Thursday, 21 September 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Today we feature four stories:
The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Andrea Runge

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Andrea Runge trained in directing with Ashlie Corcoran at Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque


(July 30, 2017) Once again I found myself in unfamiliar territory being part of the audience at the first performance rather than backstage. I had the anticipation and excitement similar to other openings I have experienced, but had to put my energy into a very different role! Once the show began I was interested in how the audience was reacting to the play, how the actors were dealing with the audience, and how all of the technical aspects were timed and working together. I was seeing and hearing the play for the first time again.

I have gained much knowledge in many areas throughout this process. Tech week was immensely useful and shed light on what I knew the least about. Observing the relationship between the director, the designers and the technicians offered a lot of clarity in how to efficiently get the show up in the theatre and quickly add in all the remaining technical elements. I appreciate how clear a vision Ashlie had of what she wanted on stage, but also trusted the designers to bring their expertise and vision to it as well, making this stage of the process as successfully collaborative as the rehearsal hall. I really admire Ashlie’s trust in those she works with: she has a huge respect for others’ contributions, with the focus always on what is best for the show. 

Anand Rajaram and Andrew Kushnir in Leading Ladies
at Thousand Islands Playhouse. Photo by Rob Whelan 
Although I wasn’t involved with the show during casting or hiring of the production team, I learned a lot about it while watching what was accomplished in this three-week period. The cast not only carried the essence and heart of each character in a wonderfully unique and imaginative way, but they were also able to work quickly and brought a plethora of ideas and much creativity to each rehearsal which helped with the efficiency of getting the show up on its feet in so short a time. The designers were often present throughout rehearsal, and had a great sense of the play and the overall tone so that their ideas truly enhanced the play. This again made for an efficient tech week as everyone was on the same page. 

Ashlie gave me an opportunity to get some hands on experience by asking me to choreograph a transition, which was a great way to put into practice what I had been learning so far in the process. It was fun to solve the logistics while adding story and character so as to continue the action of the play. The execution of it was educational as well—my goal being to communicate as clearly and efficiently as possible to the actors, designers and stage management. I had made choices while at the same time remained open to what the actors and designers had to offer. It was fun to see something I imagined come to life onstage.

Leading Ladies at Thousand Islands Playhouse
Set & Costume Design by Drew Facey
Lighting Design by Michelle Ramsay
I now have a deeper understanding of the role and responsibilities of the director, including the level of organization needed, the foresight, ability to problem solve and to think on one’s feet. To find the sweet spot of being well prepared, knowing the play extremely well, having clear ideas of what the production will look like, and also being open to change and evolution. There is strength in trusting your team, and great things can come from this trust. I hope to mentor other directors who work in this manner, and I will put many of the skills I learned from Ashlie into my own directing and teaching work. Having gone through the whole process from beginning to end has given me more confidence and inspiration to move forward in this field.

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The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Kelly Wolf

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Kelly Wolf began training in creation/dramaturgy with Richard Greenblatt at Tapesty Opera in Toronto


(May 8, 2017) As I continue to evolve as a theatre artist, I have become more interested in becoming the instigator of a theatre process, rather than simply responding to the project as a designer.  I am looking forward to getting started with Richard Greenblatt as I pursue a greater understanding of project creation and dramaturgy as a collaborative creator.

My background is primarily as a designer.  I am increasingly interested in creating a piece of theatre in response to a space. It is a fantastic way to allow another kind of narrative to emerge. Typically, I am responding to a set of givens, I am hoping that this mentorship project will encourage me to expand my personal creative practice. Traditional spaces already have an expectation built into them as far as the kind of theatre you can expect to see. I want to create theatre that expands your notion of what theatre is and should be by taking theatre out of the traditional venues. I am interested in collaborating with other artists—from all disciplines—in order to fuse and blur the lines between them in search of new approaches.  I have created site specific works of theatre in the past. I want to continue to make this kind of work but feel I need more development in order to move forward. What I feel I am lacking is confidence in structure and dramaturgy.

I approached Richard Greenblatt, someone with whom I already have a collaborative relationship, to share with me some of his insights into project creation. Richard Greenblatt is a director, playwright, actor, dramaturg who has created many original pieces of theatre for adults and young audiences. We have worked together in the past on projects that are script based as well as creation based. He has two projects on the go that I will observe and participate within; a new opera Selfie by Julie Tepperman for Tapestry Opera and The Missing Pages by Tom Allen. I am about to enter into the project at the very early stages; as they are dramaturging the piece, following it through the drafts, then eventually a workshop. What intrigues me about Selfie in particular is that is that Richard is interested in redefining the form of opera with this piece. This opportunity to follow the project from its early stages of development to finding the right collaborators, to developing the work is what I am most curious about. Following this exploration, I will be creating my own piece of theatre. I am producing a new work, Normal Shmormal at the Hamilton Fringe Festival Gallery Mini Series.  This would be an excellent opportunity to take what I have observed and turn it into action.

Richard and I both have a genuine interest in seeing the art of theatre connect with the audiences.  I am looking forward to our debriefing sessions where we will just talk about the process of making theatre.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Naomi Duvall

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Naomi Duvall began training in puppet design, building and manipulation with Brad Brackenridge at the Nervous System in Peterborough


(April 28, 2017) In the week before I start my mentorship I find myself brimming with excitement and energy. The first time I set eyes on Brad Brackenridge he was eating copious amounts of deviled eggs. I suppose I should clarify that he was in character as a celebrity judge (in a deviled egg contest) to support a fundraiser for a local theatre company. My first impression was that he was a joyous, hilarious, generous and warm person. I had not yet seen any of his work and I was already drawn in. When I did get a chance to experience it, my imagination was captured. His original ideas, execution, and attention to detail were what I aspired to in my own work. I was given the chance to serve as a type of Usher, guiding each audience member to their private show for his portable puppet piece VERTEP. The piece took place in a confessional-type booth, so that each audience member had an individual experience of a magical, disturbing, powerful journey through death, mourning, and transformation. It was awesome to be able to witness their unique responses to the images/sounds/objects presented. The audience members were all enchanted, deeply moved, and transformed. I was in love and I already wanted to work with him again.

Marionettes created by Brad Brackenridge 
My background is mainly in the performing arts. I graduated from a three-year actors training program in 2012 and have since been finding ways to hone my craft and stay sharp through workshops and sporadic work in theatre/commercials. At the end of this mentorship I hope to have the tools to be able to originate my own work. My plan is to participate in the design, build and manipulation of puppets for Precarious: The Peterborough ArtsWORK Festival from conception to completion with Brad as my guide.

I am intensely curious about marionettes; it’s a realm of puppetry that is magnetic to me but that requires considerable know-how to attempt. I am lacking in wood sculpting/joining/carpentry experience and the mechanical understanding of puppet motion and it is a skill I hope to focus on.

I’ve never been trained in puppetry, all ventures have been self-taught or relied upon experimentation. I’ve always loved working with my hands and have developed a lot of dexterity from years of kitchen work and manual labour. It is a pleasure to be able to use that strength in the service of something that gives me such fulfillment. The satisfaction of literally holding an idea in your hand and shaping it is immense. The possibilities and power that a puppet can have onstage is a definite draw for me. Also, it takes a huge amount of problem solving and ingenuity to figure out how to give an otherwise inanimate object life. It is a special kind of theatre magic created by a well-designed, built and manipulated puppet. I want to be able to provide an audience with that experience using my bare hands, allow them the kind of rapt emotional involvement and belief that I feel when watching one of Brad's pieces.

Brad carving a puppet for a Shaw Festival show
This mentorship means direct contact with the quality of work I myself want to be doing and a person whose work and character I thoroughly admire.  I can’t think of anything better for my career than that and look forward to contributing my enthusiasm, creativity and talent to this project! Next week I will be delving into some puppet history and different styles of puppetry as well as taking a look at some puppets Brad is building for the Shaw Festival. Can’t wait!!

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.