A view of Grand Gala attendees seated on the Spriet Stage

Grand Theatre Celebrates 25 Years of the High School Project, Says Goodbye to Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum at its 47th Annual Gala

June 23, 2023 – London ON – Last night, the Grand Theatre’s renowned youth program, the High School Project, celebrated its 25th anniversary at the Theatre’s annual Gala on Thursday, June 22, 2022. The Grand Theatre’s Artistic Director, Dennis Garnhum, who is stepping down from the role at the end of this month, was also recognized for 7 seasons of exceptional artistic leadership.

The Gala, presented by Sterling Marking Products, raises funds each year to support the work of the Theatre including its youth programs and the Grand’s one-of-a-kind High School Project. The High School Project, its current participants, and a diverse lineup of alumni took centre stage over the course of the evening, which celebrated the 25-year legacy and impact of the program, the only one of its kind in North America.

The 2023 Gala opened with welcome remarks and a salute to outgoing Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum, who reflected on his time at the Grand and the impact that the High School Project and the London community have had on his time here. The festivities continued with 20 cast members from the 2023 High School Project production of The Phantom of the Opera performing a medley of music from the hit Broadway show.

Many special guests attended, including former Artistic Director Michael Shamata, who was at the Grand when the idea for the High School Project was conceived, and who directed two of the first High School Projects (West Side Story in 1998, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1999). Following dinner and Live Auction on the Spriet Stage, the 20 current High School Project students were joined by 50 High School Project Alumni for a surprise performance. The evening crescendoed with numerous musical performances from past High School Project productions, such as West Side Story, Oliver!, and Les Misérables.

“It is extraordinary what the High School Project has meant and continues to mean for London, its young people, and this theatre,” said outgoing Artistic Director, Dennis Garnhum. “It is truly a phenomenon that this program has continued to flourish and impact young lives in this city. I am thrilled to have played a role in its story, and will be cheering on all of the talented on-stage and backstage students at Opening Night of The Phantom of the Opera!”

Bob Schram, Former Board Chair and CEO of Sterling Marking Products, the 2023 Grand Gala Presenting Sponsor, celebrated the legacy of the High School Project. “The High School Project is an icon, and a true jewel of London. It demonstrates the immense capabilities and inspiring commitment of the youth in this community, and to be consistent in this for 25 years, is truly outstanding.”

The Gala also provided a final opportunity to celebrate and extend gratitude to Garnhum for seven seasons of exceptional artistic leadership, which included instrumental theatre programs, several of which impacted youth and emerging theatre artists, including COMPASS New Play Development Program, 100 Schools educational outreach, and 1000 Seats community initiative.

The Grand Theatre gratefully acknowledges the support of the Gala sponsors, which include:  

  • Presenting Sponsor: Sterling Marking Products
  • Gold Sponsors: Re/Max Hallmark A-Team, and Spriet Associates
  • Silver Sponsors:  Cohen Highley, Matt Parr Mortgages, Form & Build Supply Inc. CIBC Wood Gundy, Larry Myny Investment Group, and Lexus of London
  • Bronze Sponsors: Cornerstone Architecture, and a sponsorship in honour of the Alumni of the High School Project
  • General Sponsors: Acura West, All Women L.E.A.D.
  • After Party Sponsor:  Western Fair District

And the many businesses and individuals who contributed to live and silent auctions and the Grand Raffle Prize.

To learn more about the 2023 Grand Gala, please visit: https://grandtheatre.com/2023-grand-gala. The Grand Gala Committee is Chris Costello, Peter Markvoort, Sandra Panzer, Anita Shah and Rachel Ross. The Grand Gala Coordinator is Natalie Kearns. Additional facts, photos, and updates can also be found by following @thegrandlondon, #GrandHSP, and #GrandGala on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Grand Theatre wishes to acknowledge and honour the original stewards of the land on which our Theatre stands. Gratitude and recognition are extended to the Attawandaron (also known as Neutral), Anishinaabeg, Haudenosaunee, and Lunaapewak peoples for preserving this land where we gather and create art.

About the Grand Theatre  – World Curious. London Proud.
In the heart of downtown London, Ontario lies one of Canada’s oldest regional theatres and a leading cultural hub of today: the Grand Theatre. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Dennis Garnhum and Executive Director Evan Klassen, the Grand proudly presents diverse, relevant, and original stories from around the globe – and around the corner – on its two stages. The not-for-profit theatre is committed to developing, producing, and premiering original stories through its COMPASS New Play Development program. Further, it is an ardent supporter of educational programming, as demonstrated through initiatives like the High School Project and Subsidized Student Matinees. For more information, visit: grandtheatre.com.