Tuesday, 27 March 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 trained in directing and designing with Peter Hinton, Beth Kates, Michael Gianfrancesco, and Michael Hart at The Grand Theatre in London


(January 27, 2018) The beauty of a new work is you set a precedent of what the show is. No one has done it before. The liberties and responsibility that are born from this are insurmountable. The hope is also that many remounts and realizations will proceed from it. I am blown away in the time that we had, that we were able to put together this show. With so many takeaways to choose from these are the biggest stand out lessons I learnt during this process...

  • With a show that centres around the idea of sound, Richard Feren’s work was excellent. He worked extremely collaboratively with Peter to amplify the isolation of Mabel’s deafness against a world dominated with sound. Having effects in the rehearsal hall allowed the artists to build upon moments layering almost a filmic underscore to their vocabulary and to explore shifts in tactic and intention. I will definitely be utilizing this into my future work in theatre and film.
  • What began as a lesson in directing and design, I now believe was as a lesson in dramaturgy from Peter: how to best execute a play about history without the most obvious choice. This lesson in dramaturgy showed clearly in the work. Every nuance was discussed in depth in rehearsal and built upon a foundation of specificity. Peter's work in this department I can only classify as flawless. I am also reminded of Iris Turcott who was an advocate for many Canadian artists and who worked tirelessly on this show from realization. She was honoured opening night and I know is greatly missed by many.
  • What is key in a short process like this is one’s eye for editing. Simplifying and sharing the cleanest and artistic execution of one’s vision. Beth Kates’ video work shined in those moment where she simplified her choices and graciously took on board Peter’s direction to execute the scene to its best potential. She also did the lighting for the show which was a large undertaking. As someone myself who wants to do everything from directing to design it is a reminder about how much you can take on in the time that is given.
  • Michael Gianfranceso's aesthetic helped build a correlation between the period and modern day. Michael's accommodation in allowing me into his process with costume, set and props design and those departments adaptability were intrinsic to the shows execution.
  • Michael Hart is a class act in stage managing. It will now be my mission to find a stage manager that I really work with well. Any takers? His focus, engagement in rehearsals and his thoroughness are keenly appreciated. His sensitivity to the actors as well as to a heavily demanding show were incredible to observe with a show that is calling lighting, video, sound, automation and flying cues almost simultaneously.
Bravo All.

I cannot understand how a show about women, written by a women can be dubbed a "Chick Flick"? This was overhead by one of the members of the company during a preview for which I said, "Let us remember that one of the most popular films of all time is...The Notebook." Any comment like that denigrates a woman's experience to being unimportant when in fact women's stories are stage-worthy material that need to be heard more and more. I'm done with "Dick Flicks" to last a lifetime.

The show is far more than a cliché and what makes this show work extremely well is that the characters are not without their flaws, and executed by the actors who were exceptionally suited to the characters they were cast to play. I will miss Graham (Cuthbertson), Tara (Rosling), Michael (Spencer-Davis), Suzanne (Bennett), Madelyn (Narod) and Cat (Catherine Joell Mackinnon.)

Trina Davies has written a beautiful show. It is dark and reflective and poetically optimistic and triumphant. This sense of elated escapism and the theme of love in the show is very needed right now. In our current socio-political climate as well as in the theatre community, this show proves that stories about women are crucial and critical in order that we may move forward conscientiously and be welcoming in our spaces in future.

In my original application I had stressed the importance of wanting to learn how to build a show in a collaborative nature rather than in isolation to a team. This was keenly observed in this show. The creative team on this show worked together extremely well. My next project I do is going to shadow another mentor and idol of mine Marie Clements on her upcoming feature film to be shot in Yellowknife, Kamloops and Morocco. Building upon this principal of team work is critical as I step out of my comfort zone and build connections within my film circle.

Theatre Ontario and the Professional Theatre Training Program.

Tara Rosling as Mabel Gardiner Hubbard (Bell) in the Grand
Theatre's production of Silence. Photo credit: Claus Andersen.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October  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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