Thursday, 29 June 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Jessie Fraser

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

Jessie Fraser will train in digital communications and archival processes with Adam Barrett at VideoCabaret in Toronto

(May 13, 2017) Six months ago I started a part-time gig doing administrative work for VideoCabaret; their office, the second floor of The Cameron House, a collision of colour, kitsch, props, propaganda and the most spectacular collection of every type of video and sound formatting that has come in and out of existence over the past muffle-cough-cough years. I was offered the work by a new acquaintance, producer/video designer, Adam Barrett.

Over the fall months, as I sat in that room with Adam, we talked theatre and he began to share with me his own introduction to VideoCabaret. Adam’s first role in the company was that of archivist; attempting the enormous task of transferring and categorizing materials ranging from production stills, videos and promotional materials along with a wealth of surprises ranging from familiar faces, established artists in their formative years and a treasure trove of video capturing Toronto, the city, in transit and action.

VideoCabaret is known for its punk, avant-garde live video theatre from the 1982 runner-up Mayoral campaign, Art vs Art by The Hummer Sisters to the multi-media cabarets at the Cameron House. Then, as now, VideoCabaret exists as a living archive constantly adding to its treasure trove. One can occasionally find some of Alice Norton’s wigs or Astrid Jansen’s costumes in a gallery collection and there are publications of Michael Hollingsworth’s epic series of plays, The History of the Village of Small Huts and the plays and essays of Deanne Taylor; where one best experiences forty years of curation and creation is live onstage, surrounded by the magic of Shadowland’s endless supply of newspapers, trick candles and fly-swatting bovine scene-stealers.

As I write this from my little corner in our pop-up rehearsal space I am surrounded by the whir of sewing machines adjusting and remaking costumes and the smell of glue guns, new and updated wigs (the oldest used in this production is the spectacular fifteen year old wig made for the character of Louis Papineau, worn in this production by Greg Campbell) while through the walls I hear the roar of war and the sounds of Brent Snyder’s original tracks remastered by Richard Feren.

It is a privilege to be welcomed as warmly into this company as I have already been and I am so excited to be allowed to wander through the various departments in action as they marry the past with the surprises of each new day.

Adam Barrett and Jessie Fraser
As VideoCabaret storms towards the openings for Confederation Parts I and II, I will spend my time exploring the ways in which we can update and make accessible the company’s vast archive; at the same time, with Adam’s support and guidance, I will be able to greatly enhance my technique and knowledge of a variety of communication supporting programs (photo, video, audio editing).

Back to last fall, I started taking little admin breaks poking my nose around in the archives to humorous and potentially job-endangering discoveries - one must be careful when one’s father spent time as a theatre critic—I found myself thinking about lost materials, about keeping a hand on the past while living in the present working towards the future.

The knowledge I am able to gain through the generous support of Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is already causing positive ripple effects in my own work and in the confidence to broaden my creative horizons. I’m excited for the discoveries to be made in dusty boxes and crumbling film and for the exploration of experimenting with methods of sharing them at home, work and play.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.

Learn 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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