Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Dana Fradkin

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

Dana Fradkin is training in directing with Joel Ivany at Against the Grain Theatre in Toronto

Joel Ivany
It’s Friday, April 15th and I just booked tickets to see Carmen at Canadian Opera Company. I’m so excited! It’s Joel’s directorial debut at COC after years of working as assistant director and the fabulous reviews are just pouring in! I first worked with Joel Ivany when I played a clown in COC’s La Boheme in 2009 and he was assistant director. Six years later, after following his varied and dynamic career, I approached him about working as a movement consultant in his own theatre company, Against the Grain’s contemporary dance version of Handel’s Messiah last December. He said yes! What a great experience it was to be part of such a beautiful show and talented company. Joel constantly amazes me with his absolute commitment, talent, joie de vivre, and kindness. He knows how to work exceptionally hard while always having a good time and making everything feel effortless. Like showing up in a Superman costume at the Messiah closing party. It does not surprise me at all that the Toronto Star called him one of the ten Toronto artists to watch in 2016. I am so honoured to know him and absolutely humbled that he is interested in mentoring me.

Joel’s constantly re-inventing Opera and the theatre world and the idea of assisting him and learning more about his exceptionally imaginative mind, deeply excites me. He’s not afraid to take risks and I’m thrilled to assist in bringing more movement, physical creation and uniqueness to the world of Opera and to Toronto. I co-founded the theatre company, Keystone Theatre, about eight years ago, and we’ve created three original productions. As we continue to try to grow Keystone, we’ve hit many roadblocks along the way. Taking risks is not always easy in Toronto, as the fear of failure is always lurking in the wings, but mentoring with someone fearless like Joel, I hope will give me a new outlook and bravery within my own work.

In a little over a week, I start rehearsals with Against the Grain on their newest production; A Little Too Cozy, a brand new production with a new English libretto by Joel. It presents Mozart’s comedy of manners, Cosi Fan Tutte, as a reality TV dating show, and will be performed in CBC’s Studio 42. When I first announced this mentorship on Facebook, I was amazed by the amount of love and excitement that poured in. People had already bought tickets, the buzz was already around the city, people are craving to see opera in a new way. I can’t believe I’m a part of something so unique!

To date, I’ve made most of my professional career in the world of clown and Commedia Dell’Arte. Physicality always came very easily to me but unfortunately, singing and music never did. How interesting it is that Opera has become such a part of my life. A Little Too Cozy will be my fourth opera that I’ve had the absolute luxury to work on but my first with focus on directing. The other operas include: Canadian Opera Company’s La Boheme (clown) and Die Walkure (acrobat) and my most recent endeavor as movement consultant with Against the Grain Theatre’s Messiah. Working for the opera has been a very different experience for me. I had never met any opera singers before COC and continue to be in complete awe of their vocal power and discipline. Working closely with them in Messiah, I really began to notice what an asset I was to them. There sometimes was a disconnect between their vocal stamina and their physical strength and movement and I noticed that my strong background in tumbling and fitness was a real help.

A Little Too Cozy
For A Little Too Cozy, I will lead morning warm-ups everyday to make sure singers are connected to their bodies and are staying physically strong. I will continue to focus on body alignment and assist Joel specifically in physicality. I hope to be a valuable asset to reminding singers of breath and body and to work practically with the movement and staging involved in the piece.

I went to Australia in February and went to the Sydney Opera House and saw The Pearlfishers. The whole experience was absolutely remarkable. The opera house is as beautiful as they say and the production was extraordinary. What was so interesting to me was that I was more intrigued by how they put it all together rather than wanting to be on stage performing. I wanted to know what goes in to making a production breath taking, what’s the fine balance between being able to move someone without making it too much. How do you paint the perfect picture for an audience so that they leave completely awe struck and inspired. I was awe struck and these questions remain with me. As a performer, I’ve only been one piece of the puzzle but the director is the whole puzzle. I wonder if I am capable of creating a piece as beautiful as Pearlfishers? I’m not sure yet but I know I need to give it a shot. Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is giving me a wonderful opportunity to kick-start this new goal. We start rehearsals next week, how absolutely thrilling and terrifying!

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

Learn 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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