Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Lisa Karen Cox

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

Lisa Karen Cox is training in directing with Ravi Jain.

(April 22, 2016)  Well, what a magical time to be in the theatre.

For a variety of reasons, Ravi Jain, my mentor, and I decided to deviate from our training plan. We had planned for me to spend three weeks in Montreal working on Why Not Theatre and Complicit√©’s co-production of Like Mother, Like Daughter. But, upon further discussion, we decided that I would assist Ravi while he was directing Salt-Water Moon. What a gift!

A Dora Award-winning director, Ravi has an incredible reputation for creating a room with a lot of trust among the creative team and actors. He has a mysterious capacity to have authority in collaborative situations. In October, I worked with Ravi as the Assistant Director on We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 at The Theatre Centre. It was an incredible experience to watch the seasoned director at work. Witnessing Ravi’s unique ability to move the creative team and actors forward cohesively and collaboratively was eye-opening. This trajectory continued as we delved into the world of Salt-Water Moon.

Salt-Water Moon was the height of a collaborative work. With only a lighting designer, no set, and no costume designer, Ravi encouraged everyone in the room to have a voice and to share their ideas. In such an open room, there is the great potential for chaos, but under Ravi’s direction and leadership, the room had an incredible sense of calm, focus and joy… so much joy. The joy that Ravi brings to the work seems to be one of the key ingredients to the secret sauce of his direction.

Salt-Water Moon at Factory Theatre
Kawa Ada, Mayko Nguyen and Ania Soul
Photo by Joseph Michael Photography
After identifying clear goals together, Ravi was very generous with me in the room. For me, this really speaks to his confidence and fearlessness in his directing. I had the opportunity to work very closely with the musician Ania Soul on the production. Ania had the task of scoring the show as well as delivering the stage directions. Ravi coached me as I worked with Ania, suggesting strategies and exercises to do with her in addition to ensuring that the musical vocabulary that was build supported the piece.

Ravi was exceptionally detailed in his work with the actors. He has the ability to hear every detail of the voice, and the see the entire body, down to the tip of the index finger. While never giving the dreaded line reading, Ravi simply expected extreme precision, specificity and detail in every word and every move. This type of detailed work seemed to create more freedom for the actors—like Ravi was a gardener: the text was the seed, the space the soil and his direction was the water and sun that feed the ever growing plant over time.

I am curious to see how this incredible director will attack his next production: Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God at the Shaw Festival, a fast-paced, stylized, ensemble piece. Luckily for me, I will sitting next to him at the table.

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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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