Thursday, 2 July 2015

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

In early-June, we checked-in with three Professional Theatre Training Program projects.

Alysse Rich is training in dramaturgy with Brian Quirt at Nightswimming in Toronto

Nightswimming's Why We Are Here! a pop-up choral event
Photo by Erin Brubacher
While I have only been working with Brian Quirt at Nightswimming for four weeks, I feel like I have learned enough for a year (or more)!  This PTTP internship started off with a bang: my first week at Nightswimming included the final production meeting for Why We Are Here! (WWAH!), the pop-up choral event which is one of the main pieces I have been supporting during my internship.  The first WWAH! performance took place the following week at the Aga Khan Museum, and since then, we have also held this event at Videofag in Kensington Market, Allan Gardens, and Fort York.

While part of my work at Nightswimming includes reading and commenting on scripts, working on the WWAH! event has exposed me to many aspects of dramaturgy that are entirely new to me.  I have been able to observe and support Brian and the team not only in the planning of this event, but I have also experienced how he works with the choral leader and resident artist during the shows to support their experiments and to help to push them further.  Audience members walk away from WWAH! feeling elated and transformed because of the singing community that grows out of each performance, and I have been so honoured to be a part of the dramaturgical team that makes that happen.

In the past few weeks, I have also participated in a six-day post-production workshop of Anita Majumdar’s Same Same But Different.  This was a fascinating experience for me, as I became part of a team that has been working together on this play for many years.  A highlight of this process for me was witnessing how Brian helped to shape the workshop, and how he worked with Anita to set the dramaturgical priorities – both the overall priorities for the workshop, as well as the goals for each day. I was fascinated by this process, and was able to contribute useful feedback from my position as an “outside eye” on the new version of the text.

Last but not least, I attended a day and a half of the PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) Conference with the Nightswimming team.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this experience, as I am more accustomed to attending academic conferences.  I was extremely impressed by the level of honesty, intellectual rigour, and openness of the community.  I had a wonderful time meeting theatre leaders from across the country, and participating in interesting discussions about equity, diversity, and new models of audience engagement.

Despite the number of events and processes I have participated in so far, I still can’t believe that I am already halfway through this internship.  I am very grateful to Brian and Rupal for inviting me to participate in all of these projects, and to Theatre Ontario for supporting this internship, which will no doubt shape the ways in which I approach dramaturgy in the future.

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

Rose Napoli
It has been a very busy couple of weeks! At the moment I write this while facing suitcases and clothes strewn around my apartment.  I am travelling to Prescott on Monday morning and am really looking forward to being in the office on a daily basis.

I have been working on a number of initiatives for SLSF. In the last week, we have launched the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival Slogan Slam, a social media campaign/contest for a new slogan. After ten days of submissions, Rona, Ingrid and I chose our winner over a Skype meeting .

I have also been preparing an extensive media list for the festival branching out into Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Kingston, Brockville, and surrounding areas.  Rona and I will be working on media packages and pitches for each of the media contacts we’ve assembled.

I’ve also been learning quite a bit about editing! I organized an informal photo shoot for the shows with a few of the actors and have been editing the art work for our website and social media outlets.

Speaking of website, I’ve had meetings with a web designer and begun familiarizing myself with the web programming SLSF currently has in place.  I have also been working away at updating the website, slowly making the aesthetic more current, and streamlining the web presence.

OH MY GOD.  So much work!

I will be really happy once I’m in Prescott as my focus can be solely on the festival!

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

Summer weather in Toronto is pretty fickle, the alternating cold downpours and sunny heat are going to make rehearsals for Comedy of Errors for Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park pretty interesting as we move from our Berkeley Street rehearsal hall (where we’ve spent the last four weeks) and move outside.

We’re halfway through our rehearsal process now, and just a month away from opening night. The last five or six weeks have been incredibly busy. Our director (and my mentor) Matjash is interested in delving far beneath the surface of this piece, and as a result I’ve clocked a lot of library hours researching geopolitics, period movement, gender roles, and countless other things. Italy in the late 19th century wasn’t something I came into this project knowing anything about, and it’s been fascinating.

I’ve also been working with Mat to collect and organize images, music, and video which will help the cast to access the world we are trying to create with Comedy of Errors. Stitching together paintings by Sargent and Boldini, music by Vivaldi, and clips from movies depicting the period, the city, or life at sea.

Because Mat comes from such an extensive dance background, and has relatively little experience with text-based theatre, I thought that I’d be spending a lot of my energy offering thoughts on the text. But I underestimated Mat’s brilliant mind, which has such a depth and breadth of understanding about the text that only rarely do I feel like I need to offer anything. Where I do feel I’m contributing the most is with my expertise in the making of theatre. Mat turns to me with questions about how the rehearsal progress should progress, the handling of the delicate actor-director relationship, and questions about the nature of outdoor theatre. Again, here Mat is excelling, and could definitely succeed without my input, but he makes me feel every day that this input is invaluable to him

That being said, I am learning so much from watching him work. Mat has a very strong vision of what he wants, and he has allowed me to see how he develops ideas and works through them before bringing them to the rehearsal room. When we did landed in the Berkeley Street rehearsal hall Mat demonstrated a real delicacy in how he brings his vision into the room. He always finds room to incorporate ideas from our cast into the show in meaningful ways. And when he takes charge and moves forward with a decision of his own, he manages to do it in such an egoless, generous way that it never feels like he’s taking control, just that he’s found a really wonderful, interesting path to follow for a bit. And when he doesn’t know what path to take, or how to handle a situation, or what to say, Mat will readily admit it with an enviable confidence.

Matjash Mrozewski discussing the challenges of
working outdoors on the first visit to High Park.
Mat has really gone out of his way to make me feel not like his subordinate, but like his peer, and this gets me excited for what the next steps of this project will be. As we move into the park, and all the elements we’ve been talking about in production meetings come into place, the process will get more and more complex. Adding on top of this the challenges that come with performing outdoors, late into the night, in Toronto’s busiest park I’m sure it will be exciting and challenging. I’m eager to find my place in all the hustle and bustle of bringing this show together.

I’ll probably need sunscreen, and a good rain jacket.

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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