Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Showcase of Approaches to Post-Secondary Theatre Training

By Erin Keating, Program Coordinator

Theatre Ontario’s annual Next Generation Showcase turned 20 this year, marking two decades of thousands of graduating theatre school students getting their first introduction to the professional career they will be embarking upon.

This year, over 275 young performers from around the province, country, and world, took the stage in the Michael Young Theatre at the Young Centre for Performing Arts for a crowded audience of industry professionals – casting directors, agents, theatre directors, producers, artistic directors – to showcase their talents.

It was mostly focused on the many theatre schools around Ontario, but we also had representation from the National Theatre School in Montreal, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the Canadian graduates of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) in the UK, and the New Faces – the independent artists who recently graduated from schools around the world not officially participating in the event.
Next Generation Showcase warm-ups

Although I was rather busy behind the scenes ensuring that the two-day event ran as smoothly as possible, I tried to take time during each of the 18 schools (and New Faces) to pop into the auditorium to watch a few of the auditions. I was impressed by the level and diversity of talent that these students had, and also fascinated by the difference of approach each school had.

No two schools’ training approaches are the same – some are classical theatre training, some more contemporary, some musical theatre, or triple threat, or some combination of all of the above. Seeing the difference in approach to these auditions provided a snapshot of the difference in training all these students must have received over their time at that institution, while ultimately pursuing the same goal – to be a performer. It reiterated for me the countless paths one can take, and the countless opportunities for creative expression it allows.

Next Generation Showcase participants
at The Business of Casting panel
Aside from the auditions, the students also had other professional development opportunities, including networking parties both nights of the Showcase, talkbacks with the Resident Artists of Soulpepper Theatre, a Theatre Trade Show on Sunday evening, where students could speak personally with Artistic Directors of theatre companies, including Factory and Theatre Passe Muraille, and a lively panel discussion on The Business of Casting, with a set of panelists with complementary backgrounds – Agent Kish Iqbal, Casting Director Susan Forrest, AD of independent theatre company Why Not Theatre Ravi Jain, and Associate Director at the Shaw Festival Eda Holmes, all moderated by the personable Glenn Holmes from Casting Workbook.

I’d like to say a warm thank you for our sponsors for their support – financially, in vision, and enthusiasm – Casting Workbook, Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, Sheridan College, and Soulpepper Theatre, particularly Resident Artist Derek Boyes for organizing both the talkbacks, and the theatre tradeshow.

All of the aspects, on and off the stage, offered practical and applicable information and connections as these graduating students head off into the performance world, which is ultimately the goal of the Showcase.

Some comments from the Showcase participants:
"On behalf of our grad class, I want to tell you that it was an amazing, rewarding, and fulfilling experience for everyone, including myself as their professor and coach… We are also very proud of how our students represented themselves and our program. We've had some very positive feedback so everyone is feeling very good about the experience… Loved the entire weekend. Looking forward to next year."
Next Generation Showcase Networking Party
"The opportunity for our students to showcase their current skills in front of industry folks is absolutely invaluable, and a capstone feature of our curriculum. Students (and often the parents of the undergraduates) consistently ask of our program, "How does what you teach prepare us for the profession to which we aspire?". The Next Generation Showcase provides an amazing platform for industry contact, not only at the auditions themselves, but at the Soulpepper discussion, the Networking Party, and the Panel. Our students also have a unique chance to meet peers in their cohort who have trained at other institutions, and with whom they will be rubbing shoulders. That it takes place at a venerable downtown theatre institution kind enough to host the event, and is run so superbly by the Theatre Ontario folks have made this a watershed moment for many of our participants. The work of Erin Keating on the front line for the organizing and Lynette Blanchard stage managing on the day were a powerful one-two punch. We are deeply grateful to Soulpepper and its involvement in this process, especially the generosity of the company members who participated in the discussion after our audition. Having Casting Workbook on board was a stroke of genius, and really helped our students feel in control of what was presented online."

Read all the Next Generation Showcase tweets on Storify

Find out more about Next Generation Showcase on the Theatre Ontario website

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