Thursday, 19 July 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Nancy Anne Perrin

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

Nancy Anne Perrin begins training in design for opera with Michael Gianfrancesco at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto

(June 25, 2018)  As I enter into this generous gift of a mentorship with Michael Gianfrancesco while he designs sets for the Canadian Opera Company’s upcoming new production of Hadrian, I find myself facing one of the big obstacles that I hope to address during this time. The continual struggle of juggling multiply creative projects at once has me anxious. In beginning to work with Michael, I am also designing a show of my own while working part-time. This has not diminished my excitement for the work, just complicates it. In our roles as designers we are often in different points of the design process with multiple projects at the same time. At this very moment Michael is adjusting set designs following initial costing for Hadrian, while doing fabric shopping for an opera in Italy and redesigning an older design to fit within a new theatre space. Knowing where his career is, I know he must have built some strong working tools to make this task less daunting and I need them in my own practice. 

I had the pleasure to first meet Michael during my time as an Assistant Designer at the Stratford Festival where I was able to work with him on shows such as A Chorus Line and The Sound of Music. As everyone in this business I am continually in transition, navigating working as a designer on smaller independent productions with assisting more established designers. For many years I have been transient, spending half or more of my year in Stratford with the other part in Toronto slowly trying to become part of the community here. Last year I decided to take the leap and not return to Stratford as an assistant and try to make a more concerted effort to become part of the Toronto theatre scene. In the fall, offering a hand-up, Michael had planted the seed of assisting him on Hadrian. 

This opportunity will allow me access to some of the strongest figures in Canadian and Toronto theatre—Peter Hinton, Gillian Gallow, Bonnie Beecher and Daniel MacIvor. Figures that I would love the opportunity to learn and grow from their experiences and knowledge of life in this industry. How they navigate the work and their lives. How their creative process develops between their different roles as designers, writer and director. This piece will also allow me to work on a scale that I have only touched on in theory through my education. Opera is another world that is alluring, exciting and foreign to me as my own practice has primarily been in traditional theatre. How does the scale, timelines and structure of opera effect the designer’s creative process? For an added level of complexity, Hadrian is new work which is uncommon in opera. 

My hope for what my contribution will be goes beyond the standard design assistant role. Of course I will be able to aid in model-building and set drawings, but I would also hope that I can provide a different perspective to the process; that my questions are not just for myself but for those whom I am asking them. Thank you Theatre Ontario and the Professional Theatre Training Program for continually supporting your community by providing the means that these important learning opportunities can happen.

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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