One of my favourite programs here at Theatre Ontario is the Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP). Twice every year our calls for submissions bring in mentorship proposals from theatre professionals across Ontario. We receive training requests in all disciplines from playwrights to artistic directors, and the PTTP committee gets to work reading through the applications and looking for the best possible opportunities to offer to our applicants. Every March and October the cycle begins again and we welcome a brand new collection of PTTP mentees as funding recipients.
This fall we were able to grant funding to nine of our applicants, thereby creating professional development opportunities in Artistic Direction (x2), Classical Theatre Direction, Set and Costume Design, Theatrical Digital Media, Direction, Production Management and Lighting Design. With so many diverse skills coming into play with the new round of mentorships, we decided to have an event where everyone could get together for a round-table discussion to learn about each other and what they could expect from the PTTP.
On December 6, we invited Heather Davies, Erin Gerofsky, Valerie Hawkins, Michael O’Brien, Norah Paton, Michela Sisti, Jennifer Stewart, Lisa Van Oorschot, and Kevin Matthew Wong to join us in the Theatre Ontario board room at 401 Richmond St West. To help guide our discussion and provide insight, we were joined by special guests Krista Colosimo and Ravi Jain. Krista was a recipient of the PTTP back in October 2015 where she mentored in Artistic Direction under Ashley Corcoran at the Thousand Islands Theatre. Ravi was on double-duty at our event, as he has been both a recipient in October 2010 where he shadowed in Artistic Direction with Franco Boni at the Theatre Centre, as well as a mentor for Lisa Karen Cox in October 2015 with his company Why Not Theatre. Between the two of our guests, there was a real wealth of experience to draw on!
Once everyone arrived the group took turns introducing themselves, their work and the goals that they had for their mentorships. Ravi and Krista then shared their experiences with the PTTP. It was wonderful to hear about how the program had elevated their understanding of their craft and opened doors for future gigs and career development. Both left the program and maintained an ongoing relationship with their mentors – Ravi even mentioned work that he had recently completed with his recent mentee Karen, after her official mentorship had finished.
After hearing Ravi and Krista speak, questions began to flow – “What were you most nervous about heading into your mentorship?” “Were there any challenges that you faced?” “Is there anything that you didn’t learn that you wished you would have?” The overarching advice that came through the discussion was clear – communication can make or break a mentorship. Set up a schedule. Ask questions, but know when the right time is to ask. Focus less on goals and more on questions to explore.
As the night went on the structure loosened and all participants began to discuss their experiences, challenges and hopes freely. As an outsider to this event, it was fantastic to see the group getting excited about each other’s mentorships and bonding over their shared sense of anticipation. When I returned to my office the next morning I had an email waiting for me that I felt perfectly summed up why events like this are important:
What I really loved about tonight was being able to meet the other artists and learn about the journeys they are setting out on. I am so invested in reading everyone’s blogs now and learning from their experiences as well as my own.
Trust me – we can’t wait to hear about everyone’s experiences either!