Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Next Generation Showcase Welcomes New Grads into the Professional Theatre Community

By Rebecca Ballarin, Professional Theatre and Education Manager

One of Theatre Ontario’s largest annual events is Next Generation Showcase; an event which I had the challenging (and rewarding!) task of organizing this year. Two days, two hundred and fifty-four emerging artists, and close to two hundred industry professionals in three different spaces within one of Artscape’s newest buildings, Daniels Spectrum—I think you would have been hard-pressed to find more energy in any other building in the city. 

Networking Party at Next Generation Showcase
Next Generation Showcase provides an opportunity for students graduating from acting programs across Ontario (as well as Montreal, Alberta, and London, UK) to audition for industry professionals including casting directors, film and theatre directors, agents, and artistic directors. Having just graduated from the University of Toronto last April myself, I know that no matter how engaged in the theatre community you try to be as a student, “being a student” often consumes most of your time. And though everyone will attest to how welcoming and supportive the theatre community is, leaving a training institution is daunting, and there is a period of adjustment that everyone goes through when they do. Theatre Ontario strives to provide services and support for emerging artists who are making this transition, and Showcase is where it all begins.  

Bright and early on Sunday, January 17th, Canadore College took to the stage in Native Earth’s Aki Studio Theatre, followed by students from Ryerson University, George Brown, York, the National Theatre School, University of Alberta, Sheridan College/University of Toronto Mississauga, Humber College, and University of Windsor. Following the day’s auditions, students were invited to attend a ‘networking party’; an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments, meet other artists from other schools, and talk to those who were in the audience for their performances. A similar event took place on Monday night, and we were joined on both nights by representatives from the SummerWorks Leadership Intensive Program, Canadian Actors Equity Association, ACTRA, The Actor’s Fund, and the Toronto Association of Acting Studios. 

Our Showcase Panelists on the actor's career
Cole Alvis (moderator), Rebecca Perry,
Ted Dykstra, Kevin Hanchard, Grace Lynn Kung
Following the Sunday night networking party, students filed back into the theatre—this time as audience members—for a panel discussion that focused on dissecting the actor’s career. Moderated by theatre creator and artistic leader Cole Alvis, panelists Ted Dykstra, Kevin Hanchard, Grace Lynn Kung, and Rebecca Perry shared their experiences working in theatre, film and television, wearing different hats within the industry, creating their own opportunities for work, and balancing their personal and artistic needs, as well as their opinions about the future of Canadian theatre, and equity and diversity in the industry. I was able to sit in on most of the discussion and what really stood out to me was how different each artist’s journey had been; if someone had been expecting to walk away from the event with a roadmap of how they should build their career, they’d have been disappointed. The panelists really emphasized the importance of being part of a community of artists while also being able to focus on yourself; your personal goals and how to get there in a way that is healthy and fulfilling for you. If you’re interested in reading more about the panel discussion, check out the blog post from one of the students in attendance (link below)! 

On Monday morning students from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts took to the stage, followed by those from the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, and those in our New Faces category (including students from Thornloe University, the University of Toronto Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies). Music theatre performance programs from St. Lawrence College, St. Clair College, the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, and Sheridan College wrapped up the day. 

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who made this event possible; our stage manager Lynette, all the volunteers who helped keep things running smoothly, our sponsors Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts and Sheridan College, our presenting partner Native Earth Performing Arts, Glenn Hall and Casting Workbook, our caterers Les Louises Fine Foods, the staff at Daniels Spectrum and the Collective of Black Artists, and, of course, the rest of the staff here at Theatre Ontario.

This year marked the 22nd year of Showcase, and I am excited to see how this event will continue to evolve in response to shifts within the industry in years to come.

Some comments from Showcase participants and attendees:

“I learned a lot about the industry professionals who come to the showcase and learned how the make contact with people they are interested in.”
“The panel was fantastic! Loved that different perspectives and career paths were represented”
“The opportunity for our students to present themselves to professionals in the industry is an unparalleled experience. To be able to do so and meet peers from other institutions is an added bonus. The networking party and the panel are such important aspects in getting a feel for the community to which these young artists aspire."

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