Thursday, 9 November 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Thomas Marriott

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

Thomas Marriott trained in artistic direction with Andorlie Hillstrom at Yellow Door Theatre Project in Virgil


A Mile in Another’s Shoes

(November 2, 2017)
It’s been said, by someone smarter than me, that theatre is like an iceberg. While the audience sees the tip above the water, 90% of the work is unseen. Below the waterline. Behind the scenes. As an actor, one can forget that. So what an eye-opening experience it can be to pull back the curtain and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Thanks to the Professional Theatre Training Program grant, I was able to intern for the last 30 weeks with the Yellow Door Theatre Project in Niagara-on-the-Lake: an upstart company geared towards arts training for young people. This new journey has been educational and eye-opening, and I am very grateful to Theatre Ontario for the opportunity.

My work as an associate to artistic director Andorlie Hillstrom was an immediate leap into the deep end, as I was given many responsibilities. The company was creating a new musical to be produced this December, two summer camp programs culminating in a public presentation, organizing auditions for our winter show, and preparing for and executing our annual fundraiser. My role included website management, graphic design, media relations, organizing auditions for dozens of applicants (and their parents!), and hosting the gala fundraiser at Stratus Winery.

As my time with Yellow Door comes to an end, the kids are in rehearsal for The Wind In The Willows; the final tally has been counted from the annual gala; and new fundraising has begun to improve and expand on the rehearsal space to create a new theatre for the community. Yellow Door has been recognized as a charitable organization; community awareness continues to grow; and plans for next season’s classes are well underway. So what do I take away?

Planning and preparation are key to the success of any company. You can be excellent at fundraising, have a great idea for a show, or the dream cast and crew. But without a comprehensive plan to ensure that all requirements are being met, the administration of the company will constantly be playing catch-up, or scrambling at the last minute to get things done. This could mean that deadlines are missed, key elements are not in place or money is wasted. If there is a crack in the iceberg below the waterline, it just won’t float.

Trust your team. Assign tasks and have faith that those tasks will be carried out. And then do your job. When a team is trustworthy and committed to the task, the company runs much more smoothly.

Never lose sight of the goal. If the job is to get a show to the stage, constantly ask yourself if what you are doing is necessary. Too often, administration of a company can muddy the administering of a task—stay on point, take care of the small stuff, but always keep your eyes on the prize.

Have fun. Even when things go wrong, the path looks impossible or naysayers steal your passion, find a reason to laugh. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, push you, commiserate with you and joke with you. Because in the end, no matter what our role in the theatre, we are there to play.

And lastly, be grateful. Thank you to Andorlie Hillstrom, Artistic Director of Yellow Door Theatre Project for giving me such opportunity within her organization, and thanks to Theatre Ontario. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step, and I will be forever indebted for the Professional Theatre Training Program for clearing a new path for me.

Related Reading:

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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