Thursday, 29 June 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Thom Marriott

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 Marriott will train in artistic direction with Andorlie Hillstrom at Yellow Door Theatre Project in Virgil

(May 19, 2017) Being a theatre practitioner in any capacity is a challenge in itself. The courage it takes to commit to a life of collaboration and creation is one that few people outside of the arts fully understand—even those that support us in our endeavours. Even those of us that are successful in scraping out a career as an artist will question and doubt the choices we have made on a daily basis. It is a constant struggle—internally and externally! So when an artist attempts to redefine who they are within their community, it is a new form of bravery. One that should be applauded and supported. Thankfully, for a few of us, there is the Professional Theatre Training Program through Theatre Ontario.

I have been extremely fortunate as a performer in Ontario. After completing my Fine Arts degree at York University, I joined the acting company at the Stratford Festival, performing in eight consecutive seasons before joining the Shaw Festival ensemble for nine seasons. Throughout this time, I also had the opportunity to travel the country, acting on some of Canada’s finest stages and working with some of our greatest artists. And while I hope to continue performing, I was always curious enough to peek behind another curtain.

Creating theatre from the ground up has always been an interest of mine. But I wanted to do it right (Is there such a thing?) That is, I wanted to have a proper education in what it takes to build a company and carve out a niche in a very crowded world of theatre companies. To this end, I studied part-time at the University of Toronto to gain knowledge of certain business practices—public relations and publicity, marketing, web business. All of this was interesting and very helpful, but I needed more specificity. And the only way to get what I wanted was through a mentorship program with a theatre company. Enter the Yellow Door Theatre Projects.

Yellow Door Theatre Projects is a relatively new company operating in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Artistic Director Andorlie Hillstrom created a program for children and young adults to take arts education classes—musical theatre, acting, dance—which would culminate in a professional production of a musical at the year’s end. The students work with a professional director, stage manager, choreographer and actors. This creates a mentorship program within a show setting, while allowing the kids an opportunity to perform in a real theatre. It’s a great system, and I wanted to be a part of it.

I approached Andorlie with the idea that I could shadow her and learn about how to pull all of the elements together—managing the rehearsal facility, producing a show, and organizing the educational elements. She was very welcoming, but as a new company (it’s only in its third year of existence) she did not have the resources to bring on any new staff. It was only through the PTTP at Theatre Ontario that allows me to spend this summer working with Andorlie and the children to create, manage, educate, and grow as an artist and as a theatre creator. I am very excited to begin, but also a little nervous. There is much to do over the next couple months, but I will screw my courage to the sticking place and jump in with both feet. After all, that is what theatre artists do, right?

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.

Learn more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

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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