Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Finding Confidence as a First-Time Director at our Summer Theatre Intensive

Joseph van Veen attended last year's Theatre Ontario Summer Theater Intensive in Waterloo, and took Thom Currie’s course for beginner and intermediate directors. Rebecca Ballarin, Interim Program Coordinator, interviewed Joseph about his experience at the Intensive.

Why did you decide to attend the Summer Theatre Intensive? 

I've been acting for almost thirty years and wanted to expand my experience to directing. I thought I knew what kind of director I would be, but as a first-time director I didn't know if I had the right skills, creativity, or confidence.

Did the course meet your expectations?

The course exceeded my expectations. The course was designed for beginning directors with little or no experience. The course was structured with 'lessons' from the instructor and the participants drawing on personal experiences in the morning and practical activities, exercises or projects in the afternoon. There was a lot to cover in a one-week intensive but the instructor did a fantastic job. I learned some new skills and walked away from the course with the enthusiasm and confidence to direct my first play.

What was the atmosphere like at the intensive? 

The atmosphere within a group in a specific course quickly forms a bond or camaraderie. I enjoyed the time we had together to learn from each other. One particular lesson was focused on the audition process and we were able to break out of our own group and partnered with one of the acting classes and had the students audition for us with the monologues they had been working on.

What was your favourite part of the experience?

A mock "general auditions" panel was held outside of
classroom time for the first-time actors and directors to both
experience the process.  
My favourite part of the experience would have to be the interaction we had with the acting classes. It was a brilliant idea that we came up with to host 'general auditions'. This was done at the end of the day outside of class time. The actors were given the opportunity to present the monologues they were working on in class to a panel of six directors sitting at a long table. Some of the actors commented on how intimidating the experience was but how much they learned from it. As directors we got to experience how we could process the information learned through an audition and apply it to the shows we were casting in the course.

What was the most memorable thing you learned?

One of the things that Thom Currie discussed was the importance of text work; in professional theatre a cast could spend days breaking the text. Physically breaking scenes into smaller beats and understanding different ways that text could be said by an actor. All of this adds up to more complex characters and interesting performances. I was resistant to this process, I thought "that's great for professional theater but in community theatre we don't have the luxury of time that the pros have."

However, I used this process in the first play that I directed and the cast really appreciated the time we took to do this.

How has this course positively impacted your work as a theatre artist?  

I directed my first play!
Brian Russell and Becca Willow Moss in Bedtime
at The NAGs Players, directed by Joseph van Veen

As mentioned above, Thom shared with us the importance of text work. I used this technique while directing Norm Foster's Bedtime Stories. Each actor was cast in two or three roles and commented on how much this process helped them to create multiple characters and make them each unique. I will definitely incorporate this process into my work as a director and as an actor.

Who would you recommend this course to? 

The course is ideal for beginning directors with some experience in theatre either as an actor, director or even a writer or stage manager. I think it would be a very challenging course for someone with no theatre experience at all.

Join us at Theatre Ontario's Summer Theatre Intensive

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