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A little off the top

This year's Pivot Theatre Festival allows kids in on a cut of the action, with the performance piece Haircuts By Children. It's exactly what it sounds like.

This year’s Pivot Theatre Festival allows kids in on a cut of the action, with the performance piece Haircuts By Children.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. A class of fifth graders from Elijah Smith Elementary School have partnered up with Whitehorse’s Head to Toe salon to learn the trade.

Every day next week they’ll be training. Then on Sunday, Jan. 18, the kids will be let loose to snip away on willing adults who have made appointments.

David Skelton, the festival’s co-artistic director, says the piece is a good example of how Pivot pushes boundaries.

“I totally love conventional theatre. Stuff that can go on at the Yukon Arts Centre,” he said. “But I also love stuff where people will go, ‘Why is that theatre? That’s not theatre.’”

Teacher Robyn Murphy says her class of 22 was originally shocked by the opportunity. After all, most kids their age have been warned in the past to keep scissors far away from hair.

“They’re gearing up, they’re starting to get excited,” Murphy said.

The kids do more than just cut hair. They run the salon, everything from sweeping up hair to giving out coffee to collecting money for their services. Haircuts are being given by donation.

Murphy says her class hasn’t decided what to do with any money they make.

“I’m hoping this maybe opens some of them up to some career opportunities for themselves,” she said. “Whether that be a business owner or a hair stylist or just realizing that there are other options than this idea of university or college to go right to.”

Haircuts by Children was first organized in 2006 by a theatre group out of Toronto. It has been performed around the country and as far away as Dublin, Prague and Copenhagen.

The Whitehorse crew will be the first class to snip North of 60.

Murphy says being involved with this project has inspired her to look into doing more learning through experiences.

That could mean having a chef come in or maybe a paramedic.

“I just think that students a lot of times just get bogged down with this idea of pen and pencil. So this idea of this being an actual job they could have one day will give them maybe some more spark to sticking with education.”

Just because it’s not taking place on a stage doesn’t mean Haircuts by Children is not performance, Skelton said.

“You have drama in its purest form. You have comedy in its purest form and you have people watching,” he said.

“If we really want to get into it, they are playing a role that is not usual to their normal circumstance. They are playing adults. And the other side of the dynamic relationship, the adults are subservient to the children. So it’s a complete flip-flop.”

The experience gets a reaction, he said.

“The parents and teachers and adults in general will look at these kid and go, ‘Holy cow, I never imagined what they could do. They have all of this great potential.’”

Haircuts will be happening on Jan. 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Email or call 867-335-4884 to book a 20-minute appointment.

This year’s Pivot festival runs from January 17 to 24.

Events will be taking place all over Whitehorse.

Aside from tiny coiffures, the festival will also feature Johanna Nutter’s award-winning one-woman show My Pregnant Brother. That will be followed by a play written by Nutter’s brother James, called My Playwright Sister.

The show focuses on Nutter’s transgendered brother and their relationship.

Skelton says he’s always been attracted to plays about identity.

“It’s a very contemporary story about not just the internal struggle of someone deciding to change sexes, but how that relates to the world around them in the most immediate way - your family.”

The festival will also feature shows by spoken word performer Shane Koyczan, songwriter Christine Fellows and more. A full schedule and ticket information can be found online at

Contact Ashley Joannou at