by Rachel Kennedy, Professional Theatre and Education Manager
I’ve been excited about this year’s intensive courses since murmurings of a new partnership started buzzing around last fall, so please accept my apologies now for the number of exclamation marks that are likely to follow in this blog post…
Theatre Ontario’s Summer Intensive is coming to Stratford!!! (You’ve been warned…)
For our 41st annual Summer Theatre Intensive, Theatre Ontario has partnered with Off the Wall Stratford Artists’ Alliance and will be offering courses out of their home-base at local arts hub, Factory163. If you are not already familiar with either of these organizations I encourage you to visit their websites (linked below) and take a look at everything they have to offer. For those in the know, you will recognize them as state-of-the-art training providers in theatrical production, nestled into a gorgeous renovated factory building that has focused their efforts on creating an environmentally friendly and sustainable centre for large-scale events and arts offices. On my first visit to Factory163 last year it became immediately clear why our executive director, Bruce Pitkin, had been intrigued by the idea of partnering with these companies.
A quick tour through the facilities at Off The Wall took us through areas like their welding shop and paint studio as well as storage spaces filled with past creations including costumes, masks, set pieces and props for various shows. Each piece had a story behind it and our hosts from Off the Wall were happy to share many of them with us, bringing the space to life and giving us a glimpse into the years of students and ideas that they have inspired. Even as we travelled upstairs to take a look at their studios and offices, costumes and props continued to decorate the hallways. From giant feathered birds to old photos of Stratford Festival alumni, this building breathes creativity into every corner. I was hooked!
This partnership between Theatre Ontario and Off The Wall allows us to create a training hub for artists working both onstage and behind the scenes, and encourages participants to connect with new people from disciplines they may not have had access to otherwise. A big part of the Summer Intensive experience in the past has been the community building and relationships that are born out of having so many creative minds in one place. This year is sure to build on that communal environment with the introduction of so many new production artists to the mix. Some courses, like Peggy Coffey’s mask performance intensive, will even be intersecting directly with counterparts in Off the Wall’s mask creation class where students in both areas will come together to see how one side’s work affects the other. This creates even more room for meaningful connections among participants!
|Closing night at the 2016 Summer Theatre Intensive|
All of this is not to say that we haven’t faced some challenges while planning for this year’s intensive. We have strayed from our usual offering of an all-inclusive package and opted for a course fee covering the class, lunch and dinner for each participant, thereby allowing everyone to choose their own accommodations from a handful of discounted options which we hope will better suit a range of price-points and bring more financial accessibility to our programming. In addition to this, Factory163 has been supportive of our goal to maintain communal spaces for participants and has generously offered to leave its doors open for rehearsals and group gatherings each evening. So no matter where you’re laying your head, there will be lots of time to get together with other participants each day!
As Off the Wall’s executive director Michele Boniface explained in a recent press release, quoted in the recent Stratford Beacon Herald article about the upcoming partnership, “Stratford is well-known for its important place in Canadian theatre and is increasingly recognized for the diversity of arts and artists in the community. Our students really will be working in a creative incubator.” Add to the mix our annual events like play readings and visits to local theatre companies or artist hot-spots, and I couldn’t see a better way to spend a week (or two) this August! So the only remaining question is… will I be seeing you there?!
For more information about the 2017 Summer Theatre Intensive please contact Rachel Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website.