Thursday, 18 September 2014

PTTP Profiles: Exploring Projects Funded by the Professional Theatre Training Program

Eight individuals were chosen as recipients of Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program grants during our Spring 2014 application round.  This month, we check in with three projects: one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one that has finished.

Tim Welham is training in Actor Training and Coaching with Ian Watson at Ryerson University and the National Theatre School (Toronto / Montreal)

As I write this report, I'm in the middle of performing my solo version of Richard III at the Edmonton International Fringe. So being steeped in Shakespeare makes the prospect of jumping into yet another Shakespeare-based project next week absolutely thrilling! Starting on September 2nd, I will be mentoring under Shakespeare master teacher Ian Watson at both Ryerson University in Toronto, and the National Theatre School of Canada (NTS) in Montreal. While at Ryerson, we will be leading the second-year acting students through their Shakespeare project: teaching them the fundamentals of acting technique through classical text, and directing them in a public production. While at NTS, we will be coaching the graduating students on their Theatre Ontario Showcase monologues, and helping them with Shakespearean audition preparation.

Officially, I am mentoring under Ian in "Actor Training and Coaching", but the mentorship will inevitably cover much more. In addition to coaching the students, I will be learning about the pedagogy surrounding teaching Shakespearean acting technique, the workings of the two institutional administrations, and co-directing a full production. It feels like a lot to cram into thirteen weeks, but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

This mentorship has been in the works for the past few months, and Ian and I have been wanting to work together on a formal teaching and coaching project for even longer. We first met while I was completing my undergraduate acting training, and have remained good friends ever since. Ian is one of the most practically-minded Shakespeare text coaches in Canada, and works all over the country. He is currently finishing the season coaching on multiple productions at the Stratford Festival, and regularly teaches at the Birmingham Conservatory, Ryerson University, George Brown College and NTS. I am eager to learn from Ian, his vast knowledge, and extensive teaching abilities. I am confident the two of us will be able to meet any challenges and work through any difficulties we encounter together, and within the work itself.

The more Ian and I chat about the project, the more excited I get about the mentorship. We have already confirmed the dates for our first trip to Montreal, had a few conversations about the students and their needs, and spent a great deal of time cutting and editing the script for the Ryerson production. (Can't name the play here, unfortunately - we've yet to make the information public!) I've also been reading up on academic Shakespearean criticism, and doing my own prep work in anticipation of the first weeks of technique fundamentals.

Another exciting addition to our plan involves me holding in-studio "office hours" one evening per week while at Ryerson. Ideally, when the students (in either the 2nd or 4th Year) arrive with questions and concerns about monologues or scenes, we can solve them immediately and practically, on our feet in a studio space. Being able to lead private tutorials will not only be a great learning opportunity for me, but will also give the students more contact hours working the text.

This mentorship comes at the perfect time in my career as well: I have spent the past few years learning and working abroad as an actor in England and Europe, and recently completed my Masters in Classical Acting from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. This combined experience puts me in a unique position to teach the students: I will be able to offer them a different perspective on acting training, style and technique, and be able to advise, coach, and encourage from the point-of-view of a working professional - as opposed to formal teacher/professor.

I know one of the challenges of this work is managing individual learning styles, and I won't always have the answer to relieve an acting block, but I am confident in my abilities to guide a young actor through the processes I have seen succeed in my work and training. I'm also eager to learn from the students themselves! While I have extensive experience teaching students, and performing Shakespeare, I have yet to truly marry the two skills. Over the thirteen weeks, I anticipate learning a great deal about myself and my abilities through teaching and interacting with the students, as well as through Ian's careful guidance and advice.

Overall, I am very much looking forward to getting started with Ian, meeting the young actors, and beginning rehearsals and tutorials. The upcoming months will inevitably present many unexpected challenges, but I am keen to jump into everything with both feet!

Thank you Theatre Ontario for facilitating this fantastic mentorship opportunity.

Madeleine Donohue is training in Producing and General Management with Monica Esteves and Eric Goldstein at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto

At the half-way point in my training with Eric Goldstein and Monica Esteves at Crow's Theatre, I am now more confident than ever in the knowledge that this experience has come at exactly the right time for me in my career. I am looking forward to completing the program with a clearer picture of how I can be an asset to the company, and also a clearer focus regarding my own ambitions and interests outside the Crow's environment.

