Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Darwin Lyons

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

Darwin Lyons is training in directing with Ravi Jain at Why Not Theatre in Toronto

(February 22, 2018) This blog post is a mid-way check in on my process of Assistant Directing Ravi Jain on Animal Farm at Soulpepper. As I sit here writing, I am trying to figure out how to frame this blog post. Do I talk about the political landscape of our community right now? What’s happening in rehearsal? What I am learning about art? My last blog post was more about the political landscape than it was about the art. I have this urge to ignore all the conversations about the larger political sphere and just focus on the art. After all, I’m here to learn how to be a better artist. However, what I am seeing in this process is that art can only flourish when the room feels safe.

In my first blog post I shared my trepidation about working at Soulpepper. Since starting this process it has become clear that many people share that trepidation. In fact, people speak of the cost it takes to even be in the Soulpepper space. There have been many sharings of the sexual assault, bullying, and the endemic racism that has happened at that company.

What I saw Ravi do was to hold space for our room, hold space for people who had experienced trauma, hold space when we learned of traumatic histories, and to ask the room to see each of our personal privileges, and ask ourselves how to better support each other. Our room put together this compilation of resources on how to be a better ally. This cracking open of truths and an invitation to examine myself allowed me to see more clearly, and to support others more adamantly. These conversations were happening no matter what, maybe in small groups, maybe in our heads, Ravi gave them space to happen with our team as a whole. That sharing allowed me to live in this political moment and also focus on the art.

Anthony’s adaptation of Animal Farm is so exciting. As I witness this awesome group of actors and designers play in the world Ravi has created I am always struck by deep truths about humanity. At least once a rehearsal day, I’ll watch a scene and see myself reflected. The way these characters organize, how they try to make things happen, how their conflicting worldviews and pressures create conflict remind me of boardroom meetings and rehearsal processes. I leave rehearsal thinking: How do we communicate across different opinions? How do we create a system from the ground up when the only system we’ve ever known is broken? How do we dream for a better future when we are starved in the present? These are huge questions, and as I write them they seem daunting. The beauty of asking these questions in Animal Farm is that I am asked through entertainment, through joy, through jokes, through surprise and through anticipation. The play opens me up by entertaining me and in that state of openness I can hear hard truths, or at least hard questions.

Related Reading:

  • Darwin’s first update
  • (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 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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