Friday, 21 April 2017

Ontario Off Stage

by Brandon Moore, Community Theatre and Communications Manager

Conversation Starters


Behind the Scenes at Ontario’s Theatres

Richard Howard

Migrations


TO Toasts


In Case You Missed It

You can also receive news from Theatre Ontario every month by email. Our archives are online and the April issue is now available.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program

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

Today we feature three stories:
The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Erin Gerofsky

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

Erin Gerofsky is training in set and costume design with Judith Bowden

(March 18, 2017) As a significant part of my training, I accompanied Judith to fabric shop in NYC, and to tech Watch on the Rhine in DC. Both trips provided me with invaluable learning experiences in the process of theatre-making, but also offered an abundance of inspiration in arts and culture that are helping to reshape my process.

From January 10 to 14 I enjoyed making the rounds at many of the larger fabric houses in NYC: I have a freezer-sized bag of fabric swatches to prove it. For the better part of three of those days, I joined Judith and the Head of Wardrobe from Shaw or Stratford (good scheduling meant Judith was able to shop for both shows in NYC one after the other) visiting fabric stores hunting for the perfect ‘purpley-greeney-grey’ linen, ‘a lightweight silk twill in a navy that isn't too dark’, and other such treasures.  It was a great exercise in learning what Judith's eye is drawn to, which shops let you swatch for free, and all the decisions I need to have made before I dare bring someone fabric to be made into buttons and belts. Thanks to Shaw and Stratford's planning and having both Heads of Wardrobe in town to shop, it was also a great opportunity to observe what the dynamic between the Head of Wardrobe and the Designer brings to the process. Observing differences in note-taking style, book-keeping and negotiation tactics was useful for me on a very practical level, as in this time in my career I frequently wear all of the hats, particularly when it comes to costumes; knowing where to shop is just as important as knowing who to hire. This scheduling also had the added benefit of having Nancy Perrin—who is assisting Judith on The Changeling at Stratford—in town for shopping, who found a delightful off-off-Broadway show Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey which we took in on my last night in town. It was superb, we enjoyed it immensely, and committed egregious theatre faux pas when we thought a programme insert was inviting us to explore and take photos of the stage. Oops!

The abundance of selection in NYC is reason enough for theatres to shop for fabrics there.  For every store we went in to, there are three we didn't; stores carrying nothing but zippers in every length, material and colour, stores stuffed with sequins and velvet burnouts, stores specializing in dancewear and spandex. Following Judith around I learned to carry manila tags on a ring and a stapler to keep my swatches organized and on which to write the price, width and supplier for reference. I learned the value of over-swatching so that I have a bundle of options at the ready when I feel stuck for a fabric solution down the road, and I already know how it fits into my colour palette.  I was recently able to put these lessons into action through my work costume designing The Penelopiad at George Brown, the first show I have ever designed that is largely being built—and the labour is someone who isn't me. I went out on my own for a few hours one afternoon to swatch the show and then had two very successful shopping trips with my Head of Wardrobe where we found fabrics that worked well into our budget and suited the story I was trying to tell through the textures we used. We are still in the earlier stages of the build process, but the show is shaping up to have a very cohesive visual design that tells its own stories and makes its own connections to support the text, that has at the same time been an exciting vehicle for play and experimentation. 

Okay, back to the USA. This time, a trip to the capital, mere days after Donald Trump took over the White House. It was a very strange time to be visiting the capital, but having over a week there meant I really got to take advantage of the many free museums and beautiful architecture that DC has to offer. During my time there I had the opportunity to sit in on a few tech days on Watch on the Rhine at Arena Stage, which Judith was costume designing. It was a great pleasure to see the final tightening phase on a show with such a phenomenal team, about issues that are so timely. I won't say much here, but do watch the film version from 1943 starring Bette Davis (I did, after coming home, I couldn't get the show out of my mind!) Observing tech and hearing about the production process at Arena Stage was a great insight into the differences between American and Canadian practices of theatre creation. For instance, lighting levels did not have scheduled time to program with light walkers; all lighting cues were created while scenes were worked on stage over the course of two days. In Costumeland, the biggest difference in the build process is that Arena Stage builds muslins for every garment they build, a practice which is oft foregone for being too costly and time-consuming. From the designer's and builder's perspective, building a muslin provides an invaluable opportunity to alter the pattern to better suit the actor before cutting into the final fabric, giving you a cleaner final product. It's also a chance to see how long a garment will take to build, and what materials suit the cuts the best. In the fitting process, a muslin provides a literal canvas to draw on and pin to tweak the shapes to suit. A great fitting tip I picked up from Judith is to keep a long length of 1/4” twill in white and black in my kit to bring into fittings. I can use whatever twill is in high contrast with my fabric to visually adjust the lines and offer a guideline to mark up the muslin for alterations. That's a tip you can take right to the fitting room.

