Thursday, 21 April 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Elizabeth Thomas

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

Elizabeth Thomas will train in directing with Tanja Jacobs on The Model Apartment at Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company in Toronto

(April 9, 2016) If only my professors had warned me that you actually had to write responses in the Real World, I might have tried to be better at them. Flashbacks to university, half an hour before class: open notebook, greasy hair, chai tea. Go.

The first emotion that comes to me is relief. Relief that timing worked out, and that my grant could come through. Gratitude, to Theatre Ontario for believing in the opportunities this project affords me. Gratitude for Tanja, my dear friend and mentor, who reached out to me months ago and asked me what I was doing. To all the people, my parents, relatives, friends and strangers who helped set me up in Toronto. Thank you. 

The second emotion, quickly following, is fear. This is uncharted territory for me, not only creatively but personally. Contemporary work, without the safety net of a couple hundred years of productions and thought makes for a far more uncertain production. There is something comfortable about slipping into an old classic. Many of the big decisions have already been made, and the pleasure comes from teasing out specific details. Work that relates directly to our time and most recent history, like The Model Apartment, becomes trickier. The more I begin to sink into this project, the more I am aware of how trauma interacts with everyday life, as well as the reality that a story about the Holocaust will be very close for members of our audience. The responsibility of this story and the realities of these characters is daunting.

And transit. Really. Subways. For someone who’s never lived more than a fifteen-minute walk from anything I wanted to get to, two hours of commuting is mildly incomprehensible. (And I must say, after a lifetime of small-town living and four years on the east coast, the fact that strangers aren’t immediately invested in what I’m doing at that moment and the course of my life is unnerving, but something I could definitely get used to.)

Luckily, underneath the fear, a third emotion begins to wiggle its way into the surface, similar in colour, texture, and shape to the first. It sounds like the voices of those I am most grateful too. It’s a barrage of folks telling me I’ll be fine, that I know how to do this. That I have over prepared, (which can probably be a thing, when you know things like the most popular car in 1988 was the Ford Fiesta) and that this dedication to work will be my greatest contribution. I love to work. I am happiest when I am busy. When I am given a project, it takes up almost all of my life. I have been singing crooners and jingles from the play every day for the past three months. I dream in research. Everything is a book or a webpage, citations abound. I feel like even my hair has gotten bigger, absorbing the eighties one follicle at a time. I am overcome by a force of nature that is THE PLAY.
And then, in an intake of breath, I lay everything down. I have readied the scaffolding, laid out the ground plan. But, like Lola, stepping into a shadow of her future home, I won’t know until I get there what colours will be best. The rust, or the avocado?

On Monday, rehearsal begins. Strange and familiar, it is my favourite place to be. The dust will settle, and we will make sense of it, together.

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.

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