Ensemble is a word we often use in the theatre with varying degrees of depth attached to it. Truly committed Ensemble is a defining feature of the Shaw Festival, and learning its application has been one of my greatest lessons as a part of the Neil Munro Intern Directors Project this season. There is, of course, the ensemble of actors, which goes beyond the actors performing in the current season. However the Ensemble of the Shaw Festival extends far beyond its actors. It includes electricians, assistant designers, changeover crew, voice instructors, accountants, wardrobe builders… the list goes on. The festival has a reputation as “Camp Shaw”—a place where people not only work together but also do yoga, play board games, devise Saturday-night cabarets, meet at the local pub on Thursday nights. There are people celebrating thirty years of working and living at Shaw, and the mystique of that ensemble existence is inextricably linked to the festival’s success.
|Alana Hibbert and Kevin Hanchard in The Mountaintop|
Photo by David Cooper
I am writing this entry during the bridge time between assistant-directing the main stage shows and beginning to direct Rosalind by J.M. Barrie for my Director’s Project. I am pondering these lessons both in terms of how they pertain to shifting over to my own directing work within the context of the Festival, and to how I can take what I have learned here on to my work in other arenas. Acting in the Directors’ Project is on a volunteer basis, and the actors who agree to it do so on top of their already full show schedule, classes, auditions, and personal commitments. Yet somehow every year some of the best actors in Canada undertake this additional work. Part of the reason for choosing to do so is because actors are creators: hungry to invent and explore. Yet additionally this willingness seems to come from belonging to something they believe in; from knowing that the Ensemble works best when they buy in, give what they can, say yes, play, commit.
|Moya O’Connell in The Philadelphia Story|
Photo by David Cooper
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
- George Bernard Shawhttp://www.rachelpeake.com
Find out more about the Neil Munro Intern Directors Project at the Shaw Festival