DC's many free museums filled up a number of afternoons, leaving more still to discover next visit. Highlights include seeing an exhibit on how bystanders become complicit in genocide through inaction at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the National Gallery's contemporary art collection (pretty much all of it.) It was a really interesting time to be in DC to say the least, with a few large protests occurring both within the city centre and at the airport while I was in town. One of the unexpected and most enjoyed side effects of this mentorship has been reassessing my sources of inspiration as a part of my process. I have tried to reconnect with old sources of inspiration I haven't gone to lately, as well as look at new avenues and where they could take me. I look forward to continuing to explore this through the second half of our mentorship, and I hope to be coming out on the other side with a newly minted artist’s statement to match my new approach to the work.

Related Reading:

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Valerie Hawkins

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

Valerie Hawkins will train in direction with Jillian Keiley at the Stratford Festival

(March 13, 2017) Well the final pre-production meeting for Bakkhai at the Stratford Festival is fast approaching. In three days I will be sitting in a rehearsal hall at the Avon Theatre amidst some of the best creative, production and design minds in this country! To say I'm excited is an understatement. Then Tuesday morning I meet the cast for the first time...I know from my thirty years past professional experience as an actor what it's like to be one of them and I guess those "first day of school jitters" just never go away no matter what side of the table you're on.

My mentor Jill Keiley, and director of this massive project, drinks green tea and I'm hoping she won't think I'm brown-nosing too much when I show up with one for her...have to start on the right foot and all!

I want to say a huge thank you to her for agreeing to be my mentor and to her assistant Charlotte Gowdy who has already been a huge help! Of course none of this could be possible without the support of Theatre Ontario and the Ontario Arts Council—I’m very grateful.

It's been very exciting to be included in some of the final design discussions and decisions over the past week or so and also being able to do some hands on editing for the final "actor's script"—something that had not even occurred to me as an important aspect of a director's job. Jill likes to work with a clean script wiped of previous stage directions etc so there are no pre-conceived ideas about them...I think that's brilliant and as an actor have often wished I could have "unread" some emotional reaction expressed from some first production script. Really makes sense to me!

One of the big challenges for me on this project is going to be that I'll have to juggle day to day rehearsals with cancer treatment. Sometimes chemotherapy days really kick my butt so I may have to spread out my stamina by doing half days...in some ways this is better because it means I can stay with the project longer. This being said, I am already incredibly thankful to have this creative outlet! It's really wonderful to not have the Cancer pulling all focus!

I'm especially looking forward to seeing how Jill works with the, albeit newly adapted, classical text. I'm also curious to see how she will work with incorporating the new music into the staging and hearing how all the choral intricacies come together. I can't believe how lucky I am to be in the room with a team of this caliber right out of the gate! I hope it bodes well for a long future life exploring a new path as a director. How wonderful that I get to stay at home to live work and heal in beautiful Stratford.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.


Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

Stories from the Professional Theatre Training Program: Ali Berkok

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

Ali Berkok will train in sound design with Debashis Sinha and Verne Good at the Stratford Festival

(April 13, 2017) I was thrilled to receive the call, last Thursday, informing me that my PTTP application was accepted. I am humbled, as a greener-than-green aspiring sound designer, to be invited into the ranks, both by Theatre Ontario and my mentors.

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by someone very dear to me to apply for funds to get my feet wet in the world of sound design under the mentorship of Debashis Sinha and Verne Good (on their respective sound designs for The Changeling and Romeo and Juliet at the Stratford Festival.) I’m a jazz pianist and composer with a compositions, performances and recordings under my belt, but I longed to see if there was another audience for my work out there somewhere. Over the last few years I became much more familiar with the theatre world as an audience member. Eventually I became interested in the music and sound surrounding all the action on stage and thought “maybe I could do that.”

I am hoping that the choice to enter sound design will afford me the chance to create in concert with others on a production team, creating work in dialogue with a script, a set, a director and actors and ultimately, a theatre-going audience. More specifically, in this time with Deb and Verne, I hope to supplement my musical knowledge with knowledge of how to create necessary soundscapes in specific spaces, how music and sound ideas are molded and communicated among the creative team, and how the sound product is delivered to the sound technicians who ultimately press the buttons in production. At the end of it all, I am hoping to be ready to take on a whole sound design by myself when that opportunity announces itself.

I can’t express how supportive Deb and Verne have been, and the training hasn’t even started yet! Throughout the weeks of putting my application together, they were extremely generous, emailing back-and-forth at lightning speed, being extremely patient with requests for details and documents. I hope they feel as generous towards me after all the terrible puns I’ll likely make in the car on the way to and from Stratford and Blyth.

This far along in production schedules on the shows in question, and as a shadow to Deb and Verne, I don’t expect there to be much room for creative contributions: those will already have been set. I will, however, be as ready as I can to field any questions or help with any tasks. Perhaps a set of fresh eyes and more importantly, ears, will come in handy, and I’ll provide those.

The next application deadline for the Professional Theatre Training Program is October 2, 2017.

Theatre Ontario’s Professional Theatre Training Program is funded by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario.