Thursday, 23 February 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Jennifer Stewart

Our Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP) offers financial support for unique and flexible training with a chosen mentor in any theatrical discipline (except performance.)

Jennifer Stewart trained in directing classical theatre with Jeannette Lambermont-Morey at Talk is Free Theatre in Barrie.

The Libertine—Road to Opening Night!

(January 17, 2017)  The road to opening night of any play is rarely smooth. During the technical rehearsals the job of the director is to solve problems as they occur—a creative problem solver of sorts. By this time in the rehearsal process the play has been staged, the actors know their lines and intentions and the sets, costumes and props have been built and created. This is the case in an ideal world, but of course in the theatre (where budgets are low most of the time and manpower unavailable), the tech side of the process can often fall behind schedule.

Therefore, the importance and care in choosing an excellent creative team is of the utmost importance for any theatre director, no matter the size, genre or scope of the production. From this production specifically I realized the importance of a competent, hard-working and knowing production manager and creative team. The director must have a designer whom they can trust and work with closely to create the world of the play. During tech week the stress levels are high and the director and designer must get along well in order to work together and to stay on speaking terms. As the assistant director, on this production, I offered up my skills in as many areas as possible, to help where help was needed. 

Jeannette Lambermont-Morey is the kind of rare director who is able to communicate what she wants, stay true to her vision, guide her actors and work closely with her creative team to keep the production on track, so as to be ready and on time for the preview and opening night. Our designer Cathy Elliot was responsible for the set, costumes and props (an insurmountable amount of work in the most ideal of situations). Jeannette delegated well and communicated with Cathy, myself and our production manager Garion Scott when we were down to the last days before the first preview on Thursday January 5, 2017. I was able to help Cathy with the costumes (sewing on buttons and hemming cloaks and skirts) as well as painting the set after rehearsal had finished in the evenings.

A director can have the greatest actors, working on the most brilliant of scripts but if they cannot work well with their creative team and help everyone collaborate effectively together then all will be lost and the production and vision of the director will be in vain. A good director must let go of the ideas that do not work, for the good of the show, and all involved. Sometimes keeping things simple is the most important overall goal for the director. It is better to keep the play simple, with a focus on the story and characters than to have many half-finished ideas muddying up the playing field and creating a mess of the whole production. These were the most important aspects of this mentorship that I learned working with Jeannette on The Libertine for Talk Is Free Theatre in Barrie.

As a director I have grown in confidence when working on a play as opposed to a musical. I understand the contrasts and differences between the styles and techniques of acting in a play more clearly now. I understand more of what the actors need and how I must allow them to discover the world of the play and how their characters fit into this world. I understand the importance of repetition, not just in running the play over and over but in rehearsing bits and pieces of scenes, thus allowing the actors the opportunity to try out new ideas and in turn make each moment as specific as possible.

My mentorship with Jeannette was inspiring and refreshing. She has a certain joie-de-vive that is difficult to express with words. Her energy and passion for the work (a Jacobean play that is bloody and gruesome) was contagious and her actors always felt confident that she was leading her cast and creative team forward with ease and precision. I always felt included in all of the conversations and decisions regarding the play. She was expressive, forward thinking and extremely well organized. I really could not have asked for a better partnership. Her knowledge of this specific time period and this text was invaluable to both myself and our actors and her process was clear and efficient. It was a pleasure to be in the room with her and to witness her work. My time spent with Jeannette will serve me exponentially as I begin my own journey as a theatre director.

My goals as a director are vast. I want to direct musicals, classical plays, contemporary plays, one-person shows, and perhaps dance and opera. I feel that at the beginning of this new adventure as a director I do not want to limit myself to one style or genre. I want to take risks and experiment with the theatre that I create. I want to inspire my actors and my audience with new ideas through live theatre! I want to create work in Toronto and Canada for the talented theatre artists that we have in this country. I feel that our potential, as artists, is ready to explode and now is the time to create lasting theatrical experiences that with enrich the lives of Canadians with passion and life through art!

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The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2017.

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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