Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Taking the Stage at Next Generation Showcase 2017

by Rachel Kennedy, Professional Theatre and Education Manager

Over the past few months I have been working alongside the rest of the staff here at Theatre Ontario to organize and prepare for the 2017 Next Generation Showcase. This event is a big one—with nearly 250 early-career performers making their audition debut for an audience of experienced directors, producers, agents, casting directors and artistic directors. Needless to say, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts was buzzing with excitement for the entire two-day event. 

From January 15-16th, nearly 200 industry professionals took their seats in the Michael Young Theatre and had the pleasure of meeting the bright-eyed, talented performers in this year’s Showcase. The featured actors came from schools and training programs all across Ontario, as well as groups from Quebec, Alberta and even London, UK. 

Staff preparing packages for industry audience
On Sunday morning at 9:30am, George Brown Theatre School kicked off the performances, followed by Sheridan College/University of Toronto Mississauga, National Theatre School, York University’s MFA and BFA programs, University of Windsor, Humber College, Ryerson University and London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Needless to say, our first day was packed with talent and the excitement was palpable! 

As our industry guests filed out of the Michael Young Theatre they were greeted with a cocktail reception and had the opportunity to meet many of the students whom they had seen audition throughout the day, as well as those who were yet to take the stage on Monday. Our networking event had begun! After a bit of mixing and mingling Derek Boyes, Resident Artist at Soulpepper Theatre Company, and Bruce Pitkin, Executive Director here at Theatre Ontario, made brief speeches thanking the volunteers, industry guests, and of course the sponsor of the night, Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts. In addition to cocktails and chats in the Atrium, Soulpepper had also arranged a “Trade Show” in the TD Studio where students could chat about opportunities for early-career actors with representatives from the Stratford Festival, Theatre By The Bay, Factory Theatre, Toronto Association of Acting Studios, Howland Theatre and Pleiades Theatre.
Attendees at the networking event

At 7:30, the crowd worked their way back into the Michael Young Theatre for a panel discussion about “The Business of Casting” moderated by Elley-Ray. Joining Elley-Ray on stage were panelists Natalie Ackers, David Connolly, Emma Laird, Marjorie Chan and Millie Tom. I was lucky enough to catch the entire discussion, which featured stories about their most memorable auditions, what work they find inspiring, and the need to ensure that diverse stories and voices are being heard across the industry. There was an overarching message of support, assuring the emerging actors that the people they audition for are on their side, or as Elley-Ray so eloquently summed it up, “We want you to win. We need you to win.” Natalie Ackers even quipped, “I am the silent cheerleader—I love watching people audition!” The discussion was honest, candid, and from the heart. I cannot think of a better way to have ended our first day of auditions. To hear more about this fantastic event, I encourage you to check out our blog post by Haley Dwolinsky, Showcase participant and recent graduate from Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts (see link below.)

Students warming-up for their Showcase auditions
Day #2 started at 9:30am on Monday morning as industry professionals began rolling in—including a few of the panelists who had stayed late the previous night to answer additional audience questions! Amid all the early-morning excitement, our New Faces group took the stage at 10:00am, including the University of Toronto, Thorneloe University/Laurentian University, and Independent Artists. As the day continued, we saw Canadore College, University of Alberta, the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, St. Clair College, St. Lawrence College, Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, and Sheridan College. Once again, the final school of the day was followed by a networking event which invited industry guests to mix with participants from the auditions, this time sponsored by Sheridan College. The Atrium filled once more with excitement as people milled about, introducing themselves and listening to each other’s experiences from the previous two days. Once again it became clear how supportive the theatre community is in this province, and how rewarding it is to be a part of events like this which introduce newcomers to industry pros. After a quick clean-up and a thank-you to the Young Centre staff, Bruce and I packed up his car and headed back to the office to drop off any remaining materials. When I got home, I took a deep breath, poured a glass of wine and thought… “Let’s do it all again!” 

"The talk back after the audition was great! I loved that you took the time to answer our questions and give more insight to the industry." - Participant
"The opportunity to see so many young actors in a single day is the most valuable aspect of the showcase. As an Artistic Director whose company is based outside of the GTA, the Next Generation Showcase is a great tool to assist with casting and to learn about the quality of emerging theatre artists who are graduating from training programs." - Industry Attendee

Related Reading

If you missed the 2017 Next Generation Showcase but want to get involved next year, please contact Rachel Kennedy at programs@theatreontario.org

No comments:

Post a Comment