Tuesday, 26 May 2015

PTTP Profiles: Exploring Projects Funded by the Professional Theatre Training Program

Several projects from the latest round of the Professional Theatre Training Program are now underway.  These reflections were written in early- and mid-May as these mentorships started.

Claire Burns is training in general management with Beth Brown at Nightwood Theatre (Toronto)

Claire Burns
Oh man I am so excited that I was accepted into this program.

I’m currently an Artistic Producer and the General Manager at the Storefront Theatre, and we are doing really well: lots of great press, amazing artistic endeavors and community development initiatives, but to be honest I am woefully under-trained for this position. I came on to help as bar manager at the theatre and then I moved to general manager—generally managing lots of little things but in reality I’m not sure that I’m actually a General Manager.  Budgets, fundraising campaigns, soliciting sponsorships—this is what I need to be a manager of, and really I don’t have much or any experience in any of the three categories.

So I’m really excited to work with Beth Brown, Managing Director at Nightwood Theatre, in order to lay a base foundation of knowledge in these categories. Beth and I have laid out a pretty ambitious calendar for a year-long mentorship which will delve into all the aspects of managing that I need to learn.

I am stoked to be working with such a positive, enthusiastic mentor and I’m also really pleased to be working with Nightwood Theatre! Ever since I moved to Toronto in 2001, Nightwood has been a company that I’ve always wanted to work with—albeit first as an actor, then a playwright and now as an administrator—and it makes me feel like a kid, working with a company of people that I have admired for so long.

In May and June I’ll be working on finding foundations and sponsorships whose ideals align with Nightwood’s mandate, analyzing past marketing initiatives and helping with the Lawyer Show (May 28-30). I say bring it on! I absolutely cannot wait.

Catherine Ballachey is training in dramaturgy with Laurie Steven at Odyssey Theatre (Ottawa)

Catherine Ballachey
This week, I am beginning my position as Assistant Dramaturg of Odyssey Theatre’s New Play Creation Program here in Ottawa. I will be working under the guidance of Laurie Steven, an established director, playwright, and dramaturg, as well as Artistic Director of Odyssey Theatre. Before I dive into what I’m looking forward to about this experience and how it will be mutually beneficial for both Odyssey Theatre and me, I would like to take a moment to thank Theatre Ontario for providing me with this incredible opportunity. The training I will receive through Odyssey Theatre will be vital as I start my career in freelance and institutional dramaturgy.

Two years ago, I made the choice to pack up my life in Vancouver and return to my roots in Ontario to begin the Master of Arts in Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy program at the University of Ottawa. In Vancouver, I founded a small theatre company, Resounding Scream Theatre, with a colleague, and we began self-producing original work. I also had the opportunity to work with a number of independent theatre companies in Vancouver. However, the professional experience I was acquiring did not quite satisfy my creative goals. I was gaining valuable insight into the daily functioning of professional theatre companies, but I was also hoping for a hands-on professional dramaturgical experience.

With that in mind, I decided to take the leap into a Masters of Dramaturgy. Over the course of my graduate studies, my goal has been to make professional connections and begin to establish myself as a professional Dramaturg, while gaining valuable skills at an academic level. As I am currently in the final phases of my degree, I am eager to gain practical experience. The timing with Odyssey and their New Play Creation program couldn’t be better! With Odyssey Theatre, I will be able to experience and contribute to dramaturgical programs within a professional company.

Over the next few months, I will help guide the new scripts selected for Odyssey’s summer production from workshops into rehearsal and production. Once the production is underway, I will help prepare the New Play Creation program for next year by connecting with playwrights to instigate the submission and selection process. Not only will I be able to experience the role of dramaturgy within a professional company, but I will also be able to put my thesis research into practice. I have been researching the methodologies of dramatic adaptation, and, luckily, every play in this year’s New Play Creation program is an adaptation of an earlier text! I am also familiar with Odyssey’s unique style of physical theatre as I studied various from of mask and movement in my undergraduate studies. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to test my knowledge and contribute my skills in a professional setting.

In addition, I would like to recognize the unique opportunity of working with Odyssey Theatre as I complete my graduate studies and prepare for a career in dramaturgy. I look forward to applying my skills in a professional setting and contributing to a program that I find stimulating and rewarding. When I complete my residency with Odyssey as well as my degree, I will feel confident to pursue my goals as a dramaturg in Ontario.

Neil Silcox is training in directing with Matjash Mrozewski at Canadian Stage (Toronto)

Neil Silcox
In his own words: "As Mat has set our
production in Italy I decided to travel
there to get a sense of the country. Here
I am reading the play in front of the
Leaning Tower of Piza
(which has apparently been fixed.)"

I’m getting pretty excited.

In a week I’ll begin assistant directing The Comedy of Errors under director Matjash Mrozewski as a part of Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park.

I’m excited because Shakespeare in High Park is one of my favourite Toronto theatre experiences—one I’ve been going to since I first landed in Toronto from London. There’s something magic about outdoor Shakespeare, about sitting on the earth, eating and drinking with friends, and then seeing some great theatre.

I’m excited to be working with one of Canada’s leading theatre companies; seeing the intricacies of how they create top-notch plays. I have done many great shows, with many great companies, but none as big, complex and high-profile as Canadian Stage.

I’m excited for all I have to learn from my director, Matjash Mrozewski. Mat is a dynamic, engaging director who has a style all his own. Coming from an illustrious career as a choreographer, where he worked with companies across Canada and around the world, Mat brings to his shows a sense of energy and composition that I rarely see in plays. I hope to learn how he composes for the stage, how he manages to balance so well the big picture with the small details. I also hope to learn how he synthesizes inspiration from multiple sources—images, music, film, poetry and prose—and turns them into a vision uniquely his own.

I’m excited because I feel like I have a lot to offer this production. My own expertise in the language and history of Shakespeare will hopefully be an asset to Mat and to our cast. There’s probably going to be a fair amount of stage combat in the piece and I’m hoping my training in the discipline will be a help.

But although I’m feeling pretty excited, I’m also a little nervous. I’m worried that I’ll fall short of what’s expected of me, that when Mat, or a cast member, or a designer turns to me for an answer I won’t be properly prepared. I’m worried that people will think that I’m out of my depth, that I don’t belong.

The work on this project has already begun. I’m already compiling reference resources, meeting with Mat, and re-familiarizing myself with the play and its history; and although my fears are still there, the further I get into the work the more excited I am to finally step into that first read and start building a show.

Rose Napoli is training in producing with Rona Waddington and Ingrid Bjornson at St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival (Prescott)

Rose Napoli
I am very excited to get going on my mentorship with the St Lawrence Shakespeare Festival!  I have met with Rona (and spoken via email with Ingrid) and we have outlined the major duties to be completed in my five weeks of training.  We will be focusing on building web presence.  I already have a session booked with a web designer to learn the ins and outs of programming and web design.  We have had a brainstorming session and ways to build the presence of the festival on social media (and at the same time, teaching me to be more proficient with it.)

In addition to this work, Rona and I will be working on strategic three-year planning.  Rona has requested that I read plays and formulate my suggestion for the 2016 season (she will be meeting with me prior to the board to present the season in June.)  We are planning to work on the three-year planning model together as well. This will likely be the majority of my mentorship (as I currently have no context in long-term theatre planning.)  I will also be attending all board and production meetings with Rona and Ingrid while in Prescott.

Another portion of my training with Ingrid will focus on media – strategies in building media contacts, how to broaden the awareness of the festival to media in neighbouring cities (Montreal, Ottawa).  This will be hugely beneficial for me in my own work.

I am looking forward to getting started!

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2015.

Read more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

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

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