Thursday, 20 April 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Valerie Hawkins

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

Valerie Hawkins will train in direction with Jillian Keiley at the Stratford Festival

(March 13, 2017) Well the final pre-production meeting for Bakkhai at the Stratford Festival is fast approaching. In three days I will be sitting in a rehearsal hall at the Avon Theatre amidst some of the best creative, production and design minds in this country! To say I'm excited is an understatement. Then Tuesday morning I meet the cast for the first time...I know from my thirty years past professional experience as an actor what it's like to be one of them and I guess those "first day of school jitters" just never go away no matter what side of the table you're on.

My mentor Jill Keiley, and director of this massive project, drinks green tea and I'm hoping she won't think I'm brown-nosing too much when I show up with one for her...have to start on the right foot and all!

I want to say a huge thank you to her for agreeing to be my mentor and to her assistant Charlotte Gowdy who has already been a huge help! Of course none of this could be possible without the support of Theatre Ontario and the Ontario Arts Council—I’m very grateful.

It's been very exciting to be included in some of the final design discussions and decisions over the past week or so and also being able to do some hands on editing for the final "actor's script"—something that had not even occurred to me as an important aspect of a director's job. Jill likes to work with a clean script wiped of previous stage directions etc so there are no pre-conceived ideas about them...I think that's brilliant and as an actor have often wished I could have "unread" some emotional reaction expressed from some first production script. Really makes sense to me!

One of the big challenges for me on this project is going to be that I'll have to juggle day to day rehearsals with cancer treatment. Sometimes chemotherapy days really kick my butt so I may have to spread out my stamina by doing half some ways this is better because it means I can stay with the project longer. This being said, I am already incredibly thankful to have this creative outlet! It's really wonderful to not have the Cancer pulling all focus!

I'm especially looking forward to seeing how Jill works with the, albeit newly adapted, classical text. I'm also curious to see how she will work with incorporating the new music into the staging and hearing how all the choral intricacies come together. I can't believe how lucky I am to be in the room with a team of this caliber right out of the gate! I hope it bodes well for a long future life exploring a new path as a director. How wonderful that I get to stay at home to live work and heal in beautiful Stratford.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 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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