Tuesday, 9 August 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 trained in directing with Kim Collier at Bard on the Beach / Electric Company in Vancouver BC.

(July 13, 2016) A few weeks have now passed since Romeo and Juliet opened and I’ve been back in Toronto. I feel very grateful for the experience I’ve had mentoring with Kim and working with the greater community at Bard on the Beach. The show turned out beautifully and was very inspiring to take part in bringing to life. Having support from Theatre Ontario allowed me to dive fully into the work in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

Last summer, my impulse to seek Kim’s mentorship came from a readiness to widen my expectations as an artist. After just a few hours in studio with her during the Volcano Conservatory she’d already succeeded in pushing me to dream bigger, and left me with many questions about how she ignites this through her leadership.

Since starting to direct, I’ve taken pride in using the constraints presented to me as a positive force for creation. There is however, always a risk that constraints can lead you off the purpose of the art. Working with Kim was a great way to start testing the boundaries of my process. She achieves the impact that she does by pushing and expanding and making room for what she feels a project can achieve, while inspiring those around her to keep up and match her efforts. Her mission for the art drives all choices: how this piece of theatre can affect positive change within those who experience it. On occasions throughout the process when we’d run up against barriers that tempted the team to settle for more practical solutions, Kim would hold onto the ideal, return to her prep work and how that moment tied into the greater action of the show and argue for its purpose. And with that belief, we would push through until we solved it. It was very satisfying to take part in because it was driven by an agreed-upon purpose.
Pre-R&J warm-up at Bard on the Beach

This attitude has served her in both her creative work itself and her approach to the industry. On many occasions she spoke about going to the arts councils and boards, appealing for reform. What I learned from being a part of her process is that she’s been successful in this, not just because she pushes but because she pushes from an impulse of finding a ‘better’ for the greater whole, not just for herself. ‘Dreaming bigger’ will fail if the growth is driven by a selfish or empty need (more audience, more revenue, or more acclaim.) She is an idealist who is dreaming on all our behalf and pushing us to expect more, instead of settling for status quo practicality.

Another thing I loved about working with Kim is that discussions of work and life seemed to weave without division. In mentoring with her, I feel I learn as much about how to live as I learn about how to work. In early meetings, I shared with her that I would be getting married this summer. This started an ongoing conversation about love, and the act of standing with someone as you move through time. Analysis of scenes from Romeo and Juliet would spill over into our own personal histories and futures. In many ways I feel she prepared me as much for the future of my relationship as she has for my future as a director. Amidst the many challenges of a life in the arts, this is its greatest benefit. Our lives and our experiences are our currency.

Related Reading:

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