Thursday, 29 October 2015

Uncovering Hidden Treasures Within the Play: Advanced Directing at Theatre Ontario’s Summer Theatre Intensive

by Kate O’Hearn

Fifth and final post in a series from participant’s at this year’s Summer Theatre Intensive

The 40 Year old “Summer Camp’ Virgin. That was me! As a 40th birthday present to myself, I enrolled in summer camp! But not just any ol’ summer camp. This was Advanced Directing: Uncovering Hidden Treasures Within the Play, with Virginia Reh! The only prerequisites: substantial directing experience (check), and a play to be directed in the near future which I wanted the opportunity to workshop (check). Armed with script in hand and a tad of trepidation, I made the trek to Waterloo.

I’ve been acting and directing for quite a while. I wanted to explore new ways of thinking about scripts, and thought it was time for a brush up and a challenge. I certainly knew how to hold auditions and block a show—or did I?  I knew how to work well with set, sound and lighting designers to develop a cohesive vision—or did I? I most certainly knew how to get the most out of my actors to ensure a successful and enjoyable run on stage—or (gulp) did I? Would I come out of the week questioning all I knew and trusted in my ability as a director? Would I lose my confidence? Would I feel out of my league in Virginia’s class? Did I really qualify as an ‘advanced’ director?

My hopes for that summer camp adventure were to develop my skills as a director, but the experience became so much more than that! Each day, three other theatre misfits and myself were given the opportunity, under Virginia’s superb facilitation, to workshop our scripts. We were encouraged to work on problem areas, exploring casting, set, and blocking challenges. Consistently bouncing ideas off one another, we took turns performing in each other’s scenes. As actors, turned directors, turned actors again, this collaboration gave us an amazing new perspective on our chosen plays.  

Did my vision occasionally clash with that of my classmates? Yes. Did I get frustrated? Yes. Did I, at points, want to throw in the towel? Yes. During class, were there raw eggs smashed on the ground, rocks thrown, all of us bound together with elastic bands? You may think I’m joking, but yes, yes, and yes. We all know that creativity and growth can be messy.  Virginia taught us to question ourselves, and to accept that, while there are no right or wrong ways to direct a production–there are always more effective ones.
Script work at the Advanced Directing
course at Theatre Ontario's Summer
Theatre Intensive.

I had fantastic conversations each day with other Theatre Ontario participants, and it is truly reassuring to learn that I am not alone in my experiences or in my quest for self-improvement. Nothing worth having comes easily, and this experience reiterated that to me. Did I grow as a director? Yes. Did I overcome my fears and rise to the occasion? Yes. Did this course, through Virginia’s tutelage, guidance and knowledge, meet my expectations?  No—it exceeded them in more ways than I can express. They say you never forget your first visit to summer camp. I know I won’t.

Kate O’Hearn will be performing in Markham Little Theatre’s upcoming production of The Heiress November 18-21, 2015. And the production of her chosen script, Assisted Living by Deirdre O'Connor, will be performed February 10-13, 2016. Both performances to take place at The Flato Markham Theatre.

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