Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Howard J. Davis

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

Howard J. Davis training in directing and designing with Peter Hinton, Beth Kates, Michael Giafrancesco, and Michael Hart at The Grand Theatre in London

(January 3, 2018)  As I take time to reflect in this process I find myself in Silence to ponder. (I know these puns might get redundant so I use them sparingly.) 

This experience so far has made me feel very torn. Watching skilled, creative artists work within the limitations of resources is both rewarding yet frustrating. On the peripheries I am observing a show being realized where the realities available to the producers are limited, and new work is trying to be executed in a three-week rehearsal period. That being said, I have no doubts that this show will come together especially with a creative team such as this.

Seeing how great artists compromise while holding on to the intention and vision of the production is so key in an experience like this and one of the biggest takeaways. How much does one take on? How much does one let go of an original idea? What breakthroughs flourish in what appear to be barriers?

My mentor Peter takes on the challenge of this show with fervency and eloquence, and as I sit in rehearsals as the interpreters transcribe his words before my eyes, I find myself realizing how important it is to be concise with our words. 

I am someone that finds I need to speak a lot or fill a space with ideas, thoughts or words. I hope in time I can narrow my words down and be pragmatic. I am starting to believe that silence can be good for us. Time to reflect, let our minds go blank and sink into our imaginations to muse. As I help mine this text in the rehearsal hall, I am keenly aware of how rich this story is in nuance, history and subtlety. Trina Davies has written a fantastic play. I am also aware of how my input is so welcomed in this room.

Sometimes a feeling of unworthiness clouds our judgement especially as an emerging artist—that what you have to say is not worth bringing up for fear of being rejected. Not in this case. My words and insight are relevant and are shared in tandem with the hearing and deaf artists through the interpreters that accompany us in rehearsal. I am amazed at the deaf artists in the show who I can only imagine are more immersed in this process than I. Not only are they watching but have to listen with their eyes.

We have six artists in the show, three of whom are hearing-impaired. The choice to have hearing actors playing deaf and deaf actors playing hearing subverts the audience’s experience as they are thrust into the reality of this story. We are told in rehearsal that at the turn of the 20th century, a deaf person would have been institutionalized for being other than normal and I am brought to the subject of Indigenous communities, Black history in Canada and subjects of oppression in our country. This play touches on many concerns. Yes Trina Davies' play is a romance, but the romance is flawed and hued with tragedy of circumstances. We cannot stay blinkered and tell stories that only make people feel good. Controversy is also paramount in charging people to make change and see the world a little differently with compassion and understanding when they leave the theatre.

I am about to enter my second week as we move into staging and teching this incredible show. I am looking forward as the designers begin their residencies and are integrated into their creative process.

After a quiet Christmas and New Year, I am ready to take on the challenges and support this group of incredible artists...I still wonder. Why do premieres of new work with Canadian content get less time to be explored and realized than other shows of an existing repertoire?

Many see New Years as a re-commitment to our goals, and I think our institutions need to make a vested dedication in our Canadian theatre scene and support Canadian material, talent and the artists that work so hard to realize these initiatives. I say this not to shame our establishments but to ask those reading this to come and share in our community and this story.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment