Thursday, 9 November 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Rose Hopkins

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

Rose Hopkins is training in directing with Marilo Nunez at Theatre Aquarius in Hamilton

(October 10, 2017)

“As a director, you need to find ownership of the script,” my mentor, Marilo Nunez said. 

I felt a familiar sense of mild fear in the pit of my stomach. 

That certain fall sunlight was beaming through the windows and making my steaming cup of tea throw a shadow across Marilo’s kitchen table. Over the course of our morning meeting, binders, scripts, notes took over the entire surface. Creative chaos. I took a bite out of one of the pumpkin muffins I brought as I tried to wrap my head around this piece of advice.

Of course, it makes sense. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard it so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. So why did finding ownership of El Retorno, the play I’m assistant directing alongside Marilo, seem like such an intimidating task this time around? Why was it one of the biggest struggles in my directing mentorship so far?

Part of it is that I already have a first impression of the production from the workshop at Why Not’s RISER Project that took place last spring.

Another part is that it’s about an event, The Return Plan (an international effort to topple the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile) that until recently, I knew very little about.

And the last, most important part is that it’s Marilo’s story. Not only is she the playwright of El Retorno but the story is largely based on her family, life and experience growing up as a Chilean exile in Eastern Europe and then Toronto.

It felt impossible that I—the Canadian-born girl who lived 20 years of her life in the same house in Hamilton—could find ownership over a story that was so far outside of my experience. But armed with an affinity for challenges and a belly full of pumpkin muffins, I threw myself into this task.

I read the script again and again. I read it as myself. I read it as each of the characters. I asked myself questions. I found answers. I imagined. I researched. And I’ve started to find a feeling of familiarity with these characters and this world. I see myself in them. I share Jaime’s sense of justice and pride for his home, I share Veronica’s need to take care of her family, and I share Marisol’s search for her own identity. 

Doing this work has been the most valuable part of my mentorship so far, which is somewhat of a surprise for me. I thought my biggest take away would be about communicating with designers and learning new rehearsal exercises and techniques. But really, my biggest take away so far has been how to read a story. I’m taking this lesson with me as we move into the final phase of rehearsal for El Retorno. Now that I know how to read the story, I’m excited to explore how we will tell it. Because that is, in essence, what a director does. Helps the audience read a story—through words, bodies, movement, light, music, and sound.  My hope moving forward is that we can do so in a way that lets the audience see themselves in it just like I have.

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The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is March 1, 2018.

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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