F)”. Clothing swaps, social mixers, Craft + Chill events, and lemonade stands are a major moment in this year’s festival — and I’m so excited. 

As a participant in this year’s festival as a member of Paprika’s Playwriting Unit, I can say with full confidence that not only will this lineup get you hooked on the theatre-going experience, but also make you hopeful for the future of Canadian theatre. 

Keshia shares with me what they believe the future of theatre is: “The future of theatre is fun. It’s you and all your friends going together and then talking about it for hours over a bottle of wine until 3am. It’s you breathing in sync with a bunch of strangers. It’s you laughing and that person in the front row laughing too. It’s you falling in love with the people on stage. It’s you feeling seen. It’s you feeling all the feelings all at once. It’s your heartbeat racing. It’s unexpected. It’s exciting. It’s magic. It’s never the same thing twice. That’s why you go.” In reading this quote over and over, I wonder — will it ever feel like this? 

When I was young and first falling in love with theatre, I felt this way. I felt the magic, and the joy, and breathing in sync. Slowly, over time, at theatre school and in the world as an arts goer, arts worker and arts writer, I lost a piece of that magic feeling that Keshia talks about. I felt uninspired and lonely. 

Then, I joined Paprika, I started my own theatre company, I met Keshia, and Merlin Simard (my playwriting facilitator), I talked about how I felt, I talked about what I hoped to see. And then, I made it happen. We are all making it happen. Gen Z is yes, annoying, and sometimes a bit much, but we are all making it happen. We’re pushing forward. We’re fighting for a better future after a long, painful, and hopeless pandemic. And we’re all doing it at Paprika. So come and see a show. 

Get your tickets to the Festival, check out the full lineup of shows, the Paprika program, and be sure to follow Paprika on Instagram for all the updates.