Thursday, 16 October 2014

Directors Day at The Shaw

by Roxanne Joseph, Fundraising Coordinator

On Friday September 19th, five of us from Theatre Ontario set off for Niagara-on-the-Lake to attend the 2014 Directors Day performances of the Neil Munro Intern Directors Project at the Shaw Festival. Our first stop was for lunch at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, the oldest golf course in North America. While there, we raised a toast to our Community Theatre Coordinator, Anne Mooney’s birthday and Mairin Smit, our Program Coordinator, who ended her tenure at Theatre Ontario September 26th and launched the next chapter of her theatre career a few days later in Bangkok, Thailand.

At the golf course, I spotted a man sporting a Tilly Hat in the Tee-off area who clearly appeared to be in the zone.  A little while later, he purposefully sent his ball in flight.  As any golf player knows, misalignment while setting up your shot can have unfavourable results. Full engagement on the green as well—as while directing actors on the stage—is key to performing either endeavour with focused intention.

Rough for Theatre I from Three Short Plays by Samuel Beckett
Directed by Alistair Newton at the 2014 Shaw Directors Project
Benedict Campbell and Patrick Galligan
Photo by Mark Callan
It was apparent that Rachel Peake and Alistair Newton, this year’s Directors Day Interns, challenged themselves with their contrasting play selections. Alistair Newton directed Three Short Plays; Catastrophe, Rough for Theatre I and Rockaby by Samuel Beckett. To me, Alistair’s take on Beckett’s pieces lent comic relief to the potentially disturbing threads in Beckett’s work. After all, “Life ain’t worth living when you’re dead.”  Alistair’s direction illuminated the character’s obscure psychological underpinnings, and evidentially charted his own course within the rigour of Beckett’s theatrical framework.

Rachel Peake’s direction of Rosalind, by J.M. Barrie, allowed the audience to witness a clever and witty century-old story with contemporary overtones about ageism in society.  Afterwards, during a chat with Rachel, I mentioned that I know a man who has been “a long 29.” Traditionally, it is usually women who’re preoccupied with their age and appearance. As the play unfolds, an intricate tale is revealed about Rosalind’s relationship with herself.
Rosalind by J.M. Barrie
Directed by Rachel Peake at the 2014 Shaw Directors Project
Claire Julien and Ben Sanders
Photo by Mark Callan

From the perspective of a first-time Niagara-on-the-Lake visitor, I was captivated by the awe-inspiring, picturesque old-world charm of the town.  Obviously, it’s warmth and welcoming atmosphere is the perfect setting to house the Shaw complex and thusly the Directors Project.

Knowing that such a magically stunning place exists, right here in Ontario is quite affirming!  And, what’s even more exciting is the opportunity for anyone interested in applying to become an Intern in Shaw’s collaborative director’s program.  The long-standing partnership between Theatre Ontario and the Shaw Festival offers a magnificent learning experience for intern directors to hone their craft under the tutelage of world-class professionals. Jackie Maxwell, Shaw’s Artistic Director, not only provides exceptional leadership and access to mentors, she’s also known for her nurturing nature within the Festival’s community. Eda Holmes, Shaw’s Associate Director is one of the Director’s Project illustrious participants who has literally “had their day” showcasing their productions. This event is held in high regard and no matinees are scheduled during the afternoon of the Director’s Project performances.

That evening, I had the privilege to see more of Alistair’s handiwork as the Assistant Director for Shaw’s rendition of Cabaret. The story takes place in pre-Nazi Germany, chronicles the shift in democratic freedoms and presents us with an integral plot message that asks “what would you do?”  In the words of the protagonist Cliff Bradshaw, “If you’re not against all this, you’re for it.”

What a superb way to end our day!  And, my 34-year wait to see such a stupendous production of Cabaret was worth it!

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