On Growing Up In The Theatre

Today's guest post comes from a recent Youth Program alumni, Kyla Whetham. Kyla is currently in her first year of studying Drama and Women & Gender Studies at University of Toronto. She is a 12 year alumni of Wavestage's triple threat youth programs. Over her many years with Wavestage, she's performed in everything from ensemble roles to featured dance roles to leads. Kyla has been an assistant counsellor for Showbiz Academy and has spent countless hours behind the scenes painting sets, learning sound operation skills, and more. 

Read her take on why growing up in the theatre world played an instrumental role in developing the person she is today. 

Annie Rehearsals (can you spot mini-Kyla top left)?

Annie Rehearsals (can you spot mini-Kyla top left)?

When my mom asked me if I wanted to join a theatre company 13 years ago, I half-responded “yes”, as any child who wasn’t really paying attention would. According to my mom, I’ve been singing from the day I was born, so it seemed like a good option anyway. Little did I know, at the tender age of four, that this decision would change my life. 

Flash forward to 2015: I’m 18 years old, studying at the University of Toronto; I’m a huge enthusiast of M&Ms; I’m in a (un)healthy relationship with Netflix (no shame); and I’m a Wavestage Theatre Company veteran of 12 years. 

Yep, you read that right.  Since 2002, I have spent ¾ of every year in church basements and gyms, dancing and belting out showtunes like my life depended on it (excluding one year – a story for another time). I experienced my first performance as an orphan in the musical Oliver! and never looked back.

Little Women , 2009

Little Women, 2009

Legally Blonde , 2014

Legally Blonde, 2014

Throughout my time at Wavestage, I transitioned through each of the various programs offered and developed invaluable musical theatre skills. The children's programs provided performance experience in “kids-only” shows and small roles in MainStage (full company) productions. Choir and singing lessons with Sarah Langford (the fabulous founder, director, and teacher at Wavestage) taught me technique and trained my voice as it developed. The teenage program, known as Stagedoor Players, gave me an outlet to hone my talents and skills as a more mature performer. I was even able to become a Youth Program Counsellor for two years. 

Follies , 2015

Follies, 2015

People always ask me, “why stick with it?” and “what have you gotten out of Wavestage that made you stay all these years?” 

In short: an ever-growing musical theatre repertoire, countless techniques and skills, unforgettable memories, and another family, just to name a few. 

Wavestage is more than a theatre company; it’s a community. Becoming a member of Wavestage is immersing yourself into a fabulous group of people who are passionate about sharing their love for the arts. 

Peter Pan , 2015

Peter Pan, 2015

A Little Princess , 2014

A Little Princess, 2014

Some of my favourite memories EVER are from my years in theatre. I’ll never forget the hilarious Snapchat lipsync wars, dance parties before performances, impressions of our favourite songs (cue my dramatic rendition of Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind”), and that one time Jamie and I almost missed our entrance by eating carrots (update: we successfully made it to the stage for our cue). 

This past summer’s run of Into the Woods – my last show before heading off to school this year – was definitely bittersweet. I am currently experiencing serious rehearsal withdrawal. There are countless things that I miss: the weekly choreo sessions and acting classes; getting to sing and perform with my lovely theatre family; seeing the incredible, never-ending creativity that comes from the kids in the program (especially the wee little ones). Still, I know that all of these great things that I miss are precisely what prepared me for where I am – university. 

Into the Woods , 2015

Into the Woods, 2015

Of course, participating in theatre throughout previous school years forced me to learn how to effectively manage my time and schoolwork, but I gained so much more than organizational tools. In terms of communication, the Wavestage community gave me a creative outlet to develop my social skills outside of school and home. I also learned how to appear confident even if I’m not – a tool I find invaluable as I have learned confidence is the key to moving forward in all aspects of life (cheesy, but so true – I actually landed my job because of this). 

Furthermore, Wavestage is a warm community that allows you to grow among a group of incredibly supportive people who inevitably promote personal confidence. I used to be terrified of walking on stage, and now I’m planning to double-major in Women & Gender Studies and (surprise) Drama. The great thing is that these are tools that can be applied to any area of life. 

Wavestage is a warm community that allows you to grow among a group of incredibly supportive people who inevitably promote personal confidence.
— Kyla Whetham
Fiddler on the Roof , 2014

Fiddler on the Roof, 2014

Looking back at it all, here’s what I’d say are the most important things Wavestage taught me:

  1. Theatre pals are for life (seriously, I met one of my best friends here – all it takes is to say hi).
  2. Theatre is a family, and family always looks out for each other.
  3. You can do way more than you think (hello dancing and that time I learned I could hit a high G).

As for what I’m going to do after university? Who knows. Regardless, there is one thing I’m certain of: thanks to everything I learned at Wavestage, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish.



Kyla Whetham is an 18-year-old Aurora native. A graduate of St. Maximilian Kolbe CHS, she is now studying Drama and Women and Gender Studies in her first year at University of Toronto. Kyla is a 12 year veteran of Wavestage Theatre Company. In addition to her passion for musical theatre, Kyla is an awards show, HGTV and Chai tea latte enthusiast.

Give your child the opportunity to shine by registering them in our Youth Training Programs. We offer triple-threat training and performance opportunities to children and teens grades 1-12.