Thursday, 25 January 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Helen Monroe

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

Helen Monroe is training in directing with Richard Rose and Esther Jun at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto

(January 11, 2018) I can’t believe it is time for me to write my second, mid-way point journal entry for this project. I can’t believe it’s halfway through. I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week about what I wanted to write about, what I had learned, but unfortunately tech week and previews left little space in my brain for anything other than Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet. The show opened last night, and I am sitting here reflecting and feeling a little sad to say goodbye to such a beautiful show. 

It’s been a tough week in the Toronto Theatre community. We’ve been hit with some hard truths and while I think they will ultimately make us a stronger, safer community, it still hurts. My mentorship grant program at Tarragon Theatre over the last few months has been about studying and shadowing Richard Rose, the artistic director. I was learning from him what it means to be a director, but after this week, I think I am actually learning what it means to be a leader. 

Albert Schultz was the artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre. He was supposed to be a leader. He was supposed to create and foster a community of artists full of growth, discovery, joy and beauty. Instead, he used his power to create a circle of fear and abuse. I am starting to realize that the pressure I put on myself to make honest, powerful and thought-provoking art, should be nothing compared to the pressure I put on myself to keep my fellow artists safe and happy. It’s not just about me and my artistic journey, it’s about the kind of community I want to live and work in. It’s about the kind of people I want to surround myself. As a director, I see now, that that responsibility falls on my shoulders. 

The cast and crew of Hamlet worked so hard to put forward a show that we could all be proud of. We spent hours and hours nailing down every last light cue, soliloquy and backstage costume change. It was very inspiring to see us all lift each other up, and to see Richard lead the group with strength and grace. We had beautiful opening, but across town a show that should have opened at Soulpepper was not taking place. Those artists, I know, worked just as hard as ours, but due to the failure of their leadership, a beautiful play will never be seen. It breaks my heart, but it also resolves me to work harder. I will be a better director and a better leader because of these last few weeks. For that, I am eternally grateful.

-Helen Monroe

Related Reading:

  • Helen Monroe’s first report
  • (ED. NOTE: You can read the response from the Theatre Ontario Board of Directors to the lawsuits filed by members of the theatre community against Albert Schultz and Soulpepper Theatre Company on our website.)
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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