So far, I have been working primarily with Eric, as Monica focuses her attentions on the capital campaign, and the preparations for the opening of the company's new venue. However, I will be spending more time with Monica this fall as she guides me through the basics of her fundraising, corporate sponsorship, and budgeting procedures, all of which are areas in which Monica excels, and in which I was specifically hoping to increase my understanding. My main tasks during the spring session were assisting Eric with contract preparation, travel arrangements, and agent negotiations for the recent workshops of their upcoming production The Watershed. He guided me through the ins and outs of the various Equity agreements, and had me serve as the main contact between the artists and agents for scheduling purposes, which was an entirely new experience for me! My other main focus was assisting Eric and Mitchell Cushman with the execution of the East End Performance Crawl, which was an incredibly valuable experience from a producing perspective. Eric and Mitchell were very forthcoming when I approached them with questions regarding the planning process, and they trusted me with a variety of duties, including arranging transportation and accommodations for out-of-town artists, manning the phone lines to deal with patron questions and concerns, and running the front of house and box office for a different venue every night. This experience allowed me to use some of the skills that I've developed in my own work as an indie producer, and I often found myself dealing with unexpected situations that required me to think on my feet, and to remain patient and composed when faced with interpersonal and logistical conflicts at the venues, whether with artists, patrons or sponsors.

One aspect of my original plan that has evolved somewhat is my interest in (and appreciation for) the complex working dynamics of a creative office environment, particularly at Crow's where everyone is working in a small, open-concept space, with many distractions. Having never worked in an office environment, I was curious to see how everyone manages their time, how individual tasks are delegated, and how the whole machine continues to run smoothly. I did not come to this experience with any remotely impressive computer skills, and I'm glad to say that I'm now much more confident in this area; I was often asked to deal with small tasks such as faxing, receiving orders, fixing equipment, creating labels, filing, preparing invoices, etc., and I now have a far greater appreciation for how beneficial these simple organizational and practical skills are for a producer or company manager. In my own previous work I have been able to get by without developing many of these simple skills, and it gives me greater confidence moving forward to no longer feel that technology is my enemy! Perhaps not the most important lesson from my time at Crow's thus far, but a surprising and welcome one.

This fall, I will be assisting with many aspects of the planning for Crow's 2015 production of The Seagull, as well with their production of Watershed in Montreal. And, as mentioned, I will shadowing Monica more often as she negotiates with sponsors, developers and donors in regards to the preparations for their new theatre space. Eric and Monica have been as inspiring, supportive, and available as I'd hoped, and I'm looking forward to getting to know them and the company better as I continue to learn and work with them this fall.

Joseph Recinos trained in Producing with Marilo Nunez at Alameda Theatre Company in Toronto

It’s been one hell of a ride. The work is the work no matter what. I’ve completed my training with Marilo and I have to reiterate: it’s been one hell of a ride. The production Paradise Red which premiered at SummerWorks this year was a journey. To begin, Marilo fell ill at the start of rehearsals and was Skyping in for the full first week; and then, about four days in, providence would have it that the challenges for this production would pick up and MC, our Stage Manager, came down with strep throat and was also out of service.  “Oh where oh where can our saviour be? Oh where oh where can they be?”  I swear that would have been the anthem for the cast and crew, had it not been for Marilo’s commitment to making the art happen. Brave woman she.

I learned a lot about where I want to go and what I want to do through the course of this training. Marilo taught me a lot, though I’m sure not in the way we would have imagined. Art requires sacrifice. No, scratch that—passion requires sacrifice. I learned that staying true to one’s passions and dreams is super important.  From what Marilo has shown me first hand: how far am I willing to go to stay true to my passions? What am I willing to give in order to free my artistic voice? Most importantly once I do, how do I keep singing against the cacophony of noise that is funding, grants, egos, politics, …life?

No matter what happens staying true to yourself, your needs and wants (artistically) are the most important aspect of whatever endeavour one takes on. And initiating any project with passion is always best. The ‘deep’ sentiments aside, I feel like I’ve been able to develop more of my ‘business’ voice through this opportunity and am very much looking forward to what the future holds in store for me in this industry.

Up next I will be producing the Sebastian Heins’ one man show Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera, being produced by b current and premiering at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in October.

Til’ then.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2014.

Read 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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