Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Taryn Jorgenson

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

Taryn Jorgenson begins training in directing with Richard Rose at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto

Image of Brain I brought to design discussion
(May 31, 2018) I have just come back from my first official design meeting with the team working on The Message at the Tarragon. I walked into the room with a bit of butterflies and ample anticipation to meet the faces of the team for which I would be working with for the next half year. The names I have known through the industry and their work I have come to be galvanized by. I have worked as a director on a few productions on various levels, with various sizes of teams and budgets nonetheless! But it is the first time I have walked into a room with such prestigious and monstrously experienced artists. The room glowed with discussions about feelings, images, and conceptual interpretations about the play—all humble, thoughtful and dynamic. I knew at that moment that this experience was going to be like no other.

I am doing this mentorship under the wing of Richard Rose. I was taken aback by Richard when I first met him in a directorial class that he teaches seasonally at the Tarragon. The wealth of experience gathered around him like a fog. He is able to analyze works quickly and interpret them creatively with ease. "A play is action in time and space." Putting it simply into these words took the big task of directing a show and narrowing it down to its simplest form - allowing me to settle in the thoughts - "I can do that" or “just tell the story as it is.” It was this time that I knew I wanted to dive deeper into his thought process and learn his way of working. As a director, someone who has mostly worked on naturalistic styles with somewhat factual elements, I am itching to learn the art of working with a style that moves through time and space with a non-linear approach. How can I tell a story in a different way that produces a unique experience?

I was able to get a taste of this in my last play I directed for the SummerWorks Festival. It was called This Is Where We Live—an expressionistic, poetic, character-driven tango-dance-of-a-play that made me begin pulsing my muscles in this type of storytelling. I became drawn to working with the “non-natural” or the “imaginative” part of storytelling. Richard has worked in this way for many years on various projects—Scorched by Wajdi Mouawad is one I remember specifically. The ability to produce a concept that the audience not only sees and hears but is felt all around them. How can we create a piece that is expressionistic while laying the pathway through the story and continuously pulsing at what is at the heart of it? Jason Sherman's The Message is a perfect play to explore this.

The Message is a play about the last moments of Marshall McLuhan's life. The renowned U of T professor who dazzled the world in the 60's with his theories on media and communication (specifically how our media affects us), suffered a debilitating stroke which brought about severe aphasia. A lover and ambassador of language, he was left with his mind fully intact, with the only ability to say words like "wah" “uh” and "oh boy." I can only imagine the storm of subtext that went behind those words in his last year!

Image of Marshall McLuhan at the Ryerson Institute
of Technology, Toronto, ca. 1967.
Photo: Bernard Gotfryd/Getty Images
Even before I received notice I was getting the PTTP grant, I nose-dived into the writings and videos of McLuhan. This tall, starchy figure, with a particular nuance to his voice harangued of such unique thoughts for the time, which brought about much controversy and criticism. His voice is now echoing in our world more than ever as his ideas and concepts have quickly turned into today’s truth. "Ours is a brand-new world of allatonceness (all-at-once-ness). ‘Time’ has ceased, ‘Space’ has vanished. We now live in a global village…a simultaneous happening.” he stated well before the internet, cell phones, Facebook or Twitter. “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” 

I am thrilled to be delving into the mind of McLuhan with the work of such a wonderful playwright as Jason Sherman. He has captured the essence of McLuhan's ideas not only in his character, but also in the entire sculpture of the piece. There is a type of simultaneousness that is evoked. The beginning and ends of scenes are blurred creating this cosmic vortex that McLuhan tumbles through as he struggles to go to back to the moment where he can communicate his final Message to the world.

Although I never knew of McLuhan before this mentorship, I am definitely a consumer of his theories. I think we have all become consumers to what he predicted, feeding on it, expanding on it—just as he predicted! He must be shaking in his angel boots!

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 1, 2018.

Learn more about Theatre Ontario's Professional Theatre Training Program

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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