Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Matthew Thomas Walker

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Matthew Thomas Walker will train in directing with Kim Collier at Bard on the Beach / Electric Company in Vancouver BC

(April 11, 2016)  A week tomorrow I fly to Vancouver where we begin rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet at Bard on the Beach. Though this will begin the formal part of my apprenticeship, Kim has been very generous and inclusive in looping me in at multiple points throughout her detailed visioning process and prep work.

I first met Kim last summer when I enrolled in her class as part of the Volcano Conservatory, which focused on collaborative creation techniques. I found all aspects of Kim’s class inspiring and was particularly interested in the fact that she was testing out how to apply creation techniques to Romeo and Juliet. Her eventual production was nearly ten months away, but she was already stewing on the material and wanted to dig in with us during our 3-day workshop. This was valuable to us because the material had value to her. Rather than working on a text arbitrarily selected just for training, we could engage with Kim as she tested experimental approaches to the text, searching to uncover its relationship with the Here and Now.  The class was made up of a wide range of artists (in age, background, experience, discipline) and Kim valued every voice, encouraging us to play boldly with the material from day one of the workshop.  I found this to be a unique and exciting use of a training workshop.  Instead of speaking in hypotheticals we were welcomed in and included in an actual process.   As an emerging director who believes greatly in a collaborative approach, I found it very inspiring to see an artist as accomplished and respected as Kim really listening and making use of the other voices in the room.  This lead me to reach out to her regarding mentorship.

It been six  years since I shifted my career from acting towards directing but this is my first time Assistant Directing. Knowing that this role can bring a wide and varying range of responsibilities I have been curious to figure out how best to support Kim throughout the various stages of her work. At first, I thought I would be happy to fade into the background and just observe her process, but Kim made it clear from the get-go that she would be making frequent use of me and relying on my voice much like in her workshop. She’s made me feel like a valuable part of the team, which has inspired me to invest greatly in the project.

To date our meetings have focused largely on design, staging and scene analysis. Through her many months of working with the material she has built a very strong and detailed personal relationship with the piece as well as a clear design vision. She swings easily from speaking of the play’s themes on the largest most philosophical level, to relating them to her personal day to day. It is a remarkable skill that allows her to communicate and inspire the other artists on the team. She believes powerfully in what Theatre can achieve, and asks us all to invest at that level. It’s very exciting to take part in.   While sitting in so far the best way I’ve been able to contribute and support Kim has been through letting her know how I experience her choices from the outside, almost as a test audience.  I try to articulate what the design or staging choices feel like for me as an observer, then we discuss how they fit with her vision and aims for the piece. As rehearsals begin, I’m sure this role will continue evolving.  I’m really looking forward to hitting the ground running and seeing how Kim’s many months of prep work will inform her work in the room.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 3, 2016.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment