Young Stars Light Up the Stage at Stratford's Springworks Festival

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

In a simple basement with bare light bulbs and a water heater for company, five gifted musicians are making extraordinary music. In a studio that means business (except for the cheerful teal and silver dots adorning one wall), eight talented dancers are pushing the boundaries of what their bodies can do. On an often isolated journey, a budding composer is hearing whole orchestras. What do they have in common? None of them are older than 25.  

And all of them will be on stage at SpringWorks indie theatre & arts festival in Stratford this May 12-22. The Bendy Straws will be raising the roof with their unique blend of popular tunes from across the decades in A Step Back Into Swing. Infinity Dance will be joining professional dancers and choreographers Nicola Pantin, Neesa Kenemy, and Robin Calvert in Bone Rhythm. Britta Johnson’s music – and mad piano skills – will be joining Katherine Cullen in Stupidhead! A Mucisal Cmoedy, an original musical about being a kid with a lot of dyslexia and not being able to fit in.

Bone Rhythm.  Young Stars Light Up the Stage at Stratford's Springworks Festival

Bone Rhythm

Regardless of their ages, none of these youth are strangers to their craft. Most of them can boast a history in performance to rival some of Canada’s most established artists. The Bendy Straws have all been making music since they knew there was music to make. Almost all the Infinity Dance students have been dancing since they could walk. Britta Johnson grew up surrounded by theatre and music – hard to avoid with both parents working as musicians at The Stratford Festival. 

Starting young is certainly paying off for all these artists now. “I started performing in the womb” jokes Myles Avigdor, but listening to his voice soar, it isn’t hard to believe that could be true. While Sean Dolan and Owen Reynolds (who make up the drummer and the guitarist in The Bendy Straws) joke about their early songwriting – “God, we were so angsty in grade five!” – their dedication and hard work has earned their band The Bendy Straws the title of being among some of Stratford’s most talented young performers. Ellie Edwards has already shared the stage with notable Canadian artists such as Emm Gryner and Loreena McKennitt. Myles was the Stratford Star winner in 2015.  At the tender of 16, Sean is already a veteran of the Stratford Festival after playing Frederich in The Sound of Music last season. Both Owen and the band’s bass guitarist Nikolai Howley are known throughout Stratford for their incredible talents and repertoire.  
And the same goes for the students at Infinity Dance. Trophies, plaques, and certificates line the narrow hallway toward the studios, leaving no doubt the students who spend countless hours training there are extremely talented. 
Infinity Dancers. From Young Stars Light Up the Stage at Stratford's Springworks Festival
Photo: Mindy Gough

Perhaps most impressive, though, is Britta Johnson, whose original musical Big Box Story was performed on a Stratford Festival stage in 2009. “[It] changed my life,” says Britta, “I was only 18 and I made this show with 40 of my peers and we managed to momentarily get the country’s attention and put it up on the Avon [Theatre] stage. I still can’t believe it happened.” Since then, she has been taking the musical theatre world by storm with her work having been performed at the Blyth Festival Young Company, the Paprika Festival, SpringWorks, Summerworks, and most recently in Reframed at the Art Gallery of Ontario with Acting Up Stage Company. 

Although not all of these young artists plan on making a career out of performing – “I want to be a game developer when I grow up,’ declares Liam McDevitt of Infinity Dance – and some of them are certain it’s the life for them – ‘I really just want to be on Broadway. I want to be an actress!” exclaims dancer Hannah Rolleman, who will be spending her summer with the Joffrey School of Ballet’s Musical Theatre Intensive – creating is definitely a way of life for these young artists. 

But Britta’s got the best advice – not just for the up-and-coming, but for all who endeavor to create. “Trust yourself. Embrace the fear. Do it anyways. Dare to be dreadful.”

Young Stars Light Up the Stage at Stratford's Springworks Festival

Catch STUPIDHEAD: A Mucisal Cmoedy on stage May 19 @ 6pm, May 20 @ 8pm, & May 21 @ 12pm at Factory163. Bone Rhythm will be on stage May 14 at 12pm, May 17 at 8pm, & May 18 at 8pm at Factory163. Rock out with The Bendy Straws in A Step Back Into Swing on May 13 @ 10pm & May 18 @ 8pm at Falstaff Family Centre. 

Tickets for all shows are available at or at the door.  


Jessi Séguin is an actor, playwright, and arts administrator from Stratford, Ontario. Lately she has appeared as The Field Mouse in A Wind In The Willows Christmas (Alternative Theatre Works). Some favourite writing credits include The Cousins of Corsica (2015 SpringWorks’ People’s Choice Award), Thrown (Honourable Mention, Canadian International Film Festival 2014), Pickled Heart (SpringWorks 2014), and The Man with the Leek in his Cap (shortlisted for Robertson Davies Playwriting Award, University of Toronto Drama Festival). Jessi is a graduate of the joint Acting program at Sheridan College and the University of Toronto.