Thursday, 19 July 2018

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Helen Monroe

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

Helen Monroe trained in directing with Richard Rose and Esther Jun at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto

(July 2, 2018)  First, I would just like to say a final thank you for allowing me to participate in this program and receive funding for this time I have spent at Tarragon—it has been a wonderful year. I have learned so much and grown so much as an artist.

I have started a full-time position as the Business Manager here at Tarragon, and while my time as a directing intern has come to a close, I still come to work every day at Tarragon so it doesn’t feel as if anything has ended for me here; rather it has been an extension of the work I was already doing. 

Girls Like That at Tarragon Theatre
Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
Photographed: Tess Benger, Rachel VanDuzer,
Allison Edwards-Crewe, Cynthia Jimenez-Hicks,
Shakura Dickson, Lucy Hill and Nadine Bhabha
Costume: Ming Wong
Set: Shannon Lea Doyle
Lights: Kaleigh Krysztofiak
The final show I worked on here at Tarragon was Girls Like That, by Evan Placey. That was the first time in my career I have worked on a show with so many women, each one inspiring, driven and talented. I enjoyed the rehearsal period immensely. What was unique about this show was that my involvement did not end after opening night. The first week of the show running was a very interesting experience. We received an incredibly harsh review from the Globe & Mail that stirred up some very strong reactions from our community. The reviewer felt our play was misogynistic. Many members of the community felt very differently and rallied around us creating counter articles in alternative magazines and creating a social media storm of comments and discourse. The tension spilled over into our talkback week (a Tarragon initiative to have talk backs with the actors every night of the first week of shows), and some of the questions being directed at our cast were pointed and accusatory. It was decided that rather than have an outside person facilitate these discussions, someone with more insight into the production would be helpful to field these questions for the actors. So I stepped in and was there for week of very interesting conversations with the girls and our education coordinators.

I felt very strongly that my position on the panel was not to justify the choices that we had made or defend the women on stage, but rather to present an alternative to the preconceived notions that many people were walking into the show with. I also found that while there was some minor hostility, the majority of the audience who stayed to chat with us had found extreme points of connection with out material and understood and related to the characters they had seen on stage. It was an experience for me in audience relations and I enjoyed the discourse I experienced immensely. While I did not agree with the reviewer’s ideas of our production, I appreciated the conversations we had because of her.

Thank you again for this opportunity, it really has been wonderful.

All my very best,
Helen Monroe

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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