Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Sharing Passion for Performance at Next Generation Showcase

by Rachel Kennedy, Professional Theatre and Education Manager

Theatre Ontario has hit the ground running in 2018, with our 24th annual Next Generation Showcase! Over the course of two days from January 14-15th we welcomed 270 emerging professionals to take the stage in the Al Green Theatre before an audience of established producers, artistic directors, agents and casting directors. As in previous years, we were blown away by the talent and dedication that continued to pour from the theatre’s wings. Our industry guests were treated to a plethora of different monologues, songs and approaches to storytelling, but every performer had one thing in common – a determination to share their passion for performance with everyone in attendance.

Next Generation Showcase Warm-Ups
One of my favourite things about Showcase is that the schools are given very loose parameters for showing off their students’ work. Each group is given 2.5 minutes per student, leaving the structure of their stage presentation open to be filled in whatever way the school sees as the best fit for their class. This results in monologues, medleys, dance numbers, scenes and a different energy coming with each group that takes the stage. I can only guess how much this variety is appreciated by the industry members who sit through upwards of 130 auditions per day during this event! Needless to say, we try to keep the coffee flowing, but it is truly the energy of the students that keeps everything rolling from 9am until our nightly networking parties. 

On Sunday night our post-audition party (sponsored by Randolph College) included an industry fair which showcased different companies with opportunities for emerging professionals. Joining us this year we had representatives from AFC, ACTRA, Factory Theatre, George Brown College, TAAS (Toronto Association of Acting Studios) and Toronto Monologue Slam. Once introduced I don’t think that many of these representatives had a free moment for the rest of the night, as students eagerly gathered to hear about the best ways to get their feet wet in the professional world. 

Next Generation Showcase Panel
Sponsored by Meridian Artists
After the networking party we brought students back down to the Al Green Theatre for our Panel Discussion “The Business of Casting” (sponsored by Meridian Artists.) Moderated by producer/director/playwright/actor Andrea Scott, our panel consisted of Kevin Frank (Artistic Director, Second City Training Centre), Karen Glave (Stage, TV and Film Actor), Kishwar Iqbal (Partner, Gary Goddard Agency), and Beth Russell (Casting Director, Stratford Festival). For the first 45 minutes Andrea was at the helm and the group discussed topics including what the panel would change now about the casting business, tips for a successful audition, and myths about the profession that they want to dispel. At 8:15pm Andrea handed the reigns over to the audience and after some initial hesitation the questions flowed easily until our cut-off at 9:00pm. Some highlights that I took away from the discussion were the freedom that self-tapes are providing artists who don’t wish to live in major city centres, the importance of preparation for every audition, and a great quote that Kevin shared with us—“ success is not final and failure is not fatal.”  (Speaking of which, I failed to write down who this quote is originally from and Google is unsure of its origin, so Kevin has now gained credit for it in my eyes.)

Given the recent flow of accusations regarding harassment and abuse in the entertainment industry and educational institutions, Theatre Ontario wanted to take the opportunity to arrange a group discussion between school representatives, Intimacy Directors International (IDI), CAEA, and a few other special industry invites. This is a piece of a much bigger pie, so please keep your eyes peeled for more information on what came out of this roundtable discussion. However, I think it’s important for now to celebrate the openness and eagerness that all school representatives brought to the table for this session. It is inspiring to see the passion and determination that is being harnessed into the fight to protect and prepare emerging actors for changes in the professional world.

Next Generation Showcase Networking Parties
Sponsored by Sheridan College and Randolph College
So with this (and a few well-deserved hours of sleep) we launched into day two of Showcase 2018 and another round of fabulous auditions! Beginning with our New Faces independent artists on Monday morning, we hit the ground running toward another shift in tempo as our Musical Theatre programs began taking the stage. As always, each performance brought something new and spectacular to the table and we hope that everyone involved is proud of the work that they shared. On Monday night the energy at the networking party (sponsored by Sheridan College) was palpable as all in attendance celebrated the success of the past two days.

The excitement and relief was well-deserved, and I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who helped to make this event a success for another year whether it was as a sponsor, performer, volunteer or industry guest. This event is built on collaboration and celebration, and we couldn’t do it without all of your help.

Now as I sit back in our office at 401 Richmond St West, I am already looking forward to next year’s Showcaseour 25th annual event!! If you still haven’t had enough of Showcase for this year, stay tuned for a blog post from University of Alberta’s Kiana Woo to hear about her experience!

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