Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Thom Allison

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

Thom Allison is training in directing with Allen MacInnis at the Grand Theatre in London.

(April 19, 2016)  I know everyone starts by saying they’re excited about starting whatever new adventure they are starting with the help of their grant from Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program and it’s because they are and should be. But what I feel isn’t just excited. First of all, I’m so thrilled Theatre Ontario has given me this support. It was one of the many signs I’ve been getting that I’m opening up the right doors.

I have the opportunity to be mentored by Allen MacInnis (Artistic Director of Young People’s Theatre in Toronto) as he directs a production of Joni Mitchell: River—a theatrical revue he created approximately fifteen years ago. It will go into rehearsal September 29 and open October 21 at the Grand Theatre in London.

While I was at theatre school in the early 90’s (I was veeeerrrrryyyy young at the time - ahem), I was directing shows on the periphery with my classmates as the actors. My career as an actor took off rather soon and so I was off and running. I didn’t have the time to expand my director’s chops but I kept coming back to it, assisting directors like Marti Maraden (at Canadian Stage) and Jackie Maxwell (at The Shaw Festival) over the years.

I’ve been an actor for 34 years and I’ve felt myself being pulled to other artistic places. The last ten years has included lots coaching and teaching as well as a full acting career.  I love working with actors and I want to be able to tell bigger stories than just my character’s.  My main goals of this mentorship are to learn, though the journey of a director I believe in and trust, what a director’s whole journey is from accepting the show to opening night—how he expresses his own personal taste and ideas through his interpretation of the material, how he plans the technical aspects with his team (lighting, sets, costumes, sound, etc.), how you create a schedule (both overall and daily), what really happens at levels sessions, etc.

Allen MacInnis has a firm hand on his directorial vision while always welcoming input and ideas from his performers and his team.  I have loved working with Allen every time. He’s creative and excited and joyful and fiercely intelligent. That is the kind of director I want to be. What I’m really looking forward to learning from Allen is everything I mentioned above but also how he manages people [Allen is so loved and respected by everyone] in a way that always seems to keep them on his side. I want to be able to pick his brain about and watch how he directs actors with different experience levels.  

When Allen did the show originally 2001, I was one of the actors so I have the advantage of having been inside the emotional exploration of the show.  One of my strengths—so I’m told—is my textual/musical exploration and interpretation. In a show like this, a theatrical revue, that will be something very valuable. Because the show is being re-conceived, I will be there to act as a sounding board for Allen, as well as someone to offer a rich history of digging into the theatrical language of songs in a practical way.  I can offer playable angles as alternatives as well as be another eye as Allen is developing the physical life of the performers which will be completely created as we rehearse.

Okay, now I’ll say it …. I’m excited.  More to come.  

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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