Thursday, 10 November 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 training in directing with Allen MacInnis at the Grand Theatre in London

(September 30, 2016) So admittedly there is not tons to report as we are finally just starting rehearsals for Joni Mitchell: River, but it's been so great to be in on the planning of the set. (The costumes are contemporary and will be created on the actors once rehearsals have started.)

But one of the things I've been wanting to experience was the meetings about the creation of costumes and set. I was able to be in the first meeting about the set with Dana Osborne (Set and costumes) and Allen MacInnis (director) which started with idea and impressions about Joni Mitchell's music and themes—the  openness and space of the prairies (where she came from), landscape of places Joni have lived, freedom, love, loss. Then the following meetings over the course of about 3 or 4 months where the space changed and morphed. Dana would bring in a model and Allen would give his thoughts and gut reactions. And Dana would change and play with the movable pieces to accommodate or suggest.

I have to say, Allen MacInnis could not be a more spectacular mentor. He has invited my opinion and thoughts at every stage along the way. Opinions about colour of wood, floor, how many "islands", etc. And he has been available and open to any question, no matter how seemingly obvious or convoluted. 

About 4 or 5 weeks before we started rehearsals, I asked Allen if there was anything in particular he might want me to do in getting ready to start. He suggested I go through the "chapters" of the show (8 groupings of Joni's songs that make up the show) and see what my thoughts were about the lighting, as we were about to have meeting with the lighting designer. This was a great idea since planning the lighting is something we are never a part of as actors. I had a look through the script and realized I had no point of reference of how to talk about or think about the lighting so I went with what I know: what is the feel of each sequence and what story does it tell.

I brought my observations to Allen and we had a great discussion about the nature of many of the songs. And Allen said discussing the feeling or mood or impressions is a way that many designers like to work. It leaves them creativity. And he assured me that more vocabulary will come but you can't teach instinct. Love it.

This also led to a wonderful discussion about the nature of directing. How instinct plays such a large part. How you must plan as much as you can and then be ready to let it all go if some other magic is in the room telling you other options. Magic being the actors’ instincts, something you are seeing happening as directors, etc. Once again, Allen was incredibly helpful in terms of actual and energetic information about directing.

Along the way there have been many instances of comments and mini-discussions, too short to mention but it's all made me very excited to get into rehearsal mode.

Peace out ...till the next and last blog.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2017.

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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