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The Beacon Herald
New' key word for Off the Wall alliance

It's a new season, a new studio and a new pagan-themed gala fundraiser for Off the Wall Stratford Artists' Alliance.

Music, food, wine, a fortune teller, a silent auction with one-of- a-kind artistic pieces and a showcase of props created in the classroom will all be part of a unique summer solstice celebration at Factory 163 Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The gala fundraising event marks the grand opening of the Desmond Heeley Theatre Production Arts Studio. The studio, which will be used for Off the Wall courses and workshops, was funded by capital grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson is expected to take part in an unusual ribbon-cutting ceremony at the event, which will feature a metal ribbon designed and welded by former Stratford Festival head of props Frank Holte.

Off the Wall is also unveiling its new summer course, An Introduction to Theatre Production Arts, hands-on, intensive skills training that will equip students for work in small theatres, apprenticeships in larger theatres or future education in specialty courses, such as art and design.

The innovative backstage production course will be held at Factory 163 in July and August, with artists/instructors from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

"We offer a complete range of production arts, from artistic welding, to faux-food creation, to theatrical mask-making," said Off the Wall general manager Sue Starkweather in a release. "Students have a rare opportunity to work with some of the most talented backstage artists in North America, as they learn all the skills needed to create a set."

The course is designed to run for six weeks, but students have the option to attend for two weeks, four-weeks or the full six weeks.

The summer solstice fundraiser is aimed at generating scholarship funds for this program.

"Our partnerships are making this ground-breaking course possible," said Michele Boniface, Off the Wall board chair. "Technical Training Group brings expertise in skilled trades training, providing administrative and programming support for the course, and Factory 163, known to arts organizations as the space to create,' provides the ideal backdrop."

Tickets for Off The Wall's Summer Solstice Celebration are $40 in advance or $45 at the door and can be purchased